INTERVIEW WITH BEN VAN DER STEEN
BEN VAN DER STEEN IS BACK ON LOFTSAILS FOR THE 2020 SEASON. WE ARE STOKED TO HAVE BEN BACK ON THE TEAM AND CHECKED IN WITH HIM FOR A CATCH-UP
Hi Ben, welcome back! Please outline your association with Loftsails over the years?
I was a Loftsails rider in 2011 and 2012 and they were some of my best years on the tour so far. Also, since 2011 I have been living in Tarifa - so never too far from Monty and the Loftsails team - and there has always been good relations and respect. Becoming a Loftsails rider again was an easy decision.
What is it specifically that brings you back to Loftsails now?
Loftsails has always been on the top of my list for sails, and the opportunity to become a team rider for a second time at this point is just a coincidence really. From testing with my friends’ sails, I know the performance of recent Loftsails is right up there, and I am very positive about the possibilities. It’s a great opportunity. It is the performance of the sails and the team ethos that brings me back.
Ben training with the Racingblade in 2012
What sails will you be using?
For slalom racing, I will use the Racingblade, and for foil racing, I will use the Skyblade. For waves, I’ll use a mix of Wavescape in the bigger sizes and Purelip for the smaller sails.
And what hardware?
I will be using the Goya boards for 2020. I put a lot of time and effort into their development and am really happy with how they came out. Then for hardware and booms, I will be using Unifiber. The all-new Unifiber booms are very stiff and the newly developed Unifiber boom head works great with the heavy stresses of powered-up slalom sailing.
You have been PWA racing for over 20 years now and slalom sailing is hard on the body! How do you train and what keeps you motivated?
The PWA is always evolving and training methods change too. I train in the gym, on the bike, but most of all with lots of time spent on the water. In my experience, if you train sensibly and take good care of your body, the stress on the body from windsurfing – even racing - is not so severe.
For the 2020 season, foil and slalom have been integrated to become a single “racing” discipline. Foil is now significantly more important for the racing title and there is a need to train more and tune more because the development is still so rapid. The motivation can sometimes be a hard one; but it’s a beautiful sport - so that whenever I am a week - or worse a few weeks - off the water, the desire to sail always comes back stronger!!
The PWA has changed too over that period. How is a 'typical' year of competition now?
Every year is different these days: the competitions and locations change every season. In racing, for the past few years, our season has started in Asia: either Japan or Korea. Though now there are some March/April events in France and Austria too. And later in the year the rest of the tour is mostly in Europe.
Tell us more about the foiling
Foiling is still in the development stages, so we see big differences at this stage, but as we all improve the racing is becoming closer. Last year we had foil upwind-downwind course racing. For 2020 we will be racing on foils in the slalom discipline too, and there is even the possibility of mixed foil and fin racing. That is potentially a bit dangerous, but also interesting…
What are your competition targets for the 2020 season?
My goal this year is to be competitive in both foil slalom and normal slalom and to achieve an overall top 10 finish in the combined “racing” discipline
Beyond competition, where are your interests?
I have my family - my 3-year old son, 6-year old daughter, and lovely Spanish wife - so spare time is at home. I also like mountain biking, wave sailing and surfing so all in all life can be quite busy!
I read somewhere that you once nearly windsurfed around Cape Horn, so have got to ask about that…
Yes! Together with Tine Slabe and the camera crew from Redbull, we did a big trip in South America. There is a documentary about the whole trip. We got to sail in front of the Cape, and although the opportunity to complete the rounding was lost due to an incoming big storm, it was still an incredible journey.
What is it you most love about windsurfing?
I love to go windsurfing as it really resets the mind, you can go where you want on the water and it really lets you be free.
Ben, I think many of us windsurfers can relate to that. Good luck with the new season. We are all behind you.
Ben rigging his new gear ¡