Will Jones introduces us to another hidden talent.
Ollie Acton has had a great windsurfing career until now, with even some well-placed positions on the UK and Student scene. Now keen to do even better, it looks like he will be stepping up his training over the summer. Read on to find out more…
Years windsurfing: 7
Local spot: Hayling Island, Esso
Favourite discipine: Freestyle
Occupation: Student studying Watersports Management at Southampton Solent
Sponsors: Andy Biggs Team Rider, Tushingham and Aeron
Action sequences: Spock, Flaka
WJ: How did you get into windsurfing?
OA: We were going on holiday to Turkey and saw there was going to be windsurfing at the place we were going. So before we went I had a lesson in Chichester, but didn’t really like it because the kit was really old heavy stuff and it was hard work. Then I tried again out in Turkey and got into a bit more into it. When we got home we got a full set up for £30 and I started to go as often as I could.
WJ: What was it about going to Turkey that got you into it?
OA: It was just seeing loads of people out on the water going really fast and doing jumps and stuff. That looked amazing! Then when I got home and went to my local beach I saw people doing that and really wanted to try it. I actually learnt to plane in the foot straps before I used a harness because I didn’t even know what one was. Eventually someone on the beach just lent me one to try.
After about a year of getting into windsurfing I went to Egypt and learnt to carve gybe and waterstart. When I got home I bought my first short board, a Fanatic Triple X.
WJ: Tell us a bit about where you live and your local spots?
OA: Hayling Island is where I sail pretty much the whole time. Because it’s an island you can go out whatever the wind direction. Mostly I go just at Esso, It’s pretty enclosed so it’s always really flat. It was always pretty safe when I was learning but it’s also good now for doing freestyle. It’s not very long so you can only do really short runs, but that’s good in a way because you are kind of forced to try moves more often.
WJ: When did you start doing freestyle?
OA: I started in about 2008, at Esso. Quite a few pros turned up one day in a Northerly; Esso is probably the only good place to sail round there in a Northerly. They were doing Loops and Spocks and stuff and that looked awesome. I used to skateboard a lot and thought it seemed quite similar so thought I would give it a go.
I remember the first Vulcan I landed on my 4.2 and wave board. I had been trying for ages and just kept falling off backwards. One day I went for one spun right round and was sinking in backwards but hit a rock, bounced back up and sailed away. It took me a long time to land another one after.
WJ: What move have you most recently cracked?
OA: Recently I got lots of new switch moves got E-sliders and Punetas pretty sorted and getting better with Switch Chachoos. Funnels are coming along but I need to get a bit more practice with them.
WJ: Tell us about your competition experience?
OA: My first event was a youth freewave event at Hove. The Saturday was about how to compete and tuition from pros and then on the Sunday was the competition, which I won! Then I didn’t really do any competitions till 2010 when I entered National Windsurf Festival. I just entered the race on my Dads big freeride kit and amazingly I won. It was awesome because there were about 350 other competitors.
Then a year later I entered the amateurs’ freestyle at Windfest in Pool which I won too. I was pretty surprised because there were some really good sailors there. I think maybe I won because I was a bit more used to the lumpy south coast conditions. I definitely didn’t have the biggest moves but was maybe just a bit more consistent in the chop. After that I got sponsored. Sponsorships was a massive help because I got my new Tushy sails and new masts which made such a difference compared to my knackered old gear.
This year I started doing all the SWA competitions. I was a student last year but never really got involved. When I first started at my uni there wasn’t really a windsurf club so there was never anyone to share transport with to and from the events. But this year me and Adam Chub have built the club up a bit and the standard is really high with people like Nicola Terenzi and Sam Sills. So we’ve been more active and are getting involved with the SWA. We started this year all going along to Aussie Kiss. There was a good amount of wind. I think for all of us the windsurfing was a little affected by the parties being pretty heavy. The standard at that event was ridiculously high amongst the students and then with all the pros there too it was awesome. It was probably the best event I’ve ever been to. I came third in the Freestyle competition.
Since then I went along to two other SWA events in Bristol and Liverpool, Bristol was good wind, Liverpool was light but still a fun event. I managed to win the freestyle at both of them too.
WJ: What do you think of windsurfing in the UK generally?
OA: Locally to me it’s really good at the moment. Recently loads of the best freestylers have started coming to Esso. I remember 5 or 6 years ago there being a lot more people. I think the quantity has gone down but the quality has definitely gone up. The tricks I see people making at my local beach now are unbelievable. Seeing windsurfing at the moment also from a student point of view is really good. At Aussie Kiss there was something like 700 people and even the smaller SWA events, like the one up in Liverpool, get like 85 people and the standard is pretty good.
WJ: You mentioned racing at NWF; do you venture much into other windsurfing disciplines?
OA: Yeah, I like slalom. I did a few seasons for Minorca Sailing and spent a lot of time on bigger freeride and formula gear, so got quite into it. They have so much really good gear out there. I haven’t really done much wave sailing and always find it pretty hard. I think just because of where I live there aren’t really that many waves around.
I think it’s cool for freestyle to be in slightly more interesting choppy places rather than perfect flat conditions. Places like Fuerta where you see people doing backloops and stuff in freestyle competitions is always awesome. I think it’s like if you watch motocross you always want to see someone do a massive backflip. It’s just the same with windsurfing, the bigger tricks are more impressive. Also I think the chop suits me because I am quite consistent in it and others aren’t always so used to it.
WJ: To a lot of people looking on, learning freestyle seems like a big challenge. Have you got any advice for people wanting to get into it?
OA: What really helped me was just going out in any sort of wind. If it’s light just go out and practice all the kind of sail flicking moves like Heli Tacks, Upwind 360’s, that type of thing. That really helped me.
WJ: Tell us about some of your windsurfing Highlights?
OA: Winning at National Windsurf Festival was definitely a highlight. Also my first time wave sailing in Tirant in Minorca. It was huge that day, like mast high and I’d never been out on a board that small before. I got massively wiped out on my first run. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever been scared windsurfing. After that initial wipe out I kind of woke up and started to pay attention a bit more. I manage to get into it a bit. It scared the s**t out of me at first though. To be honest that is really still the only time I’ve been properly wave sailing. It’s probably related to why I’ve never rushed back to it.
WJ: What are your plans for the future?
OA: Just yesterday I booked flights to Fuerteventura, so going there for 2 weeks in June. Then after that I’m going out to Minorca again for the mid summer. It is a cool place to spend the summer and got a lot of good friends out there. Then I’ll be back in September for the National Windsurf Festival, Windfest, the new SWA year and my final year of Uni. After Uni I don’t know. I want to try and get a good job pretty quickly so I can get some money to do windsurf trips in the future. Before Uni I was just working in warehouses and you don’t earn much money doing that. I’d love to go to Jeri one day in Brazil.
I think the best time to windsurf is at Uni. I’ve never been able to do so much before. Now we can get out pretty much whenever it’s windy.
Thanks Very Much Ollie
Ollie promises to get some video action this summer whilst in Fuerteventura!
Interview by: Will Jones