The life of a professional windsurfer is a lucrative one, not many make it right to the top and are able to make a living just from competing. The dream for many is to live in a windsurfing mecca, work in an enjoyable job that offers progression as well as the much needed time on the water and flexibility. Now Boardseeker catches up with one man who has found a fantastic balance, with his own company on Maui Dan Ellis windsurfs, works and generally loves life.
All images credited to Darrell Wong and North Sails.
Name: Dan Ellis
Sail number: K52
Best results: 2008 IFCA Slalom World Champion, 5 times UK Champion, Asian tour Champion. 2012 Maui Race series unbeaten in the open men’s division, Top 10 in both the PWA and Speed World Cup rankings for a few years!
Born: in London!
Current residence: Paia, Maui
Occupation: I help run a custom wood work and design company Pacific Millworks here on Maui. We make some of the coolest kitchens, bathrooms and doors in the world, amoungst other things. You can check us out at Pacificmill.com. I also test with North Sails, helping on the Warp race sails.How long have you windsurfed competitively for?
Oh boy a long time. I did my 1st competition in 1989! My oldest trophy names me as youngest entrant at age 11.What are your windsurfing aims for this year?
I want to win the Maui race series pro division and help keep North at the front of the race sail pack by pushing forward with development.
How did you progress into the career you are now in? And how do you balance this to get maximum time on the water?
I’ve always liked designing and making things. From a really young age I loved helping my Dad and at school CDT and Art were my favourite subjects. In 2003 I got a degree in Design for Production from the University of Brighton and continued this path.
I then raced on the PWA tour for 7 years. Once I stopped full time competing in 2010 I put my effort 110% back into designing and woodworking and just windsurfed when there was time.
That’s the great thing about being in Maui. I drive past Ho’okipa twice a day and if it’s good I can normally sneak in a quick session, even if I’m really busy with work. Now that I’m doing more testing with North I just have to balance my time to I get plenty of sailing in and still keep my clients happy! We have a saying “Maui Midnight” which is about 8pm, you get up early and try and cram as much as possible into the daylight hours.
What would your advice be to someone looking to get into a similar career?
If you love working with your hands and using your brain then go for it, but whatever you do give it everything you’ve got. Good things come to those who work hard, it just makes it easier if you can have fun while doing it.Alongside your work what other involvements do you have in windsurfing?
I’ve been doing more and more testing with North the last couple of years and it’s really interesting to be part of the team. Being involved with Kai Hopf and Peter Slate on the development really opened my eye’s to the amount of skill and effort that goes into making the best sails and it’s a pleasure to be part of it. As amazing as a good wave at Ho’okipa is, it’s still hard to beat a maxed out run on a slalom board hanging on for dear life and trying to inch out in front of your test partner. I’ve also been putting Mean Line fins and Bluesmiths clothing through their paces. There’s no point having a great sail in your hands if you don’t have a good fin under your feet and if you’re spending hours on the water ordinary board shorts just don’t cut it!
What are the best 5 things about your lifestyle?
1: I get to wake up every morning with the girl of my dreams, who also happens to be my wife.
2: I’m building a career for myself that I love doing and has endless possibilities.
3: Testing for North keeps me windsurfing competitively, motivated to get better and push the limits.
4: I live and work 5 mins from Ho’okipa and get to sail with the best guy’s in the world and dream of getting the perfect wave ride!
5: on the few days a year there’s no wind I get to throw a paddle board around on some pretty decent waves.