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Interview Bart David - A WINDSURF STORY



Bart David was and still is by far one of the best windsurfers we are able to enjoy watching at our local beaches. Living in El Médano since 1993 his personality, history and above all his radical style of windsurfing has made him a living legend in canarian windsurfing. Even though injured heavily a couple of times throughout his career he hasn?t lost his smile on his face and continues enjoying to the maximum the pleasures of the atlantic ocean.

Date of birth: 23/09/74
Nationality: Belgium.
Height: 1.85.
Weight: 85-90 kg.
Goofy- or Regular-Foot: Regular.
Years sailing: 18 + o -
Sponsors: Café M and WHY, searching?.
Favourite Move: Double loop.
Best surfsession: L. A. Tenerife. (Las Américas).

When and where did you do your first steps in the world of windsurfing?
I guess I was about 14 years old. My brother and I did a lot of motocross before we started windsurfing. Later he started sailing and as his little brother I joined. After the first year I was already better than him. We were living in a village close to the sea similar to El Médano. Conditions there were way better for windsurfing then for doing motocross.

How and why did you move to Spain?
I moved to Spain with 19 years of age. I had just finished school and I came to do a summer job for 2 months in El Médano. The first time here I stayed with my dad for holidays. He had a friend who I could work for and like that I came on my own the following summer and staid for good. Therefore I would say it was windsurfing and the sun that made me stay.

What memories do you have about your first times sailing here in Tenerife?
It was there (indicating to the far left side of El Cabezo, which is supposed to be the calmer part of the bay with less ?traffic? and less rocks). It was different times back then. Everyone in the water was crazy about waves. The whole village was crazy about waves. El Médano wasn´t like today. There where only a few houses and very few people. Basicly it was local people and the few windsurfers. Everything was far quieter but it had it?s charme and we had the windsurfing world cup.

What about the dread locks you had at that time?
Well, I had curly hair and wanted to leave it long. From not combing them ?.. how can I say, it just happened. I had them for 8 or 9 years and from one day to another I decided to cut them off. It had nothing to do with reggae music etc. they came and I allowed them to be.

Throughout your career you suffered various injuries that have affected your physical windsurfing abilities. Two injuries come to my mind right now?.. first slicing a muscle with your own fin and nearly bleading to death (to speak in the words of Dr. Luis Ruiz ?Taso?) and second your injured ankles of the feet that currently force you to sail without footstraps. Tell us something about it.
I started competing very late. I was about 26 years old. I was very motivated together with Dany (Bruch) to compete in Pozo Izquierdo where I won against Josh Stone and Francisco Goya and the very next day I cut my muscle sailing in Médano. That was it. Since that day I was never up there again, never reached that level again. After recuperating from the injury I didn´t feel any strength in the leg and it gave me constantly convulsions. (he shows me a 35cm long scar on his leg which any bullfighter would be proud of.) The muscle is completely deformed as the fin entered really deep. After that my feet started troubling me. I had one sprain after another and every time it got worse. I always had a lot of problems with my ankles and now every two years I need an operation in order to remove small chunks of bone and metal plates.

Did you miss out on a lot of windsurfing because of your injuries?
Honestly? no! The cut of the muscle took a couple of months. The problem was that after that I there was a period of about 4 years where I had to go to hospital to be operated every summer always with a 3 month period of recuperation etc.. Those 4 years have been really hard for me. That is why I now sail without footstraps. I don´t want to go through this again as it hurts a lot. It is very frustrating for a surfer who has been sailing almost all his life not to be able to continue doing it. Especially when you have reached a certain level and you want more and more?.. The other I had to borrow Dany´s equipment in order to do a quick back- and a pushloop. Luckily nothing happened.

The doctors didn´t give you much hope but you continue sailing showing that with courage and lust everything is possible. Keeping your injuries in mind do you consider yourself lucky?
Yes, I´m content. You learn from the bad times as well, don´t you? You learn that life is more than just going to work every day, you learn to appreciate other things. Now that I have a son I try to enjoy every moment even more knowing that anytime something could happen to yourself. The doctors don´t even know how I manage to walk but when it´s windy I start to shiver and I have to get in the water. Still I can´t live without sailing. And now without footstraps every wave is different and you never know if you´ll be able to make it. Everything is new.


How did you Start sailing without straps? How did the idea come up? Do you have any innovacion in mind?
The idea came from Mark Shinn (well-known, top level kitesurfer). I was continuously injured and couldn´t keep on with the footstraps and didn´t know what to do in order to keep sailing.
The kiters started riding boards without straps and so we took a surfing Longboard and fixed a device to connect the sail and of we went to try it. Bit by bit I ended up taking off the straps off my windsurfboards to see weather they would function without them ?. and they did.

I remember the last summer (2006) when you returned sailing. People where applausing you with their mouthes wide open after seeing you doing an incredible surfsession. It´s mind-blowing to see you control a board without straps in conditions with 2 metre waves and more than sufficient wind for a 4.7 sail and even more pulling of moves like cut backs, floaters and aerials of the lip. That´s heavy stuff, isn´t it? How is sailing without footstraps? Did you change your technique?
Well, the jumps don´t have any technique (-laughs-. imagine surfing a more than headhigh wave with a 4.2 fully powered sail?.and no footstraps). It´s very difficult. (I would say it´s impossible). When it comes to riding the wave the style of body is maybe not as elegant as with straps but this is maybe because I have to keep my body more upright over the board. It´s more like the original surfing without a sail. You need to catch a wave like a normal surfer and not with the help of the wind and sail. It´s a lot of trial and error in order to see how it works. I move a lot on my board.


Even though we all miss your jumps to the stratosphere (without footstraps Bart now can not indulge us any more with them but if you watch a few videos from past years you will see him do double forwards, table top-forwards, push loops etc?) do you think we could be seeing a new style of windsurfing ?No-Straps? more waveriding orientated?
Well, without straps riding waves becomes more pure with more possibilities when it comes to surfing the wave. You got to be more open to surf the wave?.you need more feeling for the wave and you need to move the feet a lot more along the board. If you don´t move your feet well the board will stop. It is way more important to read the wave continuously. Any mistake and off you go?

Starboard has recently launched a board without footstraps but with a range of use way different from what you need. When will we see waveboards without strap in a ?Bart Simpson? style and a good footpadding?
Scott McKercher saw me sailing here but the boards I use a far different from theirs (Serenity). However I see this more as a necessity rather than a new trend so I don´t think I will market any board. At the moment I am talking to Vince (Shaper of WHY custom boards) so he can make a few boards for me with some special alterations.

How do you see the future of our sport? In the wave competitions of the PWA it seems that the young guns have definitely taken over the reign and are taking the sport to new levels. How do you see the change of generations?
I have been knowing this since a couple of years. The level these days is a lot higher. When they started doing freestyle while riding waves? It was clear that this was sooner or later going to happen. In my times it was constantly Dunky and they didnt allow to do many new things. Always the same: Backloops, forwards and table tops nothing more. I think it much better now.
I saw Victor (Fernandez, E-42) for the first time in Galicia when he became junior champion and wow this kid was motivated. He was incredible. If he continued like that he would make it to the top. Great person and very competitive ? not like me, who never liked competitions very much and I viewed them like a holiday (luck for the professionals at that time).

Who is your favourite for this year? The most radical? The most complete sailor? The best at riding waves or the one flying the best?
For me Victor is the best. Kauli has the best flow? I don´t know, everyone has his own style. I like how Darío (Ojeda) sails. He has improved a lot in waveriding, he is charging very radical. Jonás Ceballos has a lot of talent, too and could win something. And here, of course Dany. (The two of them share waves on good days in Cabezo challenging each other to the max. A pleasure to watch). Let´s see if he wins and continues.

What do you think about the latest manoeuvre we have seen from Kauli (we are talking about the pushloop-forward)? It´s incredible isn´t it?
Wow!! For me it´s something ?.(he´s speechless, with a smile on his face imagining the move in his head without doubting that he would be able to perform this manoeuvre). I always tried everything that was good and radical (Bart did table top-forwards and doubleloop in the 1990s). When I see someone doing a double forward , wow , I want to do it myself again. Today things maybe seem to be more fluid. For me it was always a question of feeling and I did everything. Not for the competition but for personal satisfaction. Going out and do double forwards whenever it was possible was a great pleasure without having to think about scoring a certain amount of points.

I have the impression that we are a little bit stuck here in Tenerife lately. We don´t get to see young guys in the water like for example in Pozo. What is happening to the stone pit of Médano? For the wind and the waves it can not be. What do you think we are missing? What do you think of establishing a windsurf centre en El Cabezo (like in Pozo Izquierdo) and a return of the PWA World Cup to Tenerife. Do you see that feasible?
They have been talking about this since a long time but it hasn´t happened until today. Here the support for the windsurfers is the opposite of what it is like in Pozo. The young talents you don´t see in the water here, maybe a few kitesurfers but sooner or later I am sure we will see one (hahaha for sure he is thinking of his 3 year old son Jonas who he now and then takes with him on his board between his legs and who he for sure will be afraid to see sailing when he reaches 13 years). At least in the past few years we have seen the Second Reef Contest (Canarian Wave Riders) and this year I took part as a judge of the competition here in Tenerife (one day when you don´t score for jumps anymore he will for sure compete again).

Anything else you would like to comment?
Greatings to all my friends and to the ones that have always been around, to all of you that are out there in the water?. and to all the windsurfers that would like to try it without straps one day. It´s fun! Nothing but planing? ooooooh! And with waves it´s like learning something completely new. See you soon in the water.

THC / Bart David
El Médano
31 de Agosto de 2007
English by Mark Weinreich and
Pics by THC, Sven Neils and