From our September issue we look back at our feature with rising young talent, Baptiste Cloarec, otherwise known as the crazy Frenchy! Baptiste has some serious natural talent and also is fearless on the water, so definitely a sailor to watch out for!
Photos: John Carter
Young, French and fearless, at 19 years of age Baptiste Cloarec has already gained a reputation for going big, very big! Known as the ‘Crazy Frenchy’, his talents have been recognised by RRD, who snapped him up on their team at the start of the year. It’s not all play hard though for the up and coming young sailor, as alongside his windsurfing he is studying for a career in the Merchant Navy. John Carter caught up with Baptiste earlier this year at one of the Frenchman’s favourite sailing locations, Cape Town, and asked him to tell us more about his life.
I am from Brittany and my home spot is Le Dossen. I first started windsurfing six years ago; one of my best friends at college was windsurfing, so he showed me the ropes. Before that I was only surfing, but my home spot is quite windy. The moment I tried windsurfing I loved it. My father also windsurfs and now is a kite surfer. He also helped me a lot to learn how to windsurf.
When I finished college, I wanted to join the Merchant Navy, but I didn’t have the level of English required. What I decided with my parents was to go for one year somewhere to learn English. I chose to come to Cape Town because the conditions are epic. I was in South Africa for a whole year, and local photographer Maleen Hoekstra helped me a lot to windsurf. She would pick me up from college and take me to the windsurf spots. I was lucky to meet her; she helped me out so much. I was sailing around 3-4 days a week, which really helped progress my level.
I live very close to a port in France, and I thought being a sea captain would be a good way to work as you get a lot of time off. On a lot of ships you sail for two months and then you have two months shore leave. So hopefully I can travel and windsurf during the breaks. If you work 9-5 then you maybe sail one hour a day or just at the weekends when it is windy. You have to choose some direction in life, so I just started thinking about being a captain. It will be a lot of work. For me it will be three years at college and then I will need to go to sea for one year, which will actually end up as two years, as you work two months on and two months off. Maybe I can go somewhere with the ship, take my gear and windsurf when we get there, who knows. It takes 10 years or more to be fully in command of a ship. First you are a cadet, then an officer of the watch, then second mate and first mate, before finally making it to master/captain. I could work on cruise ships, tankers, ferries or super yachts, so I study a lot about navigation and ship handling.
I would like to compete in the PWA, but what I really like at the moment are the videos and photos of windsurfing more than the competition side. So for now I would prefer to be a free sailor and do big trips and make my own content. I want to travel and discover new destinations and ride new waves. As for style, my favourite sailor is Jaeger Stone. But for trips and riding big waves my favourite has to be Thomas Traversa. He does not just choose the biggest waves, but also waves that are rideable. He puts a lot of work and research into it. He lives a good way of life.
Last year I was in Cape Town riding and the RRD guys saw me sailing, liked my style and asked me to join their team, which I was super happy to do. They are into windsurfing, but are also into all the other watersports like kite surfing, wing foiling and surfing. It will be nice to use some of the other equipment when it is not wave sailing conditions.
I think John Skye has really improved as a designer over the last few years. After 2019 he really changed the shape and design of the sails and they are amazing to use. The RRD boards are incredible too. I like small boards because I am only 60 kg; I ride a 68 litre and think it is great to be light because you can sail in all conditions. You have a disadvantage when it is nuking at Pozo maybe, but for the most part we can float out, get upwind and catch more waves.
I love all types of wave sailing. I love jumping and riding, but mainly pushing the limit. My style is going big! They call me the Crazy Frenchy! I like going hard and that is the reputation I have! Balz Müller is the king for this! I don’t know how he does half of the moves and foiling stunts he puts out on the videos. I have never been to Jaws but all that I have heard about this wave is pretty crazy. It is massive, but the only guys to attack it have been Thomas and Brawzinho. Maybe I will go there one day and try to do the same. The picture of Brawzinho was amazing where he just hit the lip at the last moment. You have to be prepared for waves like this. You have to be fit and physically prepared as well as mentally. We see in big wave surfing how prepared for it the guys are, they have the safety training, jet skis and safety vests.
Outside watersports I also like motorcycling. My father rides quite a lot; we ride together around our local area to somewhere beautiful and enjoy the landscapes. I also take my motorbike to go check the spots. I have a 125cc Honda trail bike, I use it to go to school and it also has a trailer to put my gear on so I can go sailing.
HOME IS BEST
I think my home spot, Le Dossen, is my favourite place for sailing for sure. It is a bay and you can sail in all sorts of conditions from freestyle and slalom to waves. We have big storms and there are nearly always side-shore conditions. The wave is so easy. I have sailed there all my life and I know the spot so well. It is a sandy beach break with no rocks. It is not anything dangerous. You can lose your gear and nothing happens. I really go for it at home, it is fine because nothing breaks, and the gear just goes on the beach. I also really like Cape Town because there are so many days with amazing conditions. From Elands Bay to Cape Point you can sail every day. The mountains create the wind and there are always swells arriving.
DOWN THE LINE
Let’s see what the future brings, I am only 19 now and who knows how the future will work out. There are a lot of talented young guys around and pushing on the junior tour, like Takara Ishii, he is an awesome sailor. There are quite a few good guys in Brittany, Nicolas Quemener, the Flechet brothers and Paul Jurgens, we all train and do some trips together. It is tough for us young guys to make it to the top these days and studying makes it even more complicated. A lot of guys can reach a certain level in the waves but there comes a point where the next step up is pretty difficult. To be professional, you have to be very talented. Maybe there are only twenty real wave sailing professionals in the world right now that live exclusively from windsurfing. I would go for it for sure if I can. My plan for now is to make sure I study and become qualified to become a captain. After my four to five years of studying maybe I will try and live from windsurfing if that is the way it is going.