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Blasting into the record books last year at over 100 km/h, Bjorn Dunkerbeck is showing no signs of slowing down in his elder years. John Carter caught up with the legendary champion to learn more about his new ventures.

WORDS – BJORN DUNKERBECK  // PHOTOS – BJORN DUNKERBECK, John Carter / pwaworldtour.com


I am taking over running of the PWA Gran Canaria event. I have been organizing the pro SUP event on the island with Tristan Boxford from the APP world tour for a few years now. I also mentioned to Daida and Iballa Moreno that when they decide not to continue on with the Gran Canaria PWA event, I would be willing to take it over. It is hard work organizing a competition, especially windsurfing. Any organizer knows that. You don’t get a lot of appreciation either. People come and compete for a week and then they are gone again. The work to get everything organized is huge behind the scenes. It is a long process. I have put together a few events already and I know how hard it is. My mother Ulla started the Pozo event in 1989, so we have a bit of heritage there; she did it for fifteen years. My father Eugene was also involved in organizing the event with the Pozo Compass group for 22 years, together with Antonio del Toro, Pedro Masehu and Gran Canaria based shaper Carlos Sosa. It was in our family a very long time and then Daida and Iballa took over with their club for eight years and ran it very successfully. The last two years did not happen because of Covid-19. This year we will have juniors in all the categories and pros (men and women) in the wave discipline. The goal for 2023 is to get slalom at the event and if possible, freestyle also, to make it a grand slam again. It’s only a matter of getting new sponsors and the budget to do it, we have the wind in Pozo! So if you do want to support us, please email [email protected].


We have to obviously make a great event for the professional windsurfers that are at the top now, but I also want to get the kids involved and start growing their interest and enthusiasm for the future. If we don’t have these youths coming through, everything is going to die in the end. We need to do both. A great event for the pros, but also push the youths.


I have been competing all my life. I think that us pros that have a lot of experience and a lot of connections, not only in the media world but also in the sponsor world and in the important government departments, and we need to use those contacts and our success to make great events for the youths that are coming behind us. If we just turn our backs to the sport, then it is not going to grow anymore. It needs us to make great events happen so that our kids and the youths can keep the show running. Of course, it is also a business too. There is so much work involved, any organizer has to make some money out of it as well, but for me it is very important to promote the youths as well as the pros. So if you are a windsurfer in a big company, help us promote the sport that you love! We need everyone to help windsurfing become bigger and stronger than ever again, like the greatest and most complex watersport there is deserves!


The ‘show’ at Pozo is the most spectacular jumping event there is on the entire tour. I was the second or third windsurfer that sailed Pozo in 1981. I basically learned most of my high wind skills in Pozo. It started just as a little fishing town with twenty people living there. It has since become a hip place with restaurants, windsurfing shops and an international windsurfing scene. Now thousands of people live in Pozo. We have hundreds of windsurfers on the island and the level is very high. All watersports have been growing here, so it has become a watersports community. We need to keep our world cup in windsurfing, SUP and kiting going. They are all great promotion for the island. There are always great winds here, they blew Columbus to America over 500 years ago and they are still blowing with a big frequency. We have sun 330 days a year with a great variety of conditions. That is probably why I became such a good windsurfer in all disciplines.


When everybody comes together and does what they promised to do then it is fun to organize an event. When people talk a lot, but nothing happens, then it is no fun at all. At the moment, a lot of people have a lot of energy after these two years of Covid-19. Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands depend a lot on tourism. We have lots of sports events here with support from the government. They realize that sports people come frequently, they stay longer, they are healthy people and they enjoy the islands. The more sportspeople we get to the islands the better. And we can enjoy our sports on Gran Canaria 365 days a year.


I am back riding for Starboard again. Having Liam and myself on the same boards and sails makes a lot of sense. I also love working on the development side of things, and having worked with Starboard’s Dream Team for eleven years previously, I am sure there will be no problem getting back to business quickly.


Speed is something I am focussed on, as it is the discipline I still do at a very high level. My big goal in 2002 together with Roddy Lewis in Fuerteventura was to break the 50-knot barrier. Then I did the attempt together with Anders Bringdal, Robby Naish and Antoine Albeau in Gran Canaria in 2003. We managed to do some great speeds on open ocean. We installed the chop reduction system and achieved 46 knots top speed back then. We were always getting closer to our goals to reach 50 knots. Then eventually in France they broke the record and hit close to 50 knots. I also beat the nautical mile record and pushed that over 40 knots to 41.19 knots. After that Lüderitz came on the scene with new record attempts. The winds there are very strong, and I rapidly achieved 50 knots max speed as well as an average speed over 500 metres. I think over ten people have achieved more than 50 knots over 500 metres so far. A lot more have done it as their top speed. My next goal was to hit 100 km/h; people said that it would not be possible because of cavitation as you are at the limit already. But I hit 103.68 km/h, which is my new record top speed. My top average speed last season was 51.88 knots. With a bit better channel and the right day of wind at the perfect angle I am sure we can do 100 km/h average speeds.


My goal is at least to be able to better my own speeds. Obviously I am getting a bit older, but I am 52 years old now and still one of the fastest in the world, and this year I was the fastest in top speed. A lot of the guys I compete against are half my age, but still competing with the younger generation keeps me sharp. Speed sailing is pretty much a discipline that you can keep going in for a very long time. It has a lot to do with equipment knowledge, tuning and knowing the wind and water conditions. You have to build up your confidence when going for your top speeds. You cannot be scared. To break records you have to go to Lüderitz for a certain amount of time. I usually stay for three and a half weeks. I would love to stay a bit longer, but I have four kids, a wife and a windsurf centre on Gran Canaria. I have to be at home as well! This year we are already working on the channel to make it even better. We want to make it longer and faster. This is going to help all of us to break more records.


We have to make this a team effort to make windsurfing faster in general and use this a promotional tool for windsurfing. This has been happening in the last couple of years on the Dunkerbeck speed challenge virtual tour. We have been doing this for five or six years now and it has been growing to around 800 people on every ranking of the three periods – April to May, July to August and October to November. There were 2500 different names on all the rankings from fin to foil and wing foil. We even used the iQFOiL and old-fashioned windsurfer LT with a 5.7m sail in the rankings too.


I believe that once you start using GPS timing for your windsurfing sessions, you can not only see your fastest speed, but you can also see your 100 metre speed, your 500 metre speed and your nautical mile speed. You can see the time and distance you sailed in your session too. There are all kinds of motivations for you to monitor. You don’t really know all this information unless you use a GPS. They really work very well with the smartphones. You can see all your data after each session. That has made it more interesting. Not only to check your max speeds in Lüderitz, but also for any session you have anywhere. For example, today I sailed 22 km in Cabo Verde on a freeride foil and also had a 22 knots max speed on a 6.2m on a freeride foil. To sign up for the Dunkerbeck speed challenge, go to www.gps-speedsurfing.com like always. Don’t miss it, it’s fun and it motivates you and we will have prizes for all categories, as well as raffling nice prizes from our partners for all competitors!


The hip replacement operation has vastly improved my performance for my speed attempts and general sailing. I had a lot of pain before I had it done and was barely able to walk or sleep! It has been three years now and the new hip is really good. My Doctor Ulrich Vielwerth has been a windsurfer for 30 years and if any of you guys have a problem you can contact him at med360grad.de or via a link on dunkerbeck.com for treatment on all sport injuries and joints. It is always good to be in skilled hands when needed.

It has helped not only my speed performance, but also my wave sailing. I can actually turn the board again without any pain. I can also sleep at night again at last! Windsurfing without pain feels amazing. I had bone on bone when I was competing for the last two years of the slalom world cup. I could hardly walk anymore. I am so happy it went well. I was in good hands and when the other hip goes in a few years I will have him replace that one as well.


I have been working on a Dunkerbeck documentary for one year already and it is going to be shown for the first time at the PWA event in Sylt this year. It will not be the complete movie as we are also finishing the filming in Sylt. Sylt is the biggest event on tour and also one of the first world cups I ever competed in, back in 1985. That was the first real world cup I properly competed at as a junior professional. Making the movie is fun in some ways. Sometimes you have to repeat things many times to get the perfect cut, which can be frustrating, but the guys I am working with are real professionals, so they want to get it right. It is a lot of work. It will be a 90-minute documentary, including stuff from the past and what I am up to right now with speed sailing. We have filmed two times in Lüderitz and there are parts about Liam growing up and becoming a professional windsurfer too. That will also be a highlight. So we motivate the old sailors with me and we motivate the young guns with Liam. Red Bull is behind the movie as well and I am working with Gerald Salmina who is the filmmaker. He is doing a great job already. Movie making is about all the details and is not as easy as it looks. If anyone has some nice old clips you are welcome to send them to me and if they are good enough, we will use them.


It is great to see the way Liam has developed. He loves watersports and he is very talented. He says he wants to become a wave sailing world champion and I will help him where I can. He has very good sponsors; Starboard and Severne have been supporting him since he was a kid and he is also a Red Bull athlete. He is still young! He did the Dunkerbeck speed challenge for the first time when he was ten years old. When my father was 70, we had the three generations of Dunkerbecks on the water. This year we will have the ISA Speed World Championships on Fuerteventura from the 30th of June until the 4th of July and it will have classes for juniors, men, women, fin, wind foil and wing foil. If you want to go fast book your week off now!


Everybody says that windsurfing is coming back. I can only advise every parent that likes windsurfing to bring your kids to a windsurf centre. Let them learn windsurfing together with other kids of their own age. If we teach them as parents, we are too old. We are like dinosaurs to them, they will have much more fun with their own friends. The key factor to grow windsurfing is for everybody that loves the sport to bring a friend along and encourage them to learn as well as your own kids. That way the sport will grow very rapidly again. Nothing happens unless people are behind a sport. You need to start windsurfing at a young age. It is a great family sport as well. But you cannot wait until your kids are 18 years old to make their own decision. They will never start at that age. They need to learn with other kids where they have a great time. Find the best windsurf centre in your area and drop them off there at the weekend. We have an après school kids session every day in our Dunkerbeck Windsurf school on Gran Canaria. We also have Saturday and Sunday sessions every weekend. Loads of these kids are in the harness already and planing and for sure there will be some future champions in there, not to forget the Dunkerbck pro centre in Bonaire is the perfect place for any age. I have seen kids there fully planing in a harness at 5 years old and windsurfers over 90 still going strong, how about that!


My career has been going on for so long all the windsurfers know me. A lot of people follow me on my social media and you can motivate a lot of people very easily through it. With the Internet and social media, you can promote windsurfing on a daily basis. If you have good material to help people get on the water, then that is only positive. There was not even a cell phone when I started competing. We were using fax and Telex in the beginning. I was getting contracts from NeilPryde via Telex!


You grow up obviously over the years. When I was younger, I was in a different mentality to what I am now. I was competing in all disciplines back then so had not so much time to be so friendly to everyone and my focus was winning. Most sailors who do one discipline think it is a lot to do. I did all three disciplines plus speed for many years, and I won them all. That was a lot of time spent on the water. There was not much time to hang around on the beach and make jokes after sailing. The competitions were ten days long and pretty gruelling. I wanted to win slalom, course racing and the waves and there was a lot of energy that went into that. I have more time to do other stuff and socialize now. I still try and get on the water every single day. But I don’t have to spend eight hours in the water anymore. I can go happily one or two hours and I am fine, which gives me much more time for everything else.

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