Dutch freestyle sailor Davy Scheffers headed out to Vietnam for a winter training session and found himself locked down when the Covid 19 pandemic hit. We caught up with him to find out how he has been coping and what his plans are for the rest of 2020.
Photos: Courtesy of Davy Scheffers and PWA / Carter
WS: What have you been up to and where have you been over the past few months?
DS: I am in Vietnam, Phan Rang City in the Ninh Thuan province since the end of January for a windsurfing trip. We arrived in our current location on day five of the Covid virus outbreak and a week later Vietnam closed its borders.
The plan was to stay until the end of March and then return to Europe to work. Then most of flight companies started to cancel the flights and after re-booking my flight to the end of April it was cancelled again. I am supposed to fly on the Turkish airlines and until these days they haven’t announced any further news concerning flights in and out of Vietnam.
The country closed its borders from other countries and foreign tourists, except for certain critical journeys. Right now we wait for further news. Luckily, we have had a pretty solid windy season. The winter has been amazing for riding and the trip here been amazing so far.
WS: How was the lock down for you?
DS: Yes, after some time around end of March, like around a month after the outbreak in Wuhan, Vietnam had very little cases of corona. By closing its borders in time and taking care very well about the situation they manage to control it quite well. They did a lockdown for around two weeks in April. Everybody was staying inside as much as possible, you weren’t allowed to go to restaurants and windsurfing was only allowed at restricted beaches. People were all wearing masks and you had to wash your hands and have your temperature scanned in front of the few supermarkets that were open. People weren’t meeting and most of them stayed inside during that period.
After that time everything opened again shops schools, gyms and so on and the whole country started running like before as if there has been no virus. Obviously, there are no tourists except a couple of people who were still around and not able to travel back to the country like myself or those that have been working here. It seems like there are starting to be a couple more flights arriving now but travelling with windsurfing equipment doesn’t make it whole lot easier.
At the end of April, the embassy organised a flight to Frankfurt with Vietnam Airlines and you weren’t allowed to bring any baggage! The tickets were a ridiculous price, so I decided to extend my visa and stay longer. Extending the visa here is a difficult process and they ask quite a lot of money without caring for you and how many times we actually need to extend. That something they could have made smoother for the people who couldn’t return home, I guess it brings them extra money.
WS: Have you been on able to be the water all the time during this period?
DS: The lockdown itself was very strict for two weeks. We weren’t allowed to sail in the lagoon. Which was basically 10m in front of my hut as I lived on the beach at Vietnam surf camp. The weird thing was driving to the city twenty minutes further away where windsurfing was allowed. At the beginning of March, I injured my little finger and I wasn’t able to windsurf until end of April. I went riding one day during the lockdown with the injured finger. It was Ok although I went very easy. After some more time and taking a little holiday in the mountains I came back and finally I sailed. So, during the lockdown period I did lots of training on the beach and being isolated it was fine!
WS: So, without any events this year what will you be doing?
DS: It is a big bummer concerning the events. But I don’t really have them on mind right now. I had a wonderful competition experience from these past years. I feel we should be very grateful we had to chance to experience all of these amazing events. I am going to be in Vietnam at least one more month but the wind now isn’t so good at this part of the season! It is better in the winter and probably more consistent in the Netherlands and England right now. It’s mainly because of all the cancelled flights and whole situation I decided to stay here longer, and meanwhile continue my practice in Kung Fu that I started during last year’s trip. Kung Fu is a great training, I’m learning another skill and I enjoying it very much. I always trained hard for windsurfing and I believe this is a great combination.
Kung Fu is something new happening in my life. Last year we were here in Vietnam when some of the staff from the camping asked us if we wanted to join some karate lessons in the village. Once we arrived, it took us a only short time to find out that it was much more than karate, when we watched them swinging around with all sorts of weapons and floating through all kinds acrobatics. Yes, it was kind of difficult in the begin to find a way of communicating as the locals weren’t speaking any English.
After some time, we had a great two months of practice. This year I also returned to Vietnam to continue to practice the Vietnamese martial arts. In all these years windsurfing I did all sorts of trainings with PT’s as movement, bodybuilding, callisthenics also I started the yoga journey as well in 2011. That was a great combination to windsurf conditioning and recovering from the heavy sessions. Meanwhile I always liked the Kung Fu movies and followed them but only never got into the training. So that was really cool and then the coincidence of meeting this crew. This season I have been here now for a couple more months and been training on daily basis with the locals my teacher is truly amazing and such an inspiring artist and I feel it’s to be a great combination addition to my windsurfing skills. bringing some more of the fire element the explosive power that I believe it will only turn out into more than good.
WS: How tough is it for a young freestyler to make a living out of windsurfing these days?
DS: I am very happy with the last ten years that I’ve had support from my sponsors to get to the international events and was able to visit so many great places. Now the 2020 season started, it was going to be more difficult for me personally, I have very little financial support in windsurfing and I wasn’t sure if I could participate on PWA and EFPT in 2020.
The sport is expensive, and many of us do it for the love of it and being hooked at that feeling of going around the world windsurfing with all the guys on tour! I understand you can’t really call the way I have been doing it a career! It was more of an opportunity I took. Over 10 years international travel and competing around the world has been so great. Then I guess that is ten years that I could have also studied. With windsurfing it’s so hard to save up and build a future when chasing on this level especially without major financial support. Playing in the top of the Windsurfing competitions occupies a lot of time and the costs of travelling are very high.
When you don’t have sponsors is very difficult to be a pro windsurfer. You have work for your chances and the sponsors will leave you to decide about contracts on a take it or leave it basis. Only the elite can truly live from windsurfing. So that’s what pushed me to go the extra mile, believing that one day they would support me I did my best, tried very hard, but didn’t get to reach to the point where I see the big numbers come in. My level is high as some of the best in the world. I didn’t come to that level of riding complaining. I had to work for it and I’m very happy and thankful for that what I achieved with the chances I had. I feel I can call myself a champ in different ways. For the future days, I’m looking for new cooperation with amazing teams, so I can chase more goals to continue windsurfing.
I might have to retire from competition if there isn’t going to be any financial support incoming. Like everyone I have to chase some money to pay the bills and sustain other future goals. I do not need much money just need to sustain. It is a hard and fun road with windsurfing, with lots of crazy adventures, so if you really want to live it, you really have to want to do it.
WS: What do you love about windsurfing and freestyle windsurfing?
DS: It’s the whole energy around the practice. Meeting friends, travelling to beautiful places. We chase windsurfing conditions, in search for the magic ride. I love waking up every morning and living with the wind. When it’s windy you get connected with that whole energy. And when there is no wind you feel you are missing something. Something most windsurfers feel from the heart. It must be the feeling of being hooked at this sport. Windsurfing is so free and sure it clears mind and body. At the end of the day you are done, the muscles are sore, and the mind is empty. Seeing the world in all those different wind and water conditions makes you feel so connected. It’s a beautiful world and windsurfing is like a precious gift from our gods. We all should be very thankful for the chance we can ride now. There is a whole lot of people that would have love to have the chance to windsurf and didn’t get it or don’t have it at all. Every day when I wake up, I feel so great for what I’ve done and where I am in life and it makes it feel like a duty to continue. I can’t let windsurf go for now, the practice became an obsession for me that I have to keep up. I want to share my knowledge, skill and teach it further and continue to work in this great sport.
I love all this disciplines and I ride mostly wave and freestyle. I would love to have more equipment as well, slalom boards, speed boards, I like fins and I like rails. I have no interest in foiling or winging at the moment! I like it so much as how it is. I’m exploring movement and technique so with freestyle and wave boards I feel that I can ride fast, I’m very fast and move very free in all round. I discover moves and technique and continue with that learning all sorts of crazy stuff. The way I see windsurf and how I practice is different. The function and action. It’s so effective. That’s why I’m setting up the experience master class camps and workshops and also set up online programs for them to train windsurfing better also.
WS: Do you do any other work aside from windsurfing?
DS: Ah yes, I had to do many jobs in between to get in enough money for the tour and travels. I did over 12 years as instructor. Some moments, I had the feeling of having to expand myself in other crafts and during the last two season I was mixing a job in floor coating repair and construction full time combining with windsurfing in the evenings and weekends. Yes, I missed many sessions but and that helped me travel to the events. For years I have been teaching, hosting workshops and clinics and it’s actually a whole lot to combine with being a windsurfing professional.
WS: What is the hardest trick to learn out of all the freestyle moves?
DS: I have landed some very crazy combos and there is a whole lot moves that are extremely difficult. One very famous is of course the ‘double air culo’. It was hard to learn it but especially on the dead flat water. I must have been one of the first do it on flat. Then I feel for me the shifty inside tack on Fuerteventura been so hard too during the World Cup that was a sick moment. At home I did couple of them shifty on flat water in some of the pool in Holland too. I think the switch stance ‘pasko’ in Vietnam is absolutely crazy and can’t wait to show it on film as no one ever done that what I seen also on video or even landed and I was so happy I did it few time. Also, I have the ‘switch stance air chachoo flat’ rotated and also more cork a like rotated. yes, what isn’t on film doesn’t count ha-ha!
Then I have crazy flatwater combos. Clock to grubby and Spock. I have the grubby double Spock & double grubby into Spock. Like the triple E-slider, triple grubby and 4x Spock also the double E-slider puneta.
What might be killers I did were the E-slider puneta to burner and the double Spock culo, the culo Spock culo, and not forget the grubby Spock culo. The ponch to ponch was hard and also ponch Shaka. I like the forward to ponch future as well and forward to Shaka. My freestyle is going so crazy and I wish I could show more regular on video and film.
And you know what’s actually like super hard is learning all the tricks on both tacks. Right now, I am so consistent on many moves both tacks and it’s another interest to me to learn more of them. And then once you do a move to get it consistent and be consistently throwing combo after combo it’s another level. Many windsurfers land cool moves and make nice clips then what about filming one hour and how many different tricks can you get to do. This free style it goes where your mind going to be. Some are creative others do the copy paste. I am so in love with the sport and I follow everything on the web and just love to see all the guys keep coming with their skills and style.
WS: Did the lockdown worry you or did you stay positive through this period?
DS: I am so positive at the moment and very happy to be where I am. I can’t wait to go home, and I really miss my family. Vietnam is absolutely great so far and I’m in a very amazing surrounding sharing good vibes and energy with fantastic people. Every day we are practicing the Kung Fu here and some days we windsurf if wind kick in. I have had some very great times with my girlfriend together who comes from here in Vietnam. The culture is cool and learning all about that living here is like another blessing.
WS: What are your ambitions with windsurfing?
DS: It’s a little more because I fulfilled all my dreams already and lived them longer then I was dreaming for as being a young kid. Right now, I’m in the stage where I feel I would like to return the gift to other people and share my knowledge. We need to help each other support each other and sustain what we can for the better world. Together we must do it. There is a whole lot going on right now and I have to take my part in it all.
WS: What sailors do you fear the most when you are competing and why?
DS: There is not really fear, I enjoy competing so much. I love the challenges; I love to bring that challenge to myself. I do not hold back during competition and will come at an opponent, very skilful, technical with power and they won’t know what to expect. Competition has been always a challenge of my own. I’d wish to have more events and more heats, more conditions to challenge and show more of an all-round result because I believe with two events you can’t call a world title especially it’s since five year the same two events. I am ready all year and have been to every event for the past 10 years. I haven’t missed a single event due illness or kind of injury.
WS: How do you like the Gaastra Tabou gear you are using?
DS: It’s cool, I love it. They have great boards, and nice sails, the gear is simply amazing. The brand have been doing so well over the years, even with all the ups and downs in the market they have always been top brands. I am very happy to have rode with the gear all these years. I’d would love to get a chance develop more and have more effect riding something that really suits more to my style of riding. I never had my own design board and sail. Yes, they took some of my feedback into the R and D. It would be really cool after all that years to get something suits me totally.
The all-round the production line from Tabou / Gaastra is so outstanding and sure one of the best. What I mean I believe it could suit me even better when creating something in my favours and it’s something I wish to happen in the next chapter. Davy Scheffers developed board and sails I’m sure they work for the whole free ride and style whole community. I feel much connected with the gear and it must be turning out only good. That grab and go rip board and sail ready to do it all.
WS: Three words to live by?
DS: Live, love, laugh is what popped up in my mind.
WS: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
DS: Right now, I will focus on my training. My all-round performance in windsurfing. I am training hard conditioning and will get back to windsurfing when windy to keep up my level. I feel ready to help kick windsurfing into the next chapter. I’m so motivated and want to film few new videos with crazy action and super style high performance riding. I am watching all windsurf movies and riders in action and I have things on my mind that is just a bit different. It’s going to be so cool, I can’t wait!
WS: Are you missing the competition or are you enjoying doing something different?
DS: Oh, I miss it a lot. I miss my friends from there and miss travelling to those beautiful places. The events are so cool, the crew is so awesome I have so many amazing memories from tour. Yes, at the same time. Also, this year gives us a change now and another chance to think and prepare differently as previous years. We were very spoiled over the years windsurfing around the world. I felt a year off, could be beneficial, look at life in another way and maybe this will create extra motivation. I just believe it is going to be a great year. Now is not the time to feel sad. Better prepare for the worst and get ready to kill it when have to. Enjoy now worry later!