Francesca Floris, ITA-2111, is an insiprational Italian windsurfer who doesn’t let age get in the way of ability. In her late fifties she competed earlier this year in the PWA freestyle event in Bonaire, winning heats and finishing a very respectable 6th place overall. She gives us an insight into her life and how she started freestyling at 47!
Words Francesca Floris // Photos John Carter, Lorenzo Mittiga & Michela D’Orazio.
I was born in Olbia, a coastal city in northeast Sardinia on the 21st of November 1961. I still live in Sardinia, where I am a physical education and sports teacher. I have been active in sports most of my life. As a child I was very restless and by the age of 5 my parents had me involved in lots of sporting activities. Around the age of eight I discovered fencing, which became my main sport until I was 30! After many years I took up other sports and passions and among these was windsurfing, which I started practising during my summer holidays. Around 12 years ago, I returned to live in Sardinia and that is when windsurfing became almost a daily activity. I work at school in the morning and then in the afternoon, when I am free, go windsurfing in one of the many spots in northern Sardinia.
In Sardinia there are plenty of radical wave spots, as well as flat water spots ideal for freestyle or slalom. Initially I was more into wave sailing, but I realised that all the good flat water spots were located close to my house, so it was very easy for me to get there after work and have a windsurfing session. That is mainly the reason why I became passionate about freestyle at the tender age of 47. I actually started my first Vulcan attempts at that age and slowly learned more moves. I must admit that it has become a real addiction, but also a personal challenge to those who told me that at that age it was impossible to learn freestyle.
Certainly the speed of learning is not the same as when you were fifteen years old, but with commitment and a bit of stubbornness even at 47 years old you can do it. I have my own method when I am learning a new move. I don’t just look at the move and try it, but I analyse it, break it up into small sections and learn it one section at a time. This method may take longer, but it always works for me. For me, there is no greater feeling than when I am learning a new trick, it gives me an immense boost.
The manoeuvre that was a real challenge for me to learn was the flaka. It still makes me crazy. Now I am committed to learn the Eslider and Puneta. We will see how I progress!
Being competitive for most of my life, I couldn’t resist signing up for some windsurfing events. First in Italy and then at some PWA events. It has always been a great experience and most of all a motivation to continue to improve. I hope I am a good example to any women who might not believe that it is possible to have fun and progress in whatever you do and show also that windsurfing is not a sport for men only. Most of all I strongly believe that taking part in sport is the best way to stay young!
I have been using RRD boards and sails for years, while my friend Francesco Cominardi sponsors me with the best booms (AL360) and Alessandro Carluccio supplies me with fins (LSD). I somehow manage not to spend too much on equipment and everything I save I spend on travelling as much as possible.
I mainly practise freestyle, using a RRD TWINTIP 92 litre and RRD STYLE PRO sails from 3.8 to 5.2. My favourite sizes to use are 4.4 or 4.8, rather than small sails and very strong winds. On light wind days I use an X-FIRE 114 with a 7.8 sail, which I find really good for training.
When I am at home my life is very simple. I teach physical education and sport at school in the mornings, then for the rest of the day I am at the beach with my partner (of course he is a good windsurfer) and loyal dog looking for wind. If there’s no wind I just enjoy the fantastic landscapes of Sardinia. Sport and nature are a big part of my life.
Another great passion of mine has always been travelling. Getting to know new people and different cultures excites me. I either travel alone or with my partner. I want to discover the best windsurfing spots on the planet and my goal is to travel and windsurf as much as possible, finding new and unexplored windsurf spots. In Sardinia our climate allows us to windsurf during the winter season, but whenever possible I try to spend the colder months in warm places.
In recent years I have often gone to Bonaire, which is truly a paradise for freestyle. I find it a really easy spot to progress both for the conditions, which are ideal, but most of all for the great vibes and company we have there. There are incredibly good windsurfers which are always there to help and encourage me. During the summer I often travel around Europe with my orange van fully loaded with equipment. Greece, Spain, Portugal and France, are my favourite destinations. I’ve also had some memorable trips overseas. I travelled to Australia where I spent four months in a little van in search of waves, but I’ve also been to Chile, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Indonesia, Hawaii and Brazil. All were unforgettable trips that have increased my passion for the sea and windsurfing. Soon I hope to be able to discover new spots in Colombia and Central America.
“For me, there is no greater feeling than when I am learning a new trick.”