Italian windsurfer Francesco Cappuzzo has a few strings to his boom. He competes on both the PWA freestyle and wave tours, no surprises there, plenty of sailors dabble in both, but how many do you also know compete on the Professional Kitesurfing GKA tour?
Words John Skye, Francesco Cappuzzo // Photos Svetlana Romantsova, Samuel Tome & John Carter
Francesco is currently the only member of that club and recently finished in fifth place at the opening stop of the 2019 GKA wave tour in epic surf at Cabo Verde. At home in flat water as much as he is in rolling swell, Francesco has a reputation for making the most of any conditions. John Skye profiles the affable Italian and helps us learn more about his many talents.
John Skye – When I first started windsurfing it was normal for everyone to do everything. Robby Naish, Bjorn Dunkerback and Nik Baker were masters of all disciplines, from racing on longboards, to ripping it up in the waves. By the time I turned pro however those days were already starting to disappear, and right now there is very little cross-discipline pollination. Breaking this mould however is a young rider from Italy, who takes cross-discipline to another level. Francesco Cappuzzo is not only a world force in freestyle and wave windsurfing, but also in kitesurfing. At the age of 21 he already has multiple national titles across both sports and has ranked in the top 10 World Cup in both kite and windsurf. I caught up with him during the annual RRD distributor meeting on the island of Sardinia to find out how it all started.
FC: Since I was born I took my father as my idol, the perfect example to follow! So whatever things he was doing, I was always into. He introduced me to the whole range of watersports when I was three and from that moment I was hooked and never did anything else. I am from Palermo Sicily, so we have great conditions for everything. I started with a surfboard, until I was old enough to windsurf and then at the age of 13 I started to ride a kite as well. I was able to do all of this thanks to my parents, but also thanks to my home spot that is Puzziteddu. This is the best place to grow up and to try all kinds of watersports in a safe place.
I grow up as a freestyler, in fact at the age of nine I did my first junior windsurf freestyle competition in Sardinia, but in my blood I’m more of a wave rider because my home spot is the perfect place to train in the waves and I really like to surf and jump. For this reason in 2009 I did my first open Italian wave championship, and in 2012 at the age of fourteen I became wave Italian vice-champion. From that result on I pushed as much as I could to became Italian wave champion in 2016 and 2017.
In the meanwhile I was doing all the freestyle events, winning the Italian junior freestyle championship eight times and became two times vice-world junior freestyle champion.
In 2012 I did my first PWA in Tenerife and Fuerteventura and from that year till now I have been to Fuerteventura every year to compete in the PWA event there.
So for the moment I’m competing in all the PWA freestyle tour events, trying to challenge myself in the PWA wave tour as well; then I’m also competing in the GKA strapless wave kitesurf world tour; EFPT european freestyle pro tour, and all the freestyle and wave Italian competitions!
To say Francesco is busy is a bit of an understatement, and time will tell if it really is possible to focus on ALL disciplines. During the winter he flew to Cape Town with freestyle, wave and kite gear. He took part in the windsurf shoot, then literally the day that finished, he packed up his windsurf gear and loaded his car up for the kite shoot. Then he was off again to Cabo Verde for the first kite event of the year!
FC: If I am travelling somewhere like Cape Town, that has all conditions, my usual travel quiver consists of 2 wave boards, normally my 90 and 82 Wave Cult. Then depending on the spot, probably 3 or 4 Vogue wave sails. Then I will take at least 1 freestyle board, normally the 91 if it’s a windy spot, plus Style Pro freestyle sails. Then normally 1 kitesurf board and at least 2-3 kites. Sometimes I will pack a normal surfboard too, but if there is no room I can also use the kite board. Normally I throw it all in 2 or 3 bags, but they end up being crazily heavy!
A typical summer for Francesco involves loading his van and heading off to the Canaries for a 3 month trip involving freestyle EFPT, freestyle PWA, GKA strapless kiting and 2 PWA wave events. Then leaving his van in the Canaries, to fly back to Europe for another event, before coming back for his van, catching a ferry and heading to Costa Brava for another EFPT freestyle event. It is a relentless life that balances finely between living the dream and being a nightmare! For the moment though the dream is still going strong, but you have the feeling that home is calling.
FC: I think from my point of view, until now my home spot in Sicily is the best place I have ever been. We have wind most of the year and we have a lot of different conditions, wind from the right, wind from the left, nice bump and jump and flat water conditions as well. Plus from my place I can rig my sail or pump my kite on the terrace and walk 2 minutes across the beach, straight to the sea. Plus the healthy lifestyle that you can have thanks to the best food on earth and the perfect climate all year, not too hot and not too cold!
Speaking with Francesco on the topic of food, his mama’s cooking will nearly always come into the conversation. Italians are renowned for their love of food, and Sicilians believe theirs is the best. Maybe for that reason Francesco is not the typical ‘freestyler’ build. Whilst most of the fleet look like they gave up eating to windsurf, Francesco’s physique is pure power. The first time you see him freestyling it’s hard to believe what he is doing, his large frame doesn’t seem to be suited to the tricky freestyle world. However the power, precision and above all else, style he has in his moves will blow your mind instantly. Cutting back the cheese filled sausages in the last couple of years means he is now a lean and mean 85 kg of pure power and when that power is focussed correctly the results are highly explosive. Lighter winds are normally where he is at a disadvantage, but he has put the hours in on the big gear and the work has paid off.
FC: I have been training a bit to get more fit and to use bigger sails like my new Style Pro 5.6 that I really like. I can now do almost all the new power tricks like double culos, kabis, etc even with the big gear…So in the end I think it is only a question of training! As soon as you have the trick in your pocket you can really do it in almost all conditions!
The last comment offers a hint at what is probably Francesco’s biggest U.S.P. His work ethic and intelligence is like no other. On the water it is obvious and he spends literally twice as much time on the water than anyone else. If he is at a windsurf event and the conditions are not good, he pumps up his kite and goes training. If there is no waves, he will grab his freestyle board and find a flat spot somewhere. Maybe even more impressive is when there is real work to do, like at a distributor meeting or demo day. He will work harder and faster than anyone. In Mauritius two years ago we had to unload a container of eighty boards. He was carrying up to four boards on his shoulders and pretty much running with them, whilst the rest of us were struggling with two! It is clear during testing sessions that he is really switched on and smart too.
FC: I finished high school at the age of 18, and then I did 2 years of an engineering course at university in Palermo, but then because of all my travel I had to stop that. Now I just started an e-university course studying marketing and economy. I decided to study that because it can help me in the future to manage and to promote my watersports school in Sicily and my resort there as well.
Clearly he is thinking ahead and he has become a key member of our test team particularly with the freestyle team. Together with Jacopo Testa and Loick Spicher, they have really pushed our freestyle gear to a crazy level. In terms of testing he brings a good balance to the team.
FC: I think that we are a nice team, we are working together and helping each other like a family! I think that during our testing sessiosn I’m the most neutral and in the middle with my thoughts. Some guys want to push for something new and hardcore, and others just want to stay with the old gear and test a lot before saying something! We help each other during contests too, borrowing gear and pushing each other! It’s a really nice feeling.
So being a top pro in everything, he is the perfect person to answer the ultimate question. What is better, kiting or windsurfing? If he arrived at a spot and it’s perfect waves and 15 knots side-shore what would he choose?
FC: I would take my windsurf gear, but as soon as the wind drops a bit, to like 12/14 knots I would change to my kite gear. In this wind it is a little bit easier to catch more waves and you can attack the waves better and train more…..But if the wind is 25 knots for sure I will take my windsurf gear! I think I need to be taking about 5 more waves with the kite compared to windsurfing to make it worth it.
For the moment the kite does not give me quite the same emotions as windsurfing. You can’t beat the feeling of landing a big back loop on a windsurfer or a really nice aerial! But in light or really difficult conditions I prefer go with my kite because I really can enjoy the session more and I’m not suffering with the light winds, getting caught on the inside! To reach the same feeling with the kite I really have to go to somewhere like One Eye in Mauritius and try to get barrelled. That is a feeling that can really compete with windsurfing.
So between freestyle, waves and kiting, you would think that is enough, but still Francesco needs more things to fill his time, with the newest addition to his quiver…. foils. Wind foils, kite foils and even surf foiling.
FC: I really think that a foil is a nice toy to add to my garage and actually I’m really into the surf foil at the moment, I really like to challenge myself and I’m dreaming about catching a few waves on the foil like Kai Lenny, but for the moment I’m quite far away ha ha! But I really like to windsurf foil and with the kite as well, it is such a nice light wind alternative.
So being one of the most versatile riders in the world and also having good access to wind from both sides and all sorts of different water states, what would be his perfect competition conditions?
FC: For a windsurf wave competition I think 4.5/4.7 side/side-off starboard tack with maybe 2-2.5 metre waves. Perfect for jumping, for my back loops and tweaked push loops and good to make some nice moves on the waves too like takas and goiters on the way in! I think in those conditions I could probably get the best results. In freestyle, something similar – 4.4 weather, starboard tack side-shore with some small waves. In these conditions I can use the ramps for some power moves going out and nice switch moves coming in.
Unfortunately for Francesco those conditions don’t come along very often on the world cup, but you have the feeling with his progression, versatility and more than anything his hard work, it wont be long at all before he is performing equally whatever the conditions deal up.
So finally with so much tension and banter between windsurfers and kitesurfers what does he think being stuck in the middle. I know I am constantly harassing him for swinging around too much on the kite, but for him it is very clear.
FC: I don’t like to choose one over the other because I really just like to stay in the water and enjoy that time no matter what the gear! If the conditions suit windsurfing I will go windsurfing and if the conditions suit kiting I will go kiting. As long as I am having fun on the water, at the moment, that is the only thing that matters to me!
“ As long as I am having fun on the water, at the moment, that is the only thing that matters to me! ”