Born in 1989 in Porlamar, the largest city on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, “Gollito“ Jose Estredo grew up in the windsurfing playground of El Yaque, home to fellow PWA freestyle champion, Ricardo Campello. At the tender age of 13 he entered his first professional competition and won his first PWA freestyle world title in 2006, his ninth world title in 2018 and the smart money is on number 10 for 2019! In the ever-changing world of freestyle, one thing remains constant, Gollito winning! So what is the secret of his success, we ask his peers and the man himself.
Words John Carter, Adrien Bosson, Phil Soltysiak, Craig Gertenbach, Yentel Caers, Dieter van der Eyken, Balz Müller, Amado Vrieswijk, Francesco Cappuzzo & Gollito Estredo. // Photos John Carter
This feature originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Windsurf Magazine.
First he started windsurfing really young and got an insane technical level really fast. He is super talented and his talent comes with a motivation to windsurf and train hard, desire to win, professional approach to windsurfing and a competitive mind. I think that’s why he is the best. He is strong in competition because he has the skills, the competition spirit, a lot of experience, a lot of confidence in his abilities and now, with not much to prove, maybe it helps to release any pressure. But I think he actually likes the pressure and in the last year his level is even better than before! He is also able to sail in every kind of condition and adapt his training to the competition’s spot. He trains specifically for each event. He is almost unbeatable in Fuerteventura because his home spot looks pretty much the same with wind from the left with choppy to small waves. Nine world titles, still the best after all these years, and with all these different opponents he has had to face over that time, that says a lot! He has pushed the evolution of freestyle windsurfing so much, yet he is still learning and still has the motivation, so impressive! To beat him you simply need to pull out your best tricks. There’s no room for mistakes against Gollito. For the last 3/4 years, the general level in freestyle is getting closer and Gollito knows it, right now he doesn’t give any chance to the other riders. It is not easy to beat someone like that, especially when you only meet him once or twice a year. In freestyle we have two events and the PWA tour has been pretty much the same for the last 10 years, I think Gollito would be as hard to beat anywhere else, but maybe with more events and different places, it would give an extra chance.
He is still learning and still has the motivation.
Why does he have nine titles and I have zero…hmm! He has an insane combination of talent and skill. He came from Margarita and started windsurfing from an early age, just like Ricardo Campello. He has the raw talent, but he also has the mental game. That is the killer combination. The mental ability to win when the heat is on and to want to win. He can put it all together when it matters. He is one of the best freestylers, but I don’t think he is necessarily better than some of the other guys. It is debatable who the best freestyler is. He just has the best combination for winning. It’s the mental stability and drive to win, the other guys have it too, but obviously he has a stronger game than they do. He performs when he needs to. It is not just the latest batch of new generation freestylers he has beaten, but look back when he beat Ricardo Campello, Brawzinho, Kiri Thode and Steven Van Broeckhoven over the past ten years! That is pretty amazing!
He has the raw talent, but he also has the mental game.
Obviously it’s the Fanatic boards that are his secret! Of course, what else could it be! (laughs) He may look like a really cool and laid back kind of a guy, but if you get to know him a little bit better and you follow what he is actually doing, then you will realize he is a super hard worker. Combined with the fact that he trains much, much harder than most of the guys and also is trying new moves and developing new moves every year, and is an unbelievably good competitor. Even in the years where he did not have every single move down, like some of the guys, he is always able to sail very strong heats. You will never see him lose a heat without giving his maximum performance. If anything he has lost through breaking equipment, injury or illness. I don’t think I have ever seen him sail a bad heat. He is a very strong competitor, in all the sports that he does. He is a natural competitor and he does not crack under pressure whatsoever. His mental side is super strong. In freestyle the level is advancing every single year, which makes what he has achieved even more impressive!
I don’t think I have ever seen him sail a bad heat.
I think he is just a really smart guy and knows better than anyone how to train. I don’t think he is the best in all the moves, but he really knows what he has to do and he is just mentally so ready for competition. He is just a super talent. I can do all the moves he can do, but he performs under stress better than when he windsurfs normally. If you free-sail with him he is still amazing, but in a heat when he knows he has to make it through he is just a machine. On a day he is fighting for the title he is ready for it. Everyone gets stressed, but for him the stress just helps him to perform better. I don’t think he really cares about the prize money. He has good sponsors so I don’t think money is the problem. He just goes after the titles for himself. He thrives on being the rock star and the winner! That’s Gollito! He came from a poor background but he has still not lost his hunger now he is comfortable with money. Other guys have come up through the rankings in a similar way, but they have not kept that level. They start living in a world with money and get distracted. He is just really smart and really focussed on his goals. You see now in the waves he is going for that as well. He is training like a machine in and out of Gran Canaria practising between competitions. I think he is a good loser as well as a good winner which makes a true sportsman. He learns from losing, knows what mistakes he has made and then goes out and trains to improve those few weak points. He is good friends with Amado who is his biggest opponent, but they are cool with each other whoever loses. In the single elimination in Germany last year he lost to his teammate Bosson, but in the double he worked out why and came back and beat him in the super final!
He thrives on being the rock star and the winner
Dieter Van Der Eyken
Gollito is probably the best competitor in the professional windsurfing scene. He never shows his best heat till it’s needed and actually excels under pressure where others collapse. He will pass through heats in the earlier rounds with just enough points, never a dominant performance, but just enough to get through. Some say he has had some lucky calls last year, I would say it is just calculated risks that keeps his motivation to do better every single heat. He never gives up and being in the top of freestyle for over 12 years now he knows what he needs to do in every single situation, I think there hasn’t been any scenario that he didn’t find himself in before and that with endless motivation to train makes him the champion he is today! I’m pretty sure he will get number 10 as well!
Gollito is probably the best competitor in the professional windsurfing scene.
He has so much experience now and he is one of the most talented windsurfers in the world. He does not have the highest level out of everybody in free-sailing, but he has the best competition tactics and mindset. He competes like his life is on the line. I think it is also because of where he is from and his poor background. He really had to fight hard to make it to where he is right now. His background is a core motivation for him to keep doing better. He likes to represent Venezuela where he comes from. He thrives on the pressure. I have rarely seen him sail a bad heat. He just seems to improve even more the tougher the competition is. He is smart and he knows what moves score what points. Every year he comes back and has a new move which always gets scored very highly. He is smart about that. He is super hungry for those titles. I know his goal is ten titles and he is almost there now!
He competes like his life is on the line.
When it comes to competition he has that extra form. I remember last year for example I had not seen him sail all year and he turned up the day before in Fuerteventura and he was just on another level. I think he wants it the most. I would not say he is that much better than some of the other guys. It’s in competition he seems to get it together. Honestly I was hoping Bosson would win in Sylt. He has nine world titles now and it is great he keeps winning but for the sport it would be nice to have different champions. We need new names on top! He has the right mindset and he wants to win more than most other guys. If you really want it like that, it is hard to stop. That is what drives him and takes him to the top.
I think he wants it the most.
For me it is simple. He knows he is going to land the moves before he even takes off. Even if he almost crashes he somehow saves the move, he is like a cat in the air. That is what makes him nine times world champion. I will lose myself before I have landed and I know I am not going to make it. He is so confident he can land before he even takes off. Sometimes it can be impossible to land, but he still makes it somehow. I am a fan of Gollito, but I hate it when somebody wins nine times in a row. It makes it boring. It seems like he is so on top of us that he is miles ahead of all of us. It is not true because all the other riders are also amazing sailors. Maybe they just don’t get it together in competition. I can do most of the moves but never as consistent as Gollito. That is the point. He performs when it matters. You need to realize he was not focussing on freestyle this whole season. He still won but spent half of the year training in waves. I need to take my cap off to him. I have a big respect for him. I would still have loved to have seen Bosson winning. I don’t like the fact they put the name of Gollito on the freestyle board as it is not great for all their other riders. But right now it is hard to say who can beat him. I don’t think there is anybody. I think the tenth title will probably be his. It is our goal to stop him! He is such a winning machine. He crashes moves and somehow comes up clew first and sticks it. It is like football, I just don’t like the big names. I like the underdogs. He is not even arrogant like Ronaldo. He knows he is the best, acts like it and that is what I hate! Now Gollito is pushing so much in waves and still winning it is actually hard for us other riders to keep motivated!
He knows he is going to land the moves before he even takes off.
He is a competition machine. He can set his mind on going all out and still be consistent. His level is not that much higher than the rest of us, but in the heats he is just amazing. I don’t really know if he has any weaknesses because he has trained so much for every situation. In super light winds he struggles a little bit, but the rest looks easy for him. In a final he can set off his mind and just go all out and perform. He is consistent in all of his heats and that has made him world champion nine times!
He is a competition machine.
I think all the top ten guys could win the world title but Gollito has something that for the moment none of the other guys have. When he has to perform he does it, all the others crash, even in their mind. He always has something more. He can push the limit when it matters and can find a way how to win. He is a special talent I think. He has something that you cannot train for. He always surprises me as you expect some of the new guys to finally beat him. Outside of competition I see some of the others sailing better than him, but when the heat is on, he steps up his level. Maybe he should be tested for drugs! (Laughs). In his mind when he wants something he reaches it! Even in wavesailing competition we are seeing it. He wants to go for waves now and is taking down big names already on his first full year. Now he is fighting with the best in the world in waves and those guys are scared of him. He is there after only one year. It is not just about skills, it is in his strength of mind!
It is not just about skills, it is in his strength of mind!
I think I am very consistent in every heat and I always try to push the moves higher and sail harder moves and that is why I am always there in the mix. I train a lot in all sorts of conditions so I am always ready for whatever comes. I am very competitive in everything I do. When I play something I always like to win. If I don’t win I get mad. That is why I always focus and try always to go for it. I just want to beat the other guys, I don’t think about the prize money. My main goal is to win any competition I enter and be the best. This is my mission, at every event I want to at least make the final or to be in the top three. But mostly it is all about winning. The money comes if you win! It is a bonus. If I think about the money I will never win. If you have your mind on money then for me that is stupid. I want to win and be the best just like most other professional sportsmen. When I started I felt more under pressure in the first few years in the finals, but now I am more relaxed. The first move is always critical. If you crash your first move then you are off to a bad start and then it can be hard to recover as the heats are so short. You can get nervous. If you land the first move in the final then you get more comfortable and it just flows from there. I always check the moves they score and which ones they give high points to, that is why I learned the shifty. Also the air chacho and back loops. I knew I lost to Adrien in the single in Sylt last year. All my moves were a bit wet and I don’t really know what happened to me there, even though it was still close. I did not get mad, I just waited for my chance to go again. When I lost I accepted that and moved on. At the moment I don’t care if I lose. Winning for sure is better, but I have won so many times you have to be able to deal with losing. You have to look at what you have achieved and then it is no problem.
I just want to beat the other guys, I don’t think about the prize money.