We use cookies to improve your experience. To find out more or disable the cookies on your browser click here.

SB22_DY4_D2_8210 (1)




Nineteen-year-old Liam Dunkerbeck bagged his first PWA world title last year. He tells us about the road to get there and carving his own path in windsurfing.

Words – Liam Dunkerbeck

Photos – John Carter, Fish Bowl Diaries, John Carter / pwaworldtour.com.

I have been competing in the PWA youth category since I was very young – in the under 13, under 15 and under 17s. I won the under 15 once and the under 17 twice. Now I have the official world title for the PWA youth division. I still have one more year to possibly win it again. We had two events and I won them both, so it was a pretty solid win I will say. As a younger sailor it is the highest thing to aim at with a good chance of winning. It is tough for the youths to win against the big guys because we are not so experienced and we end up getting drawn against the very top seeds. I won the youth title in 2022 against some of my friends and it is an official world title, so that is a great start for me. Of course it was my dream to win the youth title, but also in 2022 in the main event in Pozo I managed to place 5th in the single elimination and 7th in the double, which was also a great achievement in my eyes. I was pretty stoked with that result also.


When I was small, we are talking ten or eleven, I was quite focused on competing in surfing. I was doing the Canarian, Spanish and also the European championships. Then I went with my dad to check out the junior windsurf event in Pozo and I liked what they were doing. So I said, ‘Next year I will try that also’, and since that moment I have been spending plenty of time on the water windsurfing. In May 2022 I finished high school, so right now I am just focused on improving my sailing, travelling around as much as possible and competing.


In Pozo, I had a good single elimination, but in Cape Verde I did not do my best because I was feeling a bit sick. I was disappointed with that result. After Sylt I finished 15th overall, which is not too bad considering I was only eighteen at the time and 2022 was my first year doing the whole tour. Maybe in 2023 I can make the top ten or even the top five. In 2019 I had my first ever PWA heat in the men’s category in Sylt. I managed to get a wild card, but in the first round I was against Ricardo Campello. That was a tough one. Then in the double I was against Klaas Voget, which was also pretty difficult. The wind was from the right and I had no experience. Everything was against me, but that is how you have to start off. My windsurfing over the years has improved a lot. So I have managed to deliver a few surprises, I am pretty stoked with that and hope that improvement will continue for the next few years.


I am actually putting in the work in the gym, as well as my training on the water. I am not trying to gain any weight but rather have more strength. I think one of my strong points in windsurfing is being light and fast to plane. I don’t want to get much heavier because I will lose that advantage.


Of course my dad is an inspiration as he is one of the most experienced guys on the tour. I get on really well with Philip Köster, both on and off the water he is a great guy and I like to spend time with him and he also has been one of my main inspirations. I also really admire Marcilio Browne. He is a really cool guy. We train together a lot in Pozo. It is incredible how he can windsurf at the same level on one tack or the other. You cannot just say which tack is his good one because he is equal on both tacks. If I had to look up to one guy it would have to be him. He is really radical in the waves. That is something that really inspires me because of my surfing background. He has such a good style and I really admire that. In surfing my favourite rider is Julian Wilson. A lot of the young kids like John, John Florence because he is world champion. Julian Wilson never won once, but I just like his style and his way of surfing. He is my favourite.


I would not define being Bjorn’s son as pressure, but it can be a bit stressful. Because I am the son of such a famous person in windsurfing, we are always having interviews and photos. We are in the spotlight all the time. I am not a guy who feels the pressure. I go by my own decisions now and I have had to learn that over the years. As Bjorn’s son it does feel like there is always somebody watching me. I have the Red Bull sticker, the E11 number and we have the same name. So it is natural I am in the media a lot. My dad of course gives me a lot of important advice. In the end because it is me that is competing, I am the one deciding whether to take his advice or use my own decision. Sometimes it his good to have him there at competitions as he has so much experience so he might advise me to get my score in rather than just going for wild moves. Of course everything I have so far is down to my dad. But I still feel like I am starting to earn my own reputation on the water. I am really putting the work in and actually getting the results for my sponsors. I am my own personality and it is not all about being the son of Bjorn Dunkerbeck. I am proving myself. I am doing my best to be up there. In the first year I have competed in the main events, I managed a 15th place, so that means I am putting the work in and taking it seriously.


I like social media because it helps promote you and it’s fun, but I also need to say that sometimes it is a bit stressful to stay on top of it. Red Bull actually gave me some lessons on how to do it and conduct myself. I also studied how to improve my reach, there is quite a lot to learn.


Marino is one of my best friends and a great guy to sail and train with. I have another best friend in the Canary Islands, Hugo, who I grew up surfing with, but since I have focused more on windsurfing, Marino has always been there with me. It is fun as Marino and I like to push each other and we have the same objectives. Sailing against each other in heats can be a shame, but that is the nature of competition. One day instead of being together in round two, we might be together in the final, if things go the right way. We need to learn to lose against each other.


I went to Fiji for the IWT invitational last year. I really enjoyed it because I am also a good surfer. It is a spot where you can surf in the morning and evening and then sail in the day. It was ten days of pure surfing and windsurfing. I was sometimes in the barrel and sometimes over the barrel. There were a few days it was pretty heavy. I had a bad crash and hit my shoulder on the reef and cut myself. It was not massive for Cloudbreak; they say that when it is bigger it is a bit easier because the wave slows down a bit. We had that medium big size that was running right down the shallowest part of the reef at full speed. There was not much room for error. If you crashed, the gear was straight on the reef and you had a Fiji experience, let’s put it that way!


I could not be happier with the development of the 2023 Starboard wave boards. The new Ultra is an incredible board and since I have had that board I feel my sailing has gone to another level. I am also using the four batten Severne S1 sails. For next year I am also going to grab a few Blades, the 5-batten model. Maybe small sizes in Blades for jumping and big sizes in S1 for riding is a smart decision. I am also using Black Project fins, which are pretty amazing too.


I love competition. I have been competing since I was eight years old. My first event was the Quiksilver grom search. It’s a surfing competition, and if you made the top five then they paid your ticket to a camp to go training with the top guys. I won the event and since that moment I felt competing was my thing. A few years ago I was not getting nervous at all. I was younger and not so experienced. This year, when I started competing more seriously, I have been against big names in the pros. I now have good sponsors and more responsibility to bring home the results, so I feel a bit more pressure now. It is not about losing or winning money, it is more about showing everybody what I have trained for. Sometimes the night before competition I feel a bit more stressed, even more so than on the day. On the day I am competing I just put my AirPods on and try to be in my own space. I like to isolate myself from everyone and stay in my own mood.


I am taking my windsurfing career very seriously. I try to keep as sensible as possible. Sometimes you do stupid things, but I am not the guy that parties all the time. I try not to go out and do silly things. I have goals that I want to achieve and that is where I put my energies towards right now.


You must be logged in to post a comment.