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Two-time PWA wave world champion Josh Angulo is one of the most stylish wavesailors in the world and turned his raw talent into competition success through hard work and application. A fierce competitor, who recently finished a very respectable 9th place in the 2022 PWA Cabo Verde event, he shares some of the wisdom and experience from years at the top of our sport.

WORDS – Josh Angulo // PHOTOS – John Carter, John Carter / pwaworldtour.com


When we were in the heights of our careers, for the different guys that have succeeded, it was ultimately important to be the best. But being the best wasn’t always necessarily ripping the hardest. Before 2003, the Europeans that overachieved had a strong level of talent, but they multiplied their victories by working really hard. Watching Patrice Belbioch, Bjorn Dunkerbeck and other Europeans, I felt like they were overachieving and I realized why. This was when I stared caring less about doing the move of the day at the beach and would instead go to another spot and just repetitiously practice a jump or a cutback in certain conditions. That was just to achieve a solid base. I had to get out of the Hawaii ripping Ho’okipa mentality, although I knew that was still important and still held a high level of respect in my mind. But I switched to tuning my equipment and taking competition more seriously than just busting the move of the day. I did that for a few years and that was when I was able to win. You get into it once you have the taste. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a selfish pursuit. It can turn some people off and everybody deals with it differently.  

This year in Cabo Verde, I see some of the guys here that carry their pursuit different to what I did. In that road there is no perfect formula. At the end of the day, it was good to get those titles in my pocket and have that in the background. I knew it was done and I was happy about it. I won titles in 2003 and 2009; two world titles. They were six years apart, so a pretty big gap. When I won in 2003, I felt like that was the end of my time. For me that was a now or never year. I really willed myself to win and it came together by a small tight margin. I don’t feel I dominated. All we had was Canary Islands and Sylt, so two events that were not my forte. We had no Maui, no Portugal and no Cabo Verde! Nothing proper starboard tack. It was a lot of port tack, but somehow I pulled it off and got that monkey off my back.  

I came back the next year super motivated, but my equipment wasn’t as spot on as I would have liked. I think I overthought things in some areas and put too much pressure on myself. So I went backwards. Then I slowly started picking up the pace again. Before 2009, I felt I was done. I was over it and felt like I didn’t want to compete anymore. I was in my mid thirties and had already been through the Dunkerbeck and Naish generation. Then there was the Polakow, Baker and Goya generation and then what I would call the Kauli generation and also the Philip Köster and Brawzinho generation. I was able to have success through all these amazing phases. My first title was between myself and Bjorn, whoever won that heat was the world champion in Sylt. I am pretty pleased with my longevity. Here I am holding my own still in Cabo Verde, although if we were in Pozo I would not get through the first heat!  


I think I was strong mentally. David Ezzy always used to tell me that. I was able to produce when it mattered. To win you have to produce the right jumps, be on the right gear and be at the beach early and be rigged up. There is a lot entailed. You need to be over your jet lag and all that stuff. Winning is not just sailing. I think I got quite good at the mental game, but there is a fine line of putting too much into that as well. At the end of the day, you still have to go and rip on the water. It is a balance and that is the tricky side of competing.    

I had to adapt, as well as going through different life issues, raising kids and getting married. Basically you have to be mentally strong. A lot of it is just giving up what you think is right and sometimes accepting what other people think is right. That is the mental game of learning humility. That is just becoming mature also. I am still in all those processes continually, which have not only been a boost to my windsurfing, but also to my life as a whole.  


In 2009 I retired from wave sailing after winning my second world title. I was 34 and I said that’s it, I am good! I don’t need to keep beating this dead ‘! The horse ran, the horse died, its done! I had my couple of wooden sails in my house and I was good to go (Editor’s note – the PWA world title trophies are model wooden sails). That is when I decided to go for slalom because I still had some unfinished business. It was my way of continuing professional windsurfing. So I got into that and did ok. I had a few great races, decent results and didn’t do too bad in the overalls.  


That period of my life came around when I was having kids. Not to take anything away from it and I don’t regret it obviously. But here in Cabo Verde in 2022 I told my wife, look at Victor and Philip Köster, both here with newborns. That creates an infrastructure that most people don’t understand. So I was trying to compete while raising a family, being married to my wife and trying to run a couple of businesses. They all kind of suffered as a result.  

More recently we started building a hotel. Everything basically came to a head when I was in Portugal at the PWA event. I was not doing very well at all. My wife said to me…‘You have this, this, this and this going on. You have to eliminate something, choose!’ I sailed in after a race, rolled up all my sails, packed the car and drove home back to Cascais where my family was at and that was it! I left in the middle of the event just like that. I had the phone call with my wife the night before and knew everything was coming to a head.  

I was deeply immersed in building the hotel in Cabo Verde at the time. There was a lot going on. I said to myself… ‘You no what, she is right!’ As much as we don’t want to admit that our wives are right, there are moments where we have to tuck tail and accept they are. It basically came down to the choice of windsurfing professionally, our life and businesses in Cabo Verde and my family! I could not juggle it all and I was not going to give up my family! The investment in Cabo Verde had way more potential for return than my windsurfing. And with windsurfing, I had already proved myself. There was no need to continue racing. 

I watched all my peers and colleagues come to an end one way or another. Bjorn did it his way, Micah Buzianis did it his way. Robby left his way and I did it my way! Everybody did it different. Some guys held on and milked it, hoping they are still relevant, good for them. You know what, if that is your life…awesome. Some guys are like me…a little fatted calf sitting on my chair eating tuna tartare in front of a blue sea! It’s all good. The one thing we all had in common was that we were all super blessed to have had that lifestyle. I had a couple of the boys over for dinner last night and I was passing that on! Milk it as long as you can. Competing on the PWA is not the end all. Enjoy it! It is a rare, awesome opportunity. Enjoy the ride. Once it is done…it is done. On the competition side at least. It is not completely over. Bjorn is still here and he is all excited still. Yesterday we were sitting here and we saw Bernd Flessner and Bjorn walk up and I looked to Swifty and Brawzinho and said that is you guys in fifteen years. They were laughing. Bjorn has Liam now and he sails with him. I am sailing with my kid Noah. The thing is not over, it is just new stages.  


I went off the radar for a while. I don’t do social media. How do you even do that? I ask my kid if he knows what is up with that. I have pretty much been here in Cabo Verde the last few years. We got really involved in building this small hotel. We were getting that going, then Covid hit. That was two years off everyone’s radar. Nobody saw anybody. I had another kid four years ago, so that all went down. A lot was going on at the one time. On the windsurfing side I am not a person who feels that is what I need to keep pursuing. I do love staying in it. I was in contact with Craig Gertenbach from Fanatic not so long ago trying to get some wings for my son. Then they helped me out with some sails for the contest. I called Nik Baker and he sent me a sail down. It has been awesome talking with all the guys who I grew up on the tour together with. They are all in the industry and now my son is into watersports too. I feel a bit more excited about windsurfing now than the last few years when I was so busy. I am also immersed in other projects here in Cabo Verde. I hope that will parlay my position to have more time on the water in the future. 


I have windsurfed non-stop since I left that slalom event, though it has been on older gear. I had a sail that Kai Katchadourian left me and I had an old Challenger and an S2 Maui sail. I would be at the beach every day on a different rig. I just remember guys like Paul Bryan in Kauai that would just go out and bust big airs and didn’t care how they did it, that’s my inspiration. During the last five years when Ponta Preta is on, I go and bust big airs!
To say that I don’t miss the competition scene would be lying. Sometimes I would like to go to the movies, but there is no cinema here in Cabo Verde. I miss going to the movies but I am still fine to watch Netflix! So, are there moments where I miss being in the mix with all the boys, Sylt with the crowd or jumping at Pozo or when I was dominating Ponta Preta! Yeah, I miss a little bit those moments. But it is not like I miss it and wish I still had it. They are two different things. I miss it in an appreciative and then a reminiscent point of view of how thankful I am for having that. All those experiences are in my memory bank and really the most value you get out of it is the people you meet along the way, the relationships you forge, the contacts you make and the respect and trust that you gain. That is why the PWA Cabo Verde event happened. All those factors are really the value in the end.   


It was awesome to have the PWA event here again. They talked to me before the French event and I immediately called the minister of tourism who is a strong acquaintance. He was up for it, but then the project fizzled out. The PWA went to France and we know how that turned out. That then pushed the whole Cabo Verde concept again. They called me and this time I wanted to know it was going to happen before calling the ministers. I didn’t want to get egg on my face twice. It sounded solid. Big thanks to SOMWR and the PWA who teamed up. And then boom we did it. We had the infrastructure in place here already after running kite events and the old PWA events. I was able to bring in the new generation and organization as well across the board. We had new guys setting up the tents and scaffolding etc. I have been able to play a different role and be a bit more relaxed. I don’t have to run anything, which is the fruit of all the hard work that was done in the past. It is a really good feeling that I don’t feel that I have to control everything. Let the dust settle where it may and let the mistakes happen. The live crew might get a bit frosty if the generator is not on at 7 a.m., but you know what, that is ok because I know it will be on before the contest starts. We hustle, they hustle and we make it work and have success in the end.  


I had no intention of competing. My plan was to organize the crew and sit in the tent and oversee. I wanted to watch it and get stoked in that way. Then I called all the windsurfers that are good on the island, but some of them are now kite world champions or have their own businesses. They just could not do it. First and foremost, we needed Cabo Verde representation, for the pride of the country. The Cabo Verdians are very into their sports and the pride of representing the Cabo Verde flag. I didn’t want to abandon that process knowing that I had it in me to do a decent representation, which I did. So I got to work. I got a couple of sails and the boards I have are old, but I know them very well to say the least. I know how to catch a wave at Ponta Preta and how to ride it to my ability. So I felt fine to do it. I also reflected on the fact it could be firing with four guys out on the water. There are about ten guys that really rip and about twenty that understandably struggle because it is a new spot. I didn’t want to watch it and think, why am I not out there. I did not want to have a feeling of regret of not being on the water. That fear of regret was greater than my fear of embarrassment. So in the end I started sailing more and in the couple of weeks prior to the event I put some effort and training in. 


I feel like I am still in a transitional stage. I live full time in Cabo Verde and right now that is not the end all for me. It is still a season where I feel called to be here and see some projects through. I am immersed in some businesses where I need to oversee them until they are at a level where I can be more hands off. When that time comes, we will probably pursue different situations. As far as spiritually, emotionally and mentally, I feel that I am in a good place. You can always be better. You have to keep working at it to get better. My relationship with my wife continues to grow which is extremely important. Happy wife, happy life! For me, a perfect scenario off the top of my head would be springs and summers in North America and winters in Cabo Verde. That would be the perfect situation and whether that happens or not is yet to be seen, especially with the whole Covid scene. During that time, Cabo Verde was a great place to be. It was mellow here, it was warm, we have surf and it felt like a good time to ride out those years in this great spot!  

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