Yannick Anton is no stranger to full on windsurfing conditions. A former PWA competitor, who’s abundant finesse and skill on the water always gets nods of approval, he’s stylish yet humble. We caught up with Yannick in between teaching sessions at his windsurf school and personal windsurfing time to get some more info.
Tell us when and where windsurfing began for you.
I began windsurfing at 9 years old in France, at the AGASC nautical centre of St Laurent du Vars.
It is a place close to Nice, the city where I grew up.
At what point did you think ‘this is the sport for me’?
I originally had a strong connection with the sea and the wind since my family had always sailed boats. As a 6 week old baby I was already onboard of my grandfather. When my mom proposed I try windsurfing I said: “Ok, why not”, without real enthusiasm. But I discovered that I was really comfortable with this sport.
When did you start competing?
I did my first competition in 1998, I was 17 years old. It was the Guincho Wave Classic. The wind was quite strong and I used a custom trifin board bought there. The day before the event the board broke, I had to repair it overnight to compete the next day. So, I barely slept. But despite that, I finished 1st in the junior category and 7th overall. A few years later I was back but for one stop of the PWA World Tour I was doing.
Talk to us about your most memorable result – what made it so?
Results haven’t been something much in my memory. I had some good and bad results on the world tour. I also got a French title in freestyle, but that I must say I didn’t win in such a hard way.
Results depends on what the competitor is doing. Sometimes I was doing not so good but passing important heats… good for me but not so memorable. Sometimes I was doing great but didn’t get reward – then it’s a shame.
For example, this second time in Guincho, I had one of my best heats. In addition of my overall performance I was very happy with, on a wave I managed a vertical floater over a very hollow section, sliding right over the barrel. It was one of the most difficult things I was able to do at the time. From this action I got one of my best photo by John Carter. I remember being very happy, but it turned that I hadn’t got great scores and didn’t pass through.
This is the kind of disappointment you can get if you pay too much attention to the result. Especially in windsurfing’s wave discipline where in addition to the conditions constantly changing the competition format doesn’t always reward someone abilities.
For me, even if the result was important, I was more motivated about the action I was doing, than the scores I was getting. And I’d like to thank photographers for shooting my best moves. Because those pictures help me with my best windsurf memories.
How did you find PWA competition?
PWA competitions were for me a very nice experience. And I also enjoyed being in touch with people that were doing the same thing I was doing. It’s also nice because there are people from different countries having different approaches of what they are doing which makes it interesting.
A world tour is a competition were people travel and share ideas with different languages. It’s also a place were people tend to not be conformist and so reinvent things.There is lot more to learn.
What put an end to that?
After few years on the tour I started to have some issues with one of my knees. That forced me to have two long breaks. It gave me the time to think about what I was doing as a professional windsurfer. For me, it was a nice experience but I didn’t want to keep on travelling that much. I like being home more than being away. So I chose to stop the competitions and to get established in Fuerteventura.
Did getting injured have a wider impact on your windsurfing?
After the second surgery that I got it took a very long time to recover. The impact of it on my knee is ok for activities like windsurfing, but bad for others like running. But as long as I’ll be able to windsurf, then for me it will be fine.
What about life in general?
I like a lot about the life that I have here in Fuerteventura. In August it will be 10 years and I’m very happy to live here.
You seem to have bounced back, however, and rip just as hard. What are your favourite windsurfing conditions to sail in?
Now I like lighter wind than before. Whether it is for waves or just to sail around, I prefer wind under 20 knots so basically non-planning conditions. It’s more relaxing, the water is also less choppy, the waves are cleaner.
Are you able to go as big as you did or do you need to hold back slightly?
Since I got to Fuerteventura I’ve been spending lots of time in quite big waves.
During the first winter I was at Puertito up to 4 times a week. The choppy days I would leave it for another day. Now I focus more on how clean the waves are than how big its. Comparing it to skiing: in a way I prefer a medium slope with super snow quality than a long slope with bad snow.
The other day I had a session at Acid Drop. The waves were big but it was too windy and too choppy. I ended up taking one or two waves but then came in.
When did you move to the Canaries and what do you love about Fuerte?
I got to Fuerteventura un 2008. But I was coming to Canaries when I was on the PWA, so I already knew the place. Fuerteventura is, I believe, the best island to for wave sailing. Many days during the year the quality of the conditions is really world class. And there is a cool community of wave riders, so it’s also good to share.
Where’s your fave spot to ride on the island?
Here there are many spots, and many can be very good. After all this time I’ve seen spots that are famous on good and bad days, and infamous spots on incredible days. It’s very changeable. It is the beauty of living as a wave sailor in Fuerteventura: there’s often something new to discover. At the beginning I had some favourite spots but now I wait for special conditions at spots where I don’t sail often.
What about further afield?
Here I can get the world’s best windsurfing conditions. Especially in waves. So if I travel it’s for other purposes, without equipment.
How did Witchcraft’s support come about? What does the brand help out with and what do you have to do in return?
For a few years now there’s a collaboration between Witchcraft and my windsurf school which is called Sailsense. Initially advanced wave pupils would use Witchcraft rental gear, because the quality is great, it is strong and it fits very well the waveriding conditions of the island. And sometimes I was keeping the equipment for my own sessions. Now I use centre kit every time I go sailing.
When it’s good I call Bouke and he organizes some photo and video shooting which helps on the promotion front. The arrangement works great!
Talk to us about your current set and what it gives to I terms of on water performance.
Generally, for the sails, I use the Slayer, always mounted on Witchcraft masts which are very strong.
My favourite board at the centre is the Haka 74l. I’ve been testing it trifin in various conditions.
In small waves I use it with a smaller back fin and it turns very smoothly. In larger waves I use it with a bigger back fin and I can carve with lots of control. There is also a custom Haka for me that I’m currently testing, which is very sharp in small waves.
Do you have any design input with WC gear?
I share ideas about equipment with Bouke. It is well built and there is plenty of choice, so it’s more about how to set it up really.
What about other areas of windsurf – is it just wave sailing you’re into or do other parts float your boat?
Because I also teach windsurf, I’m sailing a lot, especially in light wind conditions.
I like cruising with a big board in gentle winds. This is classic windsurfing and I encourage sailors to enjoy it more often. Simple things are sometimes the best. I hope I’ll be able to do that as long as possible.
And other sports away from windsurfing – anything you’re into that’s not windsurfing related?
I used to surf a lot, and swim, and bicycle. I did also quite a bit of boat and dinghy sailing.
At the moment I keep all my free time for windsurfing.
What do you do for work?
As mentioned earlier I’ve got a windsurf school called Sailsense. (http://sailsense-school.com) This is my living. I mostly teach beginners and intermediates in a lagoon which is located close to the town of El Cotillo. I do also teach advanced sailors that want to learn planning, waterstarting and gybes. Occasionally I train and provide video coaching to Witchcraft windsurfers.
How does that fit around your water time?
I’m 90% of the time teaching, and 10% free sailing. But everything is sailing so I’m happy!
What are your plans for the rest of 2018 regarding windsurfing?
I don’t have a plan, I’ll just go in the water when there are good conditions now the winter is over. But luckily we have nice wave riding conditions during the summer. Especially on the east coast where in some places the water is turquoise just like a swimming pool. Beautiful!
Any final thoughts, thanks and praise?
Yes: making the right choices today helps you out tomorrow. Once in a while, I go in the water for an hour. Thanks to the conditions, but also to the equipment and the technique that I have I get tons of good waves. And I wish that the windsurfers reading this article wherever they are will also be able to do the same thing!
Be sure to check out our other Witchcraft team rider Q&A’s with Bouke Becker, Will Ward and John Blackwell.