An interview by Max Schanda
Two dedicated river rippers are regularly attening the PWA windsurfing worldtour. We had the chance to meet and interview Phil Soltysiak from Canada and Brian Melcalf-Perez from the United States at the very first freestyle event 2012, the Surfopening in Podersdorf (Austria).
Ok Phil, you are from Canada, why you don´t play icehockey?
I don´t know actually. I quess, if I played icehockey I wouldn´t windsurf, because it´s also a pretty expensive sport to get into it.
During the last time you spend a lot of time in Vienna, is that right?
Yes, my girlfriend is from Vienna. Before the Worldcup I was here for about 2 months. Of course I did some training over the winter as well. I was in Brasil and Tarifa, then I was on a „windsurfing in the unknown“ trip. I don´t know if you read about it jet, but you can check it out on the German Surf magazine in August. It was somewhere in Africa. (You can get more details about it on www.windsurfingintheunknown.com After that I was in Tarifa and Austria again windsurfing on the Danube River and on the lake Neusiedel. I think Spring is a good season for wind in Austria.
What are the biggest differences between windsurfing on the Danube River and windsurfing on a Lake/Sea?
You know rivers are different because of the current. The main difference between the lake and the Danube here in Austria is mainly the wind direction you sail on. If there is southerly wind, like we had during the competition here generally the river is the windier spot and it only takes me 30 minutes to drive there. But the main thing on rivers is the current, that makes the sailing different. Sometimes it makes some flat areas, sometimes some choppy areas and that makes it difficult.
How different is sailing the Danube under the bridge in Vienna compared to normal windsurfing?
The area under the bridge is very short, so you have to get up the speed really fast and do a move. You really have to know how to read the gust while sailing under the bridge. You have to watch the gust coming and know the time when you start, so if you start too early without the gust and you are 1/3 across before you get planning , it´s already too late you will either not do a move or crash into the wall and probably break everything.
Philip - under the bridge - Vienna/Austria :: Copyright hauft.at
Did you crash into the wall already?
No, but my last sessions was the first one I did under the bridge this year and I forgot how short it was. Many times i had to bail on moves and throw everything into the water as fast as I could and stopped only a view centimetres from the wall.
Is is a good place for training there?
No, I don´t think it´s good for training, but i think it´s fun. It´s like really social windsurfing there, because everybody is in a really small area and when you are waiting for a gust everybody is hanging out and talking about what move you gonna do or what move you just did and while waiting we almost crash into each other often #phil smiles#
Philip - at the beach :: Copyright Schanda
We are here in Podersdorf during the first PWA freestyle Worldcup, and how did the competition went for you so far?
The single went well, i lost out in the 3rd round to Bjorn Saragoza from Bonaire so i´m at the 9th place right now together with some guys after the single, but I don´t know If we will have some wind to do the double. But as I´m looking at the water now there are some whitecaps. Maybe it´s because it´s sunny - nobody is really planning but maybe something will happen.
We heard rumours that your board is broken, what happened with it?
My friend broke my board on the bottom when he borrowed it in the tow-in (crashed into the rocks). But it´s ok! Thankfully my friend Max Brinnich was around and he fixed it up for me over night and the next day I used it in contest.
Did it hurt, to see you board damaged?
It hurt me emotionally! I used it a view times before but it was spotless, than my friend took it out of the water and extracted some rocks from it afterwards. We need to do some proper repair later, but now it´s in working condition. Life is fine, the boards seems happy, I´m happy…
Philip - in a heat :: Copyright hauft.at
Hello Bryan, you are a river-ripper from the United States, tell me where is your favourite spot?
My favourite spot is probably a place called „the wall“ on the Columbia River Gorge.
It`s about an hour away from my hometown, but it´s definitely one of the best spots with the strongest wind and the best swell on the river.
Bryan and his gear :: Copyright PWA Carter
How many time do you spend there?
Yeah, it depends on the weather conditions, but when there is strong wind at that certain spot on the river it seems to create the best conditions.
What do you think are the biggest differences between normal windsurfing and windsurfing on a river?
The coolest thing on sailing on a river is that there are so many spots that you can find. At least where i´m from. You are able to go and drive half an hour down the river and have a completely different spot. It can be windy in on the place where I live and not windy a little bit further away. It really makes more conditions sailable, depending on wind and river direction.
Which is the most used gear on your home spot?
Most of the time in summer in the Gorge I use small gear. Probably around 4,2 is the sails that i use the most. That is really unique to the area, because it´s not only a river, it´s also a gorge, so the wind funnels through and makes strong wind more often.
Bryan at the Gorge :: Copyright Trudy Lary
Is there a scene on your home spot as well?
I have a core group of friends that come from all over the US and found themselves in the Gorge, because it offers the best conditions in the US. I would say that I have a group of 10 friends that are out with me sailing and pushing each other, that makes it a lot of fun as well.
Did you sail on other rivers as well?
I really haven´t done much sailing on other rivers yet. All of my other sailing is usually done on the ocean.
Did you heard about the bridge in Vienna, because Phil sails there a lot?
I´ve seen pictures of it and Phil has told me about it before. It looks like a really unique spot. That´s pretty cool. It looks like a real fun spot to go riding.
Bryan - tow in competition at Lake Neusiedel :: Copyright PWA Carter
At the moment the first PWA event is running in Podersdorf, what´s your current rank?
Currently in the contest I´m on 17th place, it was just the single elimination so far. For my first heat I had nice wind and went through the first heat. Then the wind dropped off complete. I was only planning for half of the heat, so I didn´t do so well in this one. It was kind of tricky for me especially because i´m not used to sailing in not so steady but strong wind.
How do you like the event and the place here in Podersdorf?
It´s really nice this year. The weather has been beautiful so you can hang out outside and not be freezing and trying to be in the tent all time. It is weather for hanging around on the beach, you couldn´t ask for much more.
Thank you guys for the interview and good luck for your next heats!!
For more on both rippers check our previous "ripper of the month" interviews: