Karin Jaggi NWF Interview
Karin Jaggi is coming to the NWF! With 29 World Titles in several windsurfing disciplines, Karin Jaggi (SUI-14) is one of the most successful and experienced windsurfers in the world. She is also one of the fastest, having twice been World Speed Champion and holder of the Windsurfing Speed World Record at 41.25 knots (47.47 mph). In a windsurfing career spanning over 20 years, Karin has been a real inspiration and role model to other women in the sport, showing that it is possible to succeed despite the challenges posed by what is seen as a male-dominated sport.
Karin continues to compete at world level, achieving success in Slalom and Wave as well as dabbling with Freestyle. Although she spent many years with F2, she co-founded PATRIK boards with her partner, professional windsurfer Patrik Diethelm – and you can come and see Karin to find out what PATRIK boards are all about at the NWF.
Sail Number SUI-14 =
15 x PWA Windsurfing World Champion
11 x IFCA/IWA Windsurfing World Champion
3 x ISA Speed World Champion
Windsurfing Speed World Record (41.25knots)
You were born in Bern, Switzerland, near the Swiss Alps – one of the most land-locked places on earth! With your lust for speed and adrenaline, how and why did you get into windsurfing and why not skiing or boarding?
I did start skiing at the age of 3 and was one of the first snowboarders in Switzerland but somehow it was always the element water that fascinated me the most. Already as a kid I loved swimming. Then when I was 16 years old I tried windsurfing for the first time at a Swiss lake and from then on I did not want to do any other sport anymore!
When and how did you start competing?
After learning by myself for 2 seasons I wanted to progress further and booked a windsurfing course in a Swiss school in the south of France. The owner of the school was a national competitor himself and immediately picked me out and told me I got talent. He then simply took me to the next Swiss competition and I was immediately hooked.
You have been World Champion 29 times! What did it take to become the best in the world in so many different disciplines – and then stay at the top?
Basically I think because I have so much fun doing it. I really love windsurfing – still do! And I also like competing. I always thought that because it was not so obvious for me to become a professional windsurfer this fact actually helped me to get there. On one side because the fact that I started rather late with windsurfing allowed me to develop a very good base of different sports (skiing, snowboarding, judo, tennis, triathlon, hand ball). On the other side I always had to set high goals in order to succeed and be a professional windsurfer. At the beginning I worked in a windsurfing school to get cheaper equipment, start financing trips and also just to be able to sail. Then when I finally made it to some dream destination like for example Maui I was dedicated to make the most out of this trip and would sail as much and as long as possible. I wanted to become a professional windsurfer so badly that there was simply no way that I would not achieve my goal. Staying successful is the hard part about it. My biggest advantage there is really that I love windsurfing – whatever the conditions, whatever the discipline – I really enjoy every minute on the water and I still love to compete as well.
You have been consistently winning at World championship level for over 20 years; there must be considerable pressure to perform consistently. How do you handle this?
Fortunately I did not feel too much pressure to do well. Basically in the beginning it was only my own pressure because nobody expected me to do good. Once I was there I was pretty successful in many disciplines at the time. And once I did a bit less everybody expected me to slow down completely – which naturally I did not do. One fact that I think always helped me to keep pressure low was that I continued studying parallel to my windsurfing career. It gave me the safety feeling that I was not actually dependent on how good I would perform on the world tour.
Having been at the top for so long, are today’s victories as sweet as your first? How important is winning?
By the end it’s probably not important at all anymore to win. But as soon as this green flag goes up for my heat or the starting sequence is ticking down – all I want is winning! I’m naturally competitive – can’t change it.
Slalom and speed require very different skills from Wave sailing – and the kit could not be more different! Despite this, you compete at a world level in all of these disciplines. What challenges does this throw up? Which is your favourite?
I strongly believe that all disciplines are important and if you want to excel in one you need at least to be at an ok level in all others as well. Speed sailing teaches you to go upwind with tiny little fins – therefore you’ll make double angle on your formula board afterwards. The formula sails are so heavy that when you jump on your freestyle gear you feel completely weightless and can jump double as high. A carved bottom turn in waves is pretty similar to a high wind jibe in slalom. I am very sure I was this successful because I always did all of the disciplines. Sure I love wave sailing best – nothing beats a perfect sideshore windy day! But this would mean I would sit half a year on the beach because those conditions are so rare. Much better to head out on formula or slalom gear then!
You held the World Speed Record for some time at 41.25 knots. Is this the fastest speed you have ever done on a board? Do you have your sights set on joining your partner, Patrik Diethelm in the 50 knot club?
Yes – it’s definitely the fastest speed I did over 500 meters. It was one of the great adventures I was able to do. So much fun, so amazing moments and an unbelievable feeling when I finally broke the world record run! But I have been there, done that at my time and don’t feel like I need to go back and do the same thing in Namibia again. Though I have to admit when they sail there I am glued to the computer back home and hit the reload button of this never-enough-up-to-date facebook page of their event constantly.
Windsurfing is a very male dominated sport. What challenges have you faced? Are your male colleagues supportive or threatened by you?
Not sure! I tend to simply overlook those things. Sure I heard and read some negative comments about women windsurfing from time to time but it never really bothered me much and somehow it never was directly addressed to me. I always try to tell the girls don’t listen and just keep pushing and ripping. I truly believe that there are quite a few women that have a very good level.
Women’s sport always seems to take a back seat to men’s. Why do you think this is?
If it’s compared directly against each it’s tough to look good as women. For example when we do a wave competition and the women quarterfinals are run between the men quarterfinals. It’s not the same – I agree. But then again sometimes a women final is just as exciting as a men final. In most sports the men and women don’t compete right next to each other and in the same conditions. For example the women downhill skiers start a bit further down on the mountain. In tennis women would never play directly against men. And in surfing female competitions only got successful once they started having their own events. Against 99% of all windsurfers a top PWA female rider looks amazing – but in a race against the PWA men champion for sure you can see a difference.
You worked with the PWA to encourage women in windsurfing. Are you still involved with that? How do you do that?
When we started our own brand I had to stop doing all those extra jobs simply because I could not find the time anymore. But I do try to keep helping women by trying to support them with our brand nowadays.
What message do you have to encourage other Ladies who Launch?
Just do it! And don’t give up too early! Windsurfing is a difficult sport to learn but once you got the hang of it it’s actually the ideal women sport because you don’t need much force if you have the right technique.
What are your best and worst windsurfing experiences? What is the funniest thing that has happened to you?
So many that it’s hard to pick certain events. Best moments are always shared ones: great down-the-line sailing somewhere in the outback of Western Australia with just a handful of friends sharing the experience is definitely my favourite days. Bad ones we simply forget ones they passed.
You completed a business degree through distance learning, continue to train and compete at the top level – and have set up a business, PATRIK boards, with your partner. How do you find time?!
Somehow I always managed to do everything together. But after the birth of our son Levin in April I have to admit that sometimes it gets difficult…
You are co-founder and owner of PATRIK boards. Why did you feel that there should be another board manufacturer and what do PATRIK boards offer that others don’t?
Patrik had worked for a decade for F2 already and I had joined him with several jobs for the last 2 years. But then things with F2 got really difficult, everything changed and the new owner simply had totally different ideas. So we just took the risk and started PATRIK. To start our own brand was simply a dream come true! And naturally we wanted to do everything different! We started by cancelling the yearly ranges but simply make a current one. We promised (mostly to ourselves) that we won’t change current boards if the new board would not be much better. That we only offer a board in a proper long lasting and “logical” construction – one that fits the purpose of the board regardless the production costs. For Patrik his boards are everything. He has such a vast knowledge about shapes and material and I really believe this shows in our products. All we really want is try to live from and for windsurfing – and share this feeling with as many people as possible. This is PATRIK.
Why not Karin boards?!
We had a completely different name for the brand. But then just before we launched it we realised that the name we had chosen was registered by another company in sports (not windsurfing but sports clothing). We really were not looking for trouble and therefore needed to find another name fast. PATRIK was the most logical one. looking back it was a very smart move as from the day we launched our brand it was clear that we did not have to do anything with F2 anymore.
One of the challenges faced by females is that boards and sails are largely designed around the physical dimensions of the average man. What set up tips do you have that would help female sailors? Does PATRIK have any plans to manufacture boards designed to suit the physique a female sailor?
Actually we did look into making some special boards for women. But due to mould costs and manufacturing rules this was not possible. And to be honest while developing the idea we also realised it’s not really necessary. For example in slalom I actually like to use exactly the same equipment that Patrik is using – me being just 60 kg while he is trying to weight in at 100 kg. Just we don’t use it in the same conditions. For example his medium slalom board is my perfect light wind one. With this board he uses a medium stiff mast that makes the sail soft for strong winds. I would never use this mast stiffness in strong winds (as with my 60kg I need a much softer mast for those wind speeds) but it’s perfect for the light wind days for me. So yes – a lighter sailor would need more downhaul, softer mast, a smaller board, softer fin, etc but it’s actually nearly exactly the kit of a heavier guy in stronger winds.
I believe that your partner Patrik Diethelm joined the 50knot club on one of your boards! You also work closely with MB fins – I understand that Fin technology and performance is the limiting factor in achieving speeds much above 50 knots, as this is the point at which cavitation starts to happen with conventional foil designs.
What is your view on this and to what extent do you think the boundaries of top speed can be pushed with board and fin design? Without giving away trade secrets, is it something that you are working on and where do you see the future in speed windsurfing?
Patrik really loves speed sailing and goes well prepared to the event in Luderitz. It’s part of his success in competition because his body size, weight are not really working in his favour. Also he simply never finds time to train at all at the moment. But he makes up for this with his knowledge and ideas about equipment. He travelled to Namibia with 10 boards and at least 5 times as many fins, masts, 2 sets of sails and came back with even more ideas what to do and try next time!
Peter Hart said of speed sailing “The first thing that you need to know is – it hurts!” How do you cope with the fear factor? What was your worst wipeout?
Pushing the limit always hurts! Physically and mentally. I absolutely love adrenalin though – also one of my secrets to success. So the fear factor was never an issue for me. Can’t even remember any really bad wipeouts… I broke a lot of gear hitting sand banks on Fuerte. And in Saintes Maries during the record attempt I once passed the finish line showing over 40 knots and had a spinout right afterwards that slowed me down to zero in a second. I somehow passed through my whole sail!
What do you do to tweak your performance? As a phenomenal speedster, what top tips can you share with NWF competitors to help them to go faster in the Master Blaster races?
There are several factors that make you fast. One is your equipment. Sure you can go and buy the best equipment and it most probably will improve your speed. But you can also do a lot with the equipment you already have by simply tuning it to the best performance. Most important is that it’s easy to control. Only when you are in full control you can concentrate on going fast. So check what options you all have to trim your gear. For example: different foot strap positions. Most people only set them once and mainly by pure chance. Myself I pretty much change them every single day I have different conditions. Narrow to get more body height when it is light and flat, maximum apart when it’s choppy and difficult to sail, etc. That’s just the strap – then you have the fin choice, the mast foot position, the boom height, downhaul and outhaul trim, etc. It will take a long time to try out all those different settings but it will be a real learning curve for you. If you take the time to do it you will naturally learn what has which effect and get to know your gear really well. The other important part is your sailing skill. Sailing fast is not like freeriding into sunset. It’s very physical to keep body tension over a long race course. And yes – it does hurt – also for Pros. Just as an example: Micah Buzianis wears a gumshield because he grinds his teeth by forcing so hard in course racing. But it’s not only about force: you also need to know where to go. When you have to cross swell waves going straight won’t be the fastest way. Instead you constantly turn up and downward in order to keep the highest speed while crossing the waves.
What do you think of the NWF?
I will only be able to judge this after I visited it! But I heard many good things and am definitely looking forward to it!
Of which achievement in your career are you most proud and why?
My first world title in waves – basically because nobody else believed in me except myself.
What interests do you have outside of windsurfing, if you have time?
I used to count down many different things I am or at least was interested. But fact is my life is simply windsurfing!
Who has inspired you most?
Jessica Crisp and Dave White!
You have achieved so much! But what are your goals for the future?
Keep pushing limits in whatever I do, never loose the fun in windsurfing and try to help a lot of people to experience the same.
Karin is sponsored by Patrik Boards www.patrikdiethelm.com,
SPONSORS: PATRIK , Severne, O’Neill