Paul Zeper interview on the freeSTYLE Pro
Paul Zeper, one of the best freestyle athletes in the Netherlands, has been chosen from Hot Sails Maui to move to Maui and contribute at the design and development of a new freestyle sail. The freeSTYLE Pro is about to hit the market so let’s get into some details about this new project with Paul’s help.
When companies develop new products they usually try to avoid having their prototypes exposed. Hot Sails Maui has gone the other way with the FreeSTYLE Pro, sharing the design and even asking for the peopleʼs choice on the colors. What do you think about this kind of approach?
From the beginning of the freestyle pro I was involved in everything. It started in Fuerte during the PWA. We wanted a pure freestyle sail, so we started emailing. After Fuerte I went to Dahab for three weeks. In Dahab development really started. We were emailing on a daily basis. I tested as much sails as possible and looked at all sails. What works and what doesn’t.
After Sylt I got my first one, with printing and everything ready. Not the final colours though ;). As Hot Sails Maui is very focused on personal contact with their customers we decided to throw it online and let the people discuss the sails. We as a company want to make the best products and we want everybody to get involved with the progress. This really worked and I’m sure you guys will like the production Freestyle pro.
When we talk about pure freestyle nowadays we’re talking about ducking the sail and doing double moves after your power move. So we need a sail that has the best handling. It needs to get you at top speed, because speed is getting more and more important. Besides that it needs to be direct. When the sail is to soft it absorbs to much power and you’ll loose speed. We really focused on how the sail ducks and the directness. Besides that we stayed with the 4 battens as the Bolt. It makes the sail a bit softer, but lighter and a bit more bouncy for double moves.
In what degree does the new FreeSTYLE Pro meet these demands?
The Freestyle Pro is fast, really easy to duck and really light. That is what a freestyle sail needs and that’s what it does.
Honestly have you been influenced by specific products from the existing market?
Our subconscious is always influenced by everything that happens in our surroundings. I see all the designs, I feel how the sails feel and I pick things up. The shape of the sail is purely formed out of testing different sails and combine the best aspects of all of them. The design was based on stuff I learn in school. I also get a lot of inspiration from the snowboard and skateboard scene. I personally think the whole windsurf industry should take a look at what they’re doing because in some ways we’re not up to date. But it’s nice to combine.
Why did you use a 4 batten skeleton? Do 4 batten freestyle sails excel over conventional designs and where?
4 batten is lighter and a bit more forgiving. 5 batten is heavier but more stable, especially in overpowered. For freestyle 5 batten is a bit to stiff. Adding the weight difference just makes 4 batten the way we want to.
Many riders rig their freestyle sails a bit under downhauled in order to have a slightly flatter top. How is the new FreeSTYLE Pro supposed to be rigged?
Precisaly like that! A flatter top makes it easier to duck the sail. When you’ve a twisty top it will choose a side where the sails wants to go, causing it to end up in the water really easy. Flat top means you can do your ducking slower and more precise.
Definitely! If I want to do something I want it immediately. That’s why I personally also prefer a carbon boom. The monofilm is on the moment one of the stiffest materials to use. Of course there are more materials that are as stiff or stiffer but you also have a price tag to work with. Freestyle is young. The discipline is young, the people doing it are mostly young so you don’t want a to expensive sail. So full monofilm with the extra reinforcements on the spots where it is really necessary.
What are the main differences in freestyle between the Bolt and the new FreeSTYLE Pro in terms of handling.
I would almost say everything. The Freestyle pro is lighter, more stable, more direct, shorter boom. The only thing is that it is definitely weaker. It is not full x-ply. Actually is doesn’t make the sail weaker, but it is less tear resistant. Where x-ply contains a crack monofilm sometimes rips all the way. But believe me, I’m using the Freestyle pro here in every kind of condition, practising pushloops, backloops and every single freestyle move and the sail hold really really good!
Contrary to what wave sails design trend today is -going for low aspect sails- freestyle seems to remain loyal to the classic recipe. Do high aspect ratio sails behave better during ducking moves?
With ducking it is nice to have a short boom. Low aspect have bigger booms and also the top is mostly a lot wider. This makes it a lot harder to duck the sail precise. The freestyle pro has a pretty straight outline. The outline is pretty square and just enough area in the top to give some extra lift in some moves. Besides the ducking the high aspect ratio sails are more stable in overpowered conditions.
4-batten sails over the size of 5m are usually hard to control when sailed close to their top end. Did you face similar problems while developing the bigger sizes of FreeSTYLE Pro ?
Most guys in freestyle use 5.2 and 4.8 most of the time. 5.2 is the low-wind sail and every bit of stronger wind we change to 4.8. There are some bigger guys that always use a size bigger, but this is how it normally goes. 4 batten sails above 5m are indeed a bit harder to control in stronger conditions. The challenge with the 5.2 was to give it a feel of a 4.7. It has a pretty short boom and the top is a bit wider, making it super easy to duck and it get you on the plane super fast. You definitely have a smaller range with the 5.2, but the smaller sizes from 4.8 and down have a bit bigger range as they are used as high wind sails too. In the Netherlands I always use 4.8. Now we also have a 4.4 I think those to will be my favorites and most used.
Maui has the reputation of one of the best all year round training ground for wavesailing, but isn’t it too choppy and gusty for a freestyle addict like you?
Most spots are pretty choppy, but we’ve a secret spot for freestyle now. When people come for sure they will discover the spot, but lets keep it a secret for now. The spot can handle pretty big waves, the waves are far apart and the wind is more onshore. You’ve a realy long distance between the wave to do your freestyle moves. Besides that it is one of the best jumping spots on the island. On good days you can easily do 3 or 4 wave moves in a row. Coming in you do 5 freestyle moves in a row easily too.
You are a person with a strong sense of style. Now that you are given the chance to enter the industry what are the things that you would like to change in our sport?
I think our sport is really closed. We look at what other brands are doing but there it stops. I think the industry should be more open, look at snowboarding, kitesurfing, surfing and others. Besides that we do have some really cool products out there the image of windsurfing is kind of neglected. You see guys ripping on the water and than walk around with crocs on land. I’m a huge fan of the skateboarding industry. The clothing, the way they do their blogs, videos, photos. I would say to all windsurfers and especially the young ones. Open your mind, you’re doing the coolest sport there is and show that! On and off the water.
Big thanks for your time Paul!