Here's an interview about my training, injuries and the current PWA season. I hope you'll enjoy the read.
It's hard for me to believe it all!
1. How does it feel to stand on the podium of the prestigious PWA event, next to the Moreno sisters, after defeating one of them in the semi-final?
J. S .: Amazing! I still can't believe I participated in all the final heats this year. To be honest, for the past few years I had the impression that I was sailing well enough to make the podium - at least in the third place. In the last two seasons, the wind completely let me down and dropped at the most important moment - right after I climbed to the fourth place in the double elimination with only one heat separating me from the podium. I already won heats with the legends of female windsurfing - Nayra Alonso and Sarah-Quita Offringa. I feel a relief that everything has finally come together well for me and I am extremely pleased that my first podium is not a third place but a second, later defended in the double elimination.
Thanks to everyone who kept their fingers crossed for me and to my sponsors MYSTIC, SIMMER STYLE, GOPRO, AL360, XO-ACTIVE, F45 TRAINING, SURFADVISER.COM for all their support.
2. Did you feel that you could reach the final before this competition started? When did you believe that success was at your fingertips?
J.S .: Honestly, I was counting on the podium. I improved my jumps a lot this year, and wave riding has always been my strong point. I knew that if everything goes well, if I manage to qualify to the semi-finals with a fourth place guarantee, then everything is possible. I was counting on a third place. However, making two finals in Pozo in both single and double elimination, winning with Iballa Moreno on her local spot and Sarah-Quita Offringa, with winds reaching 50 knots, are certainly achievements that I had never dreamed of before the season.
3. In the [single elimination] final you had minor problems catching good waves, were these Pozo conditions suitable for you?
J.S .: I’ve spoken to Daida Moreno after the heat and it seems like we both struggled to find good waves. It was high tide, so the conditions were very difficult both for jumping and riding, because the waves are very round then. There weren’t many good ramps nor steep sections for riding. In the final it took me a lot more time to land the jumps. It takes time to find good waves to ride, which I unfortunately used up looking for the third jump.
I was already exhausted and also very stressed - it was the first final in my life. The most important heat for me, which guaranteed a place on the podium (even if I’d drop in the double elimination) was the previous one against Iballa Moreno. In that heat I gave it my all and in the end won by a healthy margin. In the final however, fatigue, emotions, stress and much more difficult conditions got to me. I think I sailed quite well, but Daida is amazing in Pozo. She has been sailing here every day for 30 years. She knows how to use the potential of all sorts of conditions. Of course everyone can win or lose, but in these stormy conditions, she was simply better. In Tenerife or on a down the line spot I would perhaps stand a better chance.
4. Where do you train, what are your favorite spots for wave riding?
J.S .: In the winter I train in Australia. Of all the places I sailed in the world, my favourite spot is Gnaraloo, 1200 km north of Perth. I have the opportunity to sail there once or twice a year, but it is always an amazing experience. A complete remote area, living in the bush in a van with no access to civilization, no internet or telephone coverage. Waves which allow for ten or sometimes twenty turns. Warm water, sun and wind - I have never sailed a better place. Sometimes it is dangerous there, especially when the tides are big and literally just tens of centimeters of water remain on the sharp reef, but you can choose the days when it is more comfortable.
My favorite spot for jumping is Coronation Beach, also in Australia and "just" 500 km north of Perth. Coronation is like a skate park for windsurfers. Flat water for the first 400 m, and later waves from small ones up to your knees to bigger ones up to mast high on a good day. It is usually quite flat in-between them. The waves are gentle and in case of trouble you end up in a flat water bay, so it is a great spot for safe learning. I also really like sailing in the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife mainly.
5. How many years have you been practicing windsurfing and how did your adventure begin?
J.S .: I stood on a board for the first time on Sarbsko Lake at the age of seven. Dad helped me climb on the board the first few times and I got to experience that feeling of sliding on the water. When I was 12 me and my brother went on a windsurfing camp at the Hel Peninsula organized by ORKA SURF. There I got planning for the first time - still without footstraps or harness. From that moment, windsurfing became my obsession. I used to sail only in the summer, but I dreamed of windsurfing non stop. All my school notebooks were filled with drawings of boards and sails. I returned to Hel every year, later as an instructor, and spent my entire vacation there.
6. Why did you choose waves?
J.S .: I was always after a challenge in all the sports. When I learned horse riding, I always wanted to ride the most rebellious ones and as fast as possible. When I started skiing I was also most interested in speed and jumping. When I started snowboarding I quickly jumped onto the rails - unfortunately breaking first few bones. I liked to challenge myself and feel the adrenaline in my veins. As a teenager, I "hired" my brother to pull me onto the ramps with a car so that I could jump as high as possible on my rollerblades.
It was similar with windsurfing. After watching the "RIP" movies with Robby Naish and "About Time" with Jason Polakow, I dreamed of wave riding and jumping - probably because it scared me. I always had that need of overcoming my own fear. As a kid I always wanted to "fly”, and the waves gave me the opportunity to jump with soft landing.
One day I dragged my equipment through the forest of the Hel Peninsula, to the open sea side. The waves were small but I was terrified, and when I caught the first wave I felt like Robby Naish :D I swallowed the wave bug and it stayed that way - a bit against the logic of the place where I was born and raised, far from the sea.
I never planned to take part in competitions, so wave was not a conscious choice instead of, for example, slalom. I just wanted to windsurf on the waves. I went to PWA Sylt for the first time, after I went out on the waves in Karwia (Poland) during a storm just a month earlier and almost drowned. I decided to sign up for the competition in Sylt knowing I’d be last, just to try the waves in a safe environment - they had a jetski there. At that time almost no one was sailing waves in Poland and I was pretty much left to fight the sea on my own. Hence safety was maybe a bit of an unusual reason of my first ever competition experience. But once I gave it a go, I was drawn in by the challenge of winning a heat, and the rest is history.
7. Wave riding carries the risk of injuries. You have experienced a bad one, can you give us the circumstances?
J.S .: Unfortunately, I suffered many injuries. Not only because of windsurfing, I've broken fifteen bones, broke my nose four times, torn multiple ligaments, suffered a concussion and had more neck injuries than the crash test dummy.
My foot injury was the worst. It was supposed to eliminate me from windsurfing forever. I sprained the Lis Franc ligament and crushed seven bones, twisting my foot with a really bad frontloop landing in Pozo. A strong gust of wind pulled the equipment out of my hands and my back foot stayed in the footstrap. To this day, several years after the accident, I still feel pain in this foot every morning.
After the surgery, my foot is unfortunately completely stiff, even my toes don't bend anymore. Sometimes during a jump, the foot slides out of the footstrap, and I can't help it. At such moments I can feel my heart in my throat. Over the years, however, I managed to develop a wave and jumping style "tailored" to my injuries.
8. How long did it take to get into shape and overcome the fear of going all in again?
J.S .: Of course I was afraid of going back to jumping, but I was even more afraid of the vision of life without windsurfing and without the unique feeling of flying that accompanies jumping. It was my passion and I could not imagine that I would not jump anymore - even when the doctors warned me that I would not walk normally anymore. I actually do limp a bit - but I am still sailing!
Coming back to jumping took a long time, then many months passed before I tried new tricks (I didn't land backloops before the injury). After the first successful jumps, with fear in my eyes I tried to jump higher, and then even with the nuclear wind in Pozo. To this day, when it starts blowing more than 40 knots (like when I broke my foot) my heart starts pounding. Mental return after the injury was as difficult as the physical one, but I knew that it depended almost entirely on me and less on fate. This sort of return is in our own hands.. And heads!
This year I finally went all out and even returned to the double loop attempts. Unfortunately, I paid for it with yet another injury, tearing multiple ligaments in the other ankle. Fortunately, I recovered a little bit before the start in PWA, but I still have to wear an ankle brace when sailing.
Injuries are hard to avoid, but I think they taught me resilience and how to push through despite discomfort. This year, for example, just an hour before my first heat in Pozo, I broke my middle toe. You can complain about bad luck, but I am so used to sailing with pain by now I managed to just go out and try to ignore it.
9. Is windsurfing a sport for women?
J. S .: Absolutely. Windsurfing is not only for competitive sailing - it is also a great recreational sport, excellent for women. The equipment available today is very light and easy to use, and women can handle it without problems. In addition to the great impact on overall fitness it is a sport that provides unique sensations, inaccessible to many other disciplines - it enables close contact with nature, teaches humbleness and tenacity.
It is not an easy sport, but that just gives greater satisfaction when you manage to overcome the first difficulties and open up unlimited possibilities for further improvement. Sky literally becomes the limit! All the girls I managed to persuade to go windsurfing are still sailing today. This sport is addictive and is one of those "for life" - the feeling of sliding on the water is amazing. I strongly encourage all the ladies to give it a go - you can do it!
10. How is the new leader of the PWA world ranking feeling?
J.S .: Great! I still can't believe it all. My childhood dreams have finally come true.
For sure, it will not be easy to maintain this position, because the final race for the podium in the general classification will probably be decided in September in Sylt, Germany. With this spot’s unpredictable conditions everything can happen and luck plays an important role, but I hope it will be on my side. I am currently training hard to be ready for the unpredictable North Sea conditions.
If it won't be windy in Sylt and there is no result, I will have to participate in the next stage of the PWA competition in Hawaii in October this year just to keep overall ranking. This will be a big financial challenge and I really count on additional support from sponsors.
If anyone would like to support me in my fight for the overall podium, please contact me. In return, I offer a wide promotion for companies on social media, and even the production of professional advertising spots, carried out in Australia. I have prepared special sponsorship packages in that respect, described in detail HERE.
Source and the Polish version: Polskie Stowarzyszenie Windsurfingu