What do the Pro's think of the indoor windsurfing at the London boat show? Sailpower.com's Hannah Emanuel caught up with UK pro windsurfer John Hibbard to see how things are going at the UK's first indoor windsurfing competition

Sailpower.com catches up with UK pro windsurfer John Hibbard to see how things are going at the UK’s first indoor windsurfing competition.

After a slow start, the indoor windsurfing competition at the Schroders London boat show is well and truly underway. The first heats in both slalom and freestyle are going well although there is clearly a different technique that the riders need to adopt to cope with the indoor conditions as John Hibbard explains:

“It was always gonna be harder in an artificial situation but it’s not actually too bad after a few practice runs. There are certain things you do here which you don’t do in outside windsurfing. There is a certain way you turn the board and a certain way you angle the sail the way the wind is. It’s not a normal angle of tack for the wind so you have to get a little bit lower down, you have to keep your legs a bit straighter and once you’ve learned that, it gets a little bit easier.”

As Hibbard goes on to say, almost none of the riders competing in this competition have tried indoor windsurfing before: “Only one of the guys here has, Nik Baker. The indoor windsurfing trend stopped about two years before I turned pro.”

It looks like the trend may be coming back and the French are big supporters of indoor windsurfing. They will in fact be hosting their own indoor event at Bercy, Paris in March in which Hibbard hopes to compete. He added: “I’m on the world tour already and I have a world ranking. I also think that competing in this event will help. The majority of the guys on the world tour haven’t done indoor before, so that fact that I have is an advantage for me.”

Only a few indoor arenas like this one exist and there is obviously quite a high running cost involved sot they are generally run just for competitions. This meant that practice for the event had to be done elsewhere. Hibbard spent a month in South Africa preparing for the event. He said: “I went to Cape Town for about a month where I managed to get out on the water pretty much every day. It’s hot and sunny and generally a lot nicer than here. I practiced the type of skills I thought I might need for indoor windsurfing. Lots of short runs, fast turns. I prepared mentally as well by watching lots of videos looking at techniques which I am trying to apply here.”

So how do the windsurfers on the world tour rate this competition? Is it a significant competition in the UK calendar for 2004? Or is it more about gaining recognition for the sport? Hibbard continued: “For promotion of the sport it’s really significant, for the windsurfing, I don’t think it’s a really big deal. It’s a showpiece, an advert for the sport, an advert for the sailors and to promote how good windsurfing is, and the standard of windsurfing in the UK is really high. We’ve got guys here who are among the top 5 in the world. I don’t think it’s significant as far as who wins, I think it’s just significant for the sport.”

So the overall impression of the event is very positive, and as the riders get more used to the conditions, the competition gets tougher. To watch the action live visit the Schroders London boat show where the competition is running until 18 January at the ExCel centre in London’s docklands.