No trip is created equal

Posted on Posted in Opinion

People often ask me “Where are you off to next?”. it’s an easy question and I often reply with a simple answer. However, I often find myself feeling guilty for replying solely with the name of a destination, it feels too shallow. When I plan travel, pack my bags, check-in and set foot on the plane, it’s not the destination that’s on my mind, it’s the purpose of the trip.

It's not about the destination.
It’s not about the destination.

Competing

Competition trips to me are like deadlines to the real-world folk. These are the few moments in the year where your commitment, drive, and motivation are tested. You push yourself all year preparing for these moments, and so do your competitors. On competition trips you are tested and judged: Did you spend more hours on the water than your competitor? Did you push yourself harder? Did you work-out smarter? Did you stretch enough? Eat better? Visualize smarter? Did you find tune your equipment diligently? Is your mind stronger? These are exciting trips, and you go home with a tangible result. The result matters, but even more important for me is that I learn the answers to the above questions, and can start preparing myself for the next contest.

Being judged.
Being judged.

Training

Luckily training and having fun come hand in hand in my world. To make the most of a training trip I find the key is to be around the right people. I want people who are not only focused on improving their windsurfing and push themselves, but also people that are fun to hang out with and who’s energy and positive morale I can feed off. These trips are a balance of pushing yourself hard, not getting hurt and keeping up the positive vibes. I also find that taking time to rest and relax is vital on the longer trips, but even more important is not taking things too seriously. It always refreshes me to step back and look at the big picture; I’m windsurfing at one of the best spots in the world with the best riders, does it truly matter if I windsurf a bit better or worse? My goals on these trips are generally to learn new moves, improve old ones and to improve my physical condition.

Fun times on training trips.
Fun times on training trips.

R & D

Sometimes testing equipment is an important aspect of a trip. Although I often test year-round for my sponsors Sailworks, Streamlined and Nolimitz, sometimes we need to put in some serious time when re-working a whole new range of sails for example. Testing gear is fun and a great way to learn more about your equipment and your tuning, but it can be time-consuming and frustrating too. Sometimes you take steps in the wrong direction. After all, if every change was an improvement there would be no need for testing. Sometimes your prototype mast will break, then break again the next day, and the day after that. You end up feeling more like an Olympic swimmer in training than a pro windsurfer! When testing equipment you need to put aside your personal goals; you are not learning new moves nor are you training for competitions. Your mind and feeling is consumed by trying to understand every difference in your newly developed piece of equipment vs your old one, and to see if it’s an improvement for you and for the every day consumer of your sponsors products. You know it’s a successful R & D trip when at the end you can’t wait to get your hands on the finished product you just developed.

Gear testing in Hood River.
Gear testing in Hood River. Photo by Mark Harpur.

Media

Every so often I’ll do a trip with a goal to create media coverage for my sponsors. I often choose novel destinations, because they tend to get more interest from magazines. On these trips the goal is to move around your chosen region and explore it in a way nobody has ever before. It’s tempting to stop if you’ve found a good beach to windsurf at already, but who’s to say there isn’t more to be discovered? If you’ve windsurfed it, experienced it, got the right photos, then it’s time to move on and get more content. I measure the success of a media trip based on quality of photos and experiences to write about. If I discovered a spot to where I want to return, and get a lot of media coverage, then it’s a winner!

Experiences on media trips.
Experiences on media trips. That’s an elephant foot print!

My Latest Trip

My latest trip was to Aruba. The main purpose of my trip was to explore the island in search of it’s windsurfing potential creating a travel article for windsurfing magazines; the content is being kept exclusive for your local magazine, which is why you haven’t seen anything posted by me online. So look for it in the next issues!

The secondary purposes of my trip were to tune in my slalom gear, and improve a few freestyle moves I’ve been having a hard time landing lately.

Was the trip successful? Yes! I’m stoked with how the photos turned out, and it was a pleasure to work together and become friends with the talented photographer and artist Armando Goedgedrag. Did I tune in my slalom gear? A bit, to be honest with you I spent way more time freestyling, it was too much fun 😉 Did I improve some of the tricks I’ve been working on? I think so, we’ll see at the next contest!


Ultimately it’s not the destination that matters, but the purpose. My trips are not accomplished by returning home, my trip is fulfilled through the experiences I will remember, friends I will keep,lessons I’ve learnt, and the motivation for windsurfing, competing and travel that I bring back with me.

An accomplished day on any trip is a good feeling.
An accomplished day on any trip is a good feeling. Photo by Mark Harpur

I just landed in Portland on the way to the Oregon Coast, so check back soon for some updates from the rugged, scenic coast, and of course from the IWT Pistol River Wave Bash where I finished in 2nd last place in 2016! Hopefully I improve on that… 😉

The beautiful Oregon Coast. Photo by Mark Harpur