Words: Jamie Howard
Pics: Amber Dennington
Note: this interview originally appeared in WSUK’s 2020 issue. Jamie has now switched sponsors to Severne.
A successful product of the RYA’s Team15 programme Jamie Howard quickly rose through ranks as far as freestyle windsurfing goes. These days JH still rips in freestyle but also waves and lately has been vying for Radiculo’s crown in foil style. We caught up with Jamie to get the lowdown.
Where and when did windsurfing begin for you? What was the draw?
So I first had a go at windsurfing when I was 8 years old. I tried it as part of a weeks fun course at my local water sports centre, (Buzz Active in Eastbourne) and loved it from the start! From there my dad bought me and my brother our first board and rig. It was this big inflatable mistral beginner board that would get a new puncture every half hour (the inflatable board technology must’ve come on since then haha) & little 2.5m rig. My dad used to tie a bit of string to the back and we’d sail out as far as we could before him dragging us back in again. It worked well and we loved it! From there I joined the local club so I could go every week and haven’t looked back since!
As we understand Team15 played a big part in your windsurfing development. Talk to us about that period of your windsurfing life.
Yes thats right. Our club joined the South East zone when I was around 11-12 and it was great! It encouraged loads of youngsters to stick with windsurfing after doing their Stage 1 & 2 courses and we ended up having a sick little community down at Buzz from it! I guess it introduced the competitive element too which I always loved and everyone improved quicker pushing each other on!
When did you make the switch to freestyle and why did you decide that’s what you wanted to do?
To be honest, as much as I enjoyed the racing side with Team 15, the most fun I would have was always free sailing with my mates! Not necessarily freestyle so much at first but more just sailing smaller short boards and going out when it was windier. It was only when we went on a family holiday to Dahab and I saw freestyle for the first time that I knew straight away that it was what I wanted to do! I ended up buying this old Tabou Freestyle 90L off of one of the locals Ahmed Dawood, which we had to wrap up in an Egyptian rug and cover in duck tape to protect it on the flight home. Got some funny looks carrying it back through Gatwick haha.
How did working for Club Vass come about? How many seasons have you done now?
Well as I said, we used to go to Egypt on holiday and rent gear from Club Dahab (which used to be a partner centre to Club Vass). We really loved the laid back vibe of it and their approach to the tuition. It was there that I got to know some of the instructors and was quickly convinced that it would be wicked to go and get a job with them in Vass! I’ve done 5 seasons for them so far and have absolutely loved it.
With the whole COVID-19 thing I guess you’re missing Greece. Any plans to head out if you can though?
So I actually decided to give myself a break from Greece this year anyway for a bit of a change and to go back and work a summer at my local water sports centre, Buzz Active in Eastbourne. It’s not quite 30 degrees everyday and warm blue water but still loads of fun and theres a great crowd down there! However I will be on the lookout for last minute flights as it would be awesome to get out for a week or two!
What’s the best bit about working for CV?
Where do I start… Getting to do what you love everyday in an epic location with all your mates! Plenty of sailing time and really great social scene! The island also has some stunning views and beaches which are great to visit on days off. The weekly Friday night BBQ is always an absolute banger! Its a fancy dress party that always gets pretty wild! Another thing I love about working for CV is the fact that a big percentage of the guests are returners, so every week you can be sure that you’re going to know some of them arriving which is always really cool.
And what about PWA events? With no FS tour this year what’re you planning with the trick side of your sailing instead, if anything?
I pretty much still have the same state of mind whilst sailing as I normally do, which is to go and have fun! I have always found that if I think too hard about it being ‘training’ I don’t enjoy it as much and quite often won’t sail as well either! Having said that I always still like to have a focus and something to aim for so for instance at the moment I’m trying to get better at the double power moves e.g. double culos, double burners, air funnel burner. They’re ones which I can occasionally land but need to have consistent if you want to break into the higher PWA rankings! Would also like to get some better double forwards but normally only ever try one or two in a session (if any) as its often a big impact on my back.
Any plans to compete in PWA wave events, for instance (when the tour returns)?
I would absolutely love to get to that point, but at the moment my wave sailing isn’t even close to the level needed for the PWA. The standard is just so high! However I did compete in my first BWA (British Wave Association) event in Cornwall last year which was a right laugh. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who does a bit of wave sailing, its a really great crack!
What do you prefer these days – freestyle or waves, and why?
Hmmm thats a tricky one! The lines are definitely beginning to blur in my opinion, a lot of the new school freestyle moves are being done off waves now and wave sailors are incorporating more freestyle into the waves (of course pure down the line wave riding Polakow style is different to what I’m talking about). I think i’d have to say sailing good wave conditions is the most fun for me, however when its a bit more bump and jump, I take my freestyle board and really make the most of it.
You spend a large amount of time in Cape Town. Any plans for another winter out there?
I’ve been 6 years running and counting! Its such an amazing place for me as its just got such variety of conditions. You can sail anything from flat water freestyle, to mast high + down the line waves. I love how everyday is a little adventure, for instance unlike some windsurfing trips where you just sail at the same beach for the whole time, Cape Town has numerous options every day and it just keeps it constantly exciting and interesting. Fingers crossed for getting out again this winter but will be a last minute decision for me depending on how it’s going with Covid.
Where’s your fave CT spot to sail and why?
Tough one! Got to be one of the beaches down south, purely because of how beautiful it is sailing amongst that landscape (the conditions are class too)! Either Whitsands, Scarborough or Cape Point. The water is more blue down there and you’re surrounded by stunning mountains. Theres also a good chance of coming across wildlife such as Baboons, Ostriches or even spotting some Whales… Hopefully not sharks haha.
Foiling – particularly foil style – seems to have become a thing for you recently. How that? Enjoying it more, less or the same as normal windsurfing?
Nothing could replace normal windsurfing for me however we don’t always get perfect 4.0m conditions so the introduction of the foil has been absolutely wicked! It’s so cool how pumping on 5.2 conditions on normal kit can turn into plenty of wind on 4.8/4.4 to cruise about no problem and even bust a few freestyle moves. It must’ve doubled my time on the water in the UK this summer which is crazy! Regarding the foil styling, its been so sick because I get that excitement and buzz off landing a new move in the same way that I did when I learnt the move on my normal gear!
Going to steal Radiculo’s foil style crown any time soon?
Pffffft! I highly doubt that, Balz is an absolute mad man and extremely talented on the foil! His brothers Jakob and Clemens are also ripping! It will be interesting to see where foil styling goes in terms of competition. I’ve begun to see a few of the freestylers doing it now.
What about your sponsors? F2 have a long history in windsurfing but disappeared from the UK scene for a while. How did their support come about?
They approached me around 18 months ago now. I was really keen to be a part of their team as they are known as one of the legendary brands from back in the day! I’m super happy with the gear and get on really well with it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the equipment progresses and having my input towards it!
And what of your music project TwoSlice? Any plans on taking that further?
Yes, so music has always been a big hobby of mine! I grew up playing the guitar and was in a band through school and college. I started getting into music production at college and dance music, particularly the underground House music scene. Me and Charlie started TwoSlice back in 2017 and it’s been a really fun project alongside my windsurfing! This year things have begun to step up a notch as we’ve been releasing more music on some really great record labels and started receiving support and plays from some of our favourite DJs. Its so cool being sent videos of our tracks being played in huge venues on massive sound systems and the crowd properly feeling the music! Definitely plan to keep pushing that along with my windsurfing!
Any final thoughts on windsurfing, foiling or music in general?
Just that I hope I can continue to get as much enjoyment out of it all as I do right now for the years to come!
Thanks and praise?
Gotta say thanks to my girlfriend Amber for sitting on a windy beach time and time again with the camera whilst I’m sailing haha! My Mum, Dad and brother for their continued support! My sponsors F2, Club Vass & Dakine!
Check out more Windsurfing UK pro rider profiles here –