Words: Finn Mellon
Pics: Niall Melon, Samuel Tomé, @ferran401, @stp780, Maleenh, The Chook Journal
As of today Irish ripper Finn Mellon is currently testing his mettle in Cape Town. Back in summer, however, he tries his hand at a spot of PWA competition. WSUK caught up with Finn post-Canaries for a chat.
Finn Melon has an idyllic windsurfing life. Based on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland, and having Brandon Bay, plus surrounds, as his windsurf/surf playground it’s no wonder the young ripper is turning heads. We caught up with Finn following his recent stint in the Canaries, having had a dig at both PWA events in Pozo, Gran Canaria and Cabezo, Tenerife
Tell us firstly where windsurfing all started for you. When and where did you get into it and what keeps you hooked?
It all started off with my dad, Niall Mellon. It took me quite a long time to get into windsurfing. I was more of a football fanatic but Dad would persuade me to come sailing by giving me ice creams – effective method! My Dad was a highly qualified instructor for years so I was and still am super lucky to have him behind me. I learned on a pond near my house. I found starting off pretty tricky and hard work but once I got planing I was hooked and have been hooked ever since then! What keeps me coming back is the excitement of wave sailing. For me, nothing beats getting right under the lip and smacking it.
Give us an overview of your local sailing area. What’s good about it, what’s not so great and what options do you have based on conditions?
I live in Brandon Bay in the South West of Ireland. When it works it is a wave sailing heaven. We have 7 miles of golden sandy beaches which can offer you every type of sailing you could want. It is a semicircular shaped bay allowing access to all wind directions from offshore to onshore. The only negative is it is not very consistent. It is hard to get multiple days in a row the same like you do in the Canaries for instance. Also the winter often gets too much wind, swell and rain!
Who’s your sailing crew and how do they contribute to your overall windsurfing experience?
In winter my sailing crew is very limited, most of the time it is only my Dad and I. I am lucky to have my Dad sailing by my side all the time. Dad and I are pretty competitive so it means we are always trying to out sail each other. I believe it is essential to always have someone that will push your sailing. My Dad acts as a coach to me. We spend a lot of time on the beach filming or taking photos sailing or surfing and then we analyze the footage to see how we can improve.
You’re known as a wave sailor predominantly but do you dabble in other areas of windsurfing, if so what?
I surf a lot, does that count?! I want to spend more time learning freestyle as there is such a big cross over between the two windsurf styles when sailing places like Pozo.
What moves/skills are you currently working on and how’s this going?
Talking onshore, my main aim for visiting the Canaries was to improve my jumping so I put work into my back loops and forwards. I also learned how to do backside 360’s which is a pretty cool onshore move. Now that I am back at home I will be making it my goal to start smashing out wave 360’s. They are one of favorite wave moves. They look so stylish on a wave.
Recently you spent time in the Canaries having a dig at the PWA. How did this go? Any particular highlights?
I spent 6 weeks in the Canaries training my onshore sailing in Pozo and Cabezo. I had real fun. I got on the water every day for the whole time I was there. I got to hang out with PWA stars like Jaeger Stone, Adam Lewis and Robby Swift. Not much more I could ask for really…
For me the competition was not my best but I am still happy with how it went as I know onshore Pozo style sailing is not my strong point. So to contest against the local hotshots is a result for me.
And what about not so great experiences?
Having my new 2018 GA sails get stuck in customs for almost 3 weeks was really a pain. I needed them on countless occasions such as my second heat in the junior event where I was sailing super overpowered on my 3.6m while my 3.3m was sitting on the other side of the island. Oh yeah, I can’t forget to mention the Pozo rocks, those mini boulders covered in slippery algae. They are pure carnage! Nobody escapes the rocks, even the stars have their fair share of run ins with them. It is either your gear or your body getting rinsed on them. If you were following the Pozo event you would have seen Loick Lesauvage break his foot in the shorebreak during his heat! It really surprises me how things like this don’t happen more often on those rocks.
How difficult (or easy) was it to get to these comps to take on the world’s best? Will you be doing more?
It is a fantastic experience that is easily accessible for anyone, I would truly recommend it for every junior windsurfer. The Canary Islands are easily accessible from the UK. I have been traveling to Tenerife by myself since I was 14 years old. I plan to return for many years to come as I’ll be chasing my dream and moving on into the main event. So I will hopefully be in Pozo next June competing in the men’s comp.
As a pro what systems do you need in place to make things happen? For instance how do sponsors contribute (if at all) and who foots the bill for events and travel?
Money is the main thing needed to make this all happen. For me the aim is to find an outside industry sponsor that would be willing to help pay my travel expenses. At the moment I usually cover my costs with my own money and help from my main sponsor: mom and dad!
With exposure in mind what do you do to keep the ball rolling and increase your visibility? What obligations do you have for sponsors?
Nowadays I believe social media is a key part of being an athlete. To succeed in sports like windsurfing or surfing I think it is essential to have good social media presence. My dad and I put a lot of effort into creating and capturing interesting content for our social media pages. If you would like to follow us hit up Instagram at @finn424 or @BrandonBayDiarys.
In an ideal world who would you have as sponsors, and how would you go about getting these on board?
For me the ideal sponsor would have to be a big money business such as Nike or RedBull that could support me financially as traveling and windsurfing are two expensive hobbies!
Any tips or advice for other aspiring young sailors coming up through the ranks?
Don’t give up! Windsurfing is clearly a tough sport to make it in – as are all sports. I don’t think you should allow anyone else decide your own fate. If someone says you can’t make it then I say take that as motivation to prove them wrong.
Tell us what your plans are for the rest of the year. Any more travelling in the pipeline or you going to tough out the Irish winter?
This year is a big one for me now that I am finished with school. I am going to take 12 months out before going to college where I will be traveling to Australia and Maui to train hard and have a lot of fun! I am really looking forward to wavesailing some epic spots and exploring some places that I have always dreamt of visiting.
Where’s your fave all time location to sail and why (home or away)?
There are some places I haven’t sailed yet that look dreamy such as Ponta Preta (Cape Verde) or Kona wind sailing at Lanes, Maui. But until I get the chance I will say my favourite place to sail is 3 Peaks at home. It is a perfect A-frame beachie that can allow up to 10 turns. A perfect day there is mast high, cross off with just dad and I trading wave for wave. Doesn’t get much better than that does it?
What’s the best part of sailing in Ireland?
The best part of sailing in Ireland is definitely the amount of amazing uncrowded waves we have all the way up our coast. If you catch Ireland on the right forecast I can promise you will find the best waves of your life!
Finally I would like to give a shout out to everyone who helps me do what I do.
Cheers to –
Mom and dad (Kathleen Mcauliffe Hats Dingle)