Interview with windsurf legend Brian Talma

Super tanned, with longish hair lightened by hours in the sun and sea, always smiling, standing tall and looking good. Brian Talma, the windsurfing legend from Barbados is about to turn fifty but he is still competing at the world-class level and looks surprisingly similar to the photos that were published of him in a wide array of windsurfing magazines from all over the world at the end of the eighties and throughout the nineties.

And windsurfing is not his only passion. Brian was also the key figure who introduced stand-up paddle surfing into Barbados in 2005 and the rest of the Caribbean as well as putting his weight behind the adoption of the sport across Europe. He’s also a decent kiter and still loves to surf, which was his first passion as a teenager.

Brian came to Cabarete to compete in the Master of the Ocean event in February, where competitors competed against each other on the waves in four categories: surf, stand-up paddle, kite and windsurf, and we’ve had the honor and pleasure to have a long chat with him on the beach.
Lifestyle Cabarete: So Brian, you’re no stranger to Cabarete, tell us when you’ve been here before and why.
Brian Talma: Well, I first came to Cabarete back in 1988 when the first Windsurfing World Championship was organized here. Back then, this place had about two hotels and one bar, and it’s great to see that it has developed so much, first through the windsurfing sport and now because of kiting. I’ve been back since a couple of times for other events and the last time I was here was in 2002, when we filmed a movie called “Let’s go wave sailing” together with Peter Hart. Great times, great vibes.

LC: So since the last time you’ve been to Cabarete, how much has it changed?
BT: Since that last time in 2002 the town has developed a lot more. Barbados could really learn from this place. And I really feel proud because in a way I feel that I have helped develop this place by promoting windsurfing here at that crucial time of development.

LC: You feel very strongly about the role athletes play in events and about their promoting power, can you tell us a bit more about that?
BT: I strongly believe that professional athletes who love what they do and can show that joy while at the same time ripping it in the water they inherently promote the place. And that is priceless advertising. When athletes with a name compete in an event, or upcoming champions come to a competition, people are even more interested in coming to the event. This helps tourism and again helps the place grow. So I strongly believe that because of this, event organizers should always pay appearance money to a number of athletes to come to the event, be it current champions, upcoming talent or athletes with a big name.

I mean, you are the media right, so you wouldn’t want to come and cover an event if there are no athletes, or only a couple no one has heard of, because you know that your readers won’t be interested. Or if the athletes that are there just do their thing and then disappear of the scene, then that makes your job as a reporter much more difficult as well. So, what I try and do is to promote among athletes the need to not only be good at the sport but to also promote it by being entertaining, outgoing and positive.

LC: Are you finding that there is a big difference between athletes when you started and now?
BT: Yes, I think there is. The main difference has to do with technology. A lot of young kids use the social media to show that they are at this event or at that competition, taking photos, posting them and showing the online world how much fun they are having but in real life you hardly see them. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against social media and I use it as well occasionally but with some of these kids it’s more like a way of life instead of using social media as a tool.

Whenever I am at events I am always trying to push everyone to show the sport in the best light possible and that everybody is enjoying themselves because the only way you can inspire both amateurs and seasoned watermen is to show that you love what you are doing. And showing people a good time is good for sponsors, the people that organize events and people at the spot because the good feeling converts into sales. So, basically the moral of the story is: the more fun I’m having, the more money I‘m making. And to help promote that idea, to promote good vibes and entertainment among athletes for the good of the sport, events and spots, I created the Beach Culture World Tour.

LC: Tell us more.
BT: Well, basically the Beach Culture World Tour was developed back in 1996 to showcase the unique lifestyle that we watersport athletes have and to show off the competitive spirit of the pro-windsurfing community. And the World Champion of the Beach Culture World Tour is the athlete that has the most fun, who is the most entertaining and inspiring, both to other water athletes and the media.

I’ve been talking a lot these days to the organizers of the Master of the Ocean event and they have understood my vision so at the awards ceremony at the end of the event I was given a slot to give one extra award: the Fairness Award, in cooperation with the Beach Culture World Tour. This award, which was a small coconut tree as well as an envelope with 500 USD, was given to the one athlete who inspired all the other athletes at the event. The one athlete who brought along positive, good vibes. The athlete who interacted the most.

To find out who that athlete was I asked all competitors to write down on a piece of paper four names of athletes that would fit the bill. I did the computing and the results were very clear: two time winner of the Master of the Ocean title Zane Schweitzer was voted by all his peers as the most sincere, easy-going, outgoing and fun athlete.

LC: Who were the runners-up?
BT: Well, I came in second [smiles even more than usual] followed by Fiona Wylde, and local champion Sammy Perez Hults, both of whom are amazing athletes with great personalities as well.

LC: Who funds the Beach Culture World Tour, and where are you going next?
BT: I’ve been lucky enough to have the government of Barbados help me sponsor the idea, which has been fantastic. This year I will be competing more again and will participate in a number of events to help promote the Tour. We’re looking at organizing this year’s Beach Culture World Championship in October in either Barbados or Greece and I’m really looking forward to that because some amazing athletes who also competed at the Master of the Ocean, like Zane Schweitzer, Fiona Wylde and Omri Hazor have agreed that they will come.

LC: Something totally different, you’re nearly 50, how did you manage to stay in the game for such a long time?
BT: Despite the fact that I’m joking all the time I’m a realist and I know I’m lucky to still be in the game. I guess I’m one of the few with such a long standing watersports career. I’m competing against 20-year olds and that’s sometimes not easy. But then again, as long as you love what you are doing, why stop doing it? And I really love the ocean! And windsurfing, and stand-up paddle and kite and surfing!

LC: Last question: what makes you such a happy person?
BT: Basically I have a happy brain! And the key to happiness is knowing that there are some sad days. Then you can completely enjoy all the other ones. I also have my five children and they give me a lot of strength and joy. ACTION!

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