Robby Naish – Mr. Windsurfing

He popularised windsurfing; gave it a face; pushed the sport like no one else; always invented new materials; thought of new tricks.  And exactly this is what Robby Naish still does to this day, with an exemplary nonchalance.


If surfing is a drug, Robby is its dealer.  He gives you what you want.  For decades he’s been delivering top performance; the best material for having fun on water and the most extreme manoeuvres- on screen or live at the beach.  He does this with a never resting yet infinite quantity of pleasure.  No dealer in this world is as charming and courteous as Robby Naish.  A living legend; a hunk; ‘The Windsurfing- Ambassador’.  


Just how busy ‘Mr. Windsurfing’ really is we personally experienced first-hand.  Robby’s answers to our list of questions came with a three month delay.  For that, with a very charming memo though: “Sorry that you have not heard from me for so long.  The days are just simply too short.  But everything is fine, I was on the water a lot. Aloha, Robby.”  This nonchalance is exemplary.


Windsurfing set in shopping window
Robert Staunton Naish was born on April 23rd 1963 in California’s La Jolla.  His father Rick, actually a teacher, was already a star among surfers, surfers not windsurfers that is.  Rick is already supposed to have ridden monster waves back in that time.  A few years later, the whole family moved to Hawaii.  Among other things Rick organised catamaran-regattas.  Robby and his brother Randy were still little children when they played in the Pacific waves.  Colourful windsurfing sails were unknown in the Hawaiian sun back then.  They did exist on the mainland though.  In California, people were already sedulous at sailing in a standing position.  In 1971, the first windsurfing set came to the island, to a shop window in Honolulu in front of which Robby and Randy were gazing at in amazement.


Friends of Robby’s bought such a surf-set.  But young Robby Naish, barely eleven years old, was just simply to small and weak to pull up the heavy sail out of the water.  But, he had a big buddy: ‘Mike’.  So, Mike pulled out the sail, held it and gave it to Robby.  Mike jumped off; Robby surfed.  When the sail fell into the water, Mike swam to Robby and helped him pull it up again- every beginning is hard.


First World-Champion Title at the age of 13
Robby practiced and practiced until he could lift the sail out of the water by himself.  He was obsessed.  So he emptied his piggy bank and bought himself a windsurfer.  Practice, practice, practice.  At the age of 13, Robby competed at the world championships on the Bahamas: and won!  With this victory, he is the youngest world champion of all times to this day.  This was in 1977.  The material back then was anything close to perfect.  Robby, his father Rick and numerous friends from the surf-scene now work on creating their own windsurfing boards; they test them, improve and build new boards. With success: Rick got an employment with the renowned company Mistral as a shaper and consultant; Robby himself becomes the first team driver, quasi without pay.


Today, it’s not just fancy handmade boards that bear the name of Naish in thick letters.  There are sails, T-shirts, kite material, trapezes, surfboards, DVDs and much more.  The Naish-shop has pretty much everything a surfer heart can desire.  “We love what we do.  And we ride what we do”, writes Naish online.  In the real world, Naish has collected 24 world champion titles during his time; has moved into the PWA-Hall of Fame of windsurfing; became the hero of a sport, and its ambassador: there is hardly a surfing event on which Robby Naish is not present to promote the sport.  Every TV-broadcast, every article about windsurfing – Naish is practically always there and enjoys it very much, as he says.


Windsurfing may be recognised as a niche-sport, yet Naish was appointed into the jury of ‘Sport-Oscars’, the Laureus World Sports Awards.  This is where exceptional athletes receive their laurels.  Furthermore, Naish has made a name as innovator of surfing equipment.  Groundbreaking innovations in the windsurfing sport such as a foot strap on the board, the see-through window of the sail or the trapeze all go to his account.  It is impossible to imagine this segment without the trademark of Naish.  “We have developed ourselves and have become a real board-sport-company.  Although we are still rather small and in private ownership”, rejoices Naish.


To bring the sport back to the popularity level of the 80s, he would have to change, says Naish.  “The material has to be made more accessible.  If windsurfing is fun with little wind and in shallow water, more people would go surfing.  However, right now it requires special weather conditions to really be fun, so a growth in this sector is just simply limited by weather.”  Although the popularity of windsurfing had its zenith in the 80s, Naish is not worried about the sport: “It is and will remain a wonderful sport.”


A natural soul-surfer
Like the wind with the sail, Naish attracts similar attention under the kite.  He also won the world championship titles in this sport in the years 1998 and 1999.  In 2003 he established the Speed-Worldrecord.  But actually, Naish is a born natural soul-surfer.  He ended his professional career in 2001.  Which does not mean ‘he can’t make the water boil’.  “I want to continue surfing at the top level; this is extremely important for me.  I am on the water almost every day.” But it does not have to be about titles.  “Actually, I was always led by my dreams rather than my goals.”  The end as an active professional surfer was not quite optional for Naish.  Björn Dunkerbeck replaced the ex-champion.  Both were supposed to not have liked each other very much, but this is old now.  “During the years, we’ve become good friends, especially after we both were participating less at competitions.”


After years in the worldcup circus, Naish now approaches things in a more comfortable fashion.  He created his own little paradise in Maui.  It is just 300.000 square meters big.  A lot of room for Mr. Windsurfing and his family.  His wife Carol, his daughter Nani, who is 26 and also a talented surfer, and his daughter Christina, barely 17 months old, belong to his inner ‘Naish-Clan’.  And there is also a lot of room for cars.  “I still have a weakness for motorsports, but no time to live it up.  The day is just simply too short for everything I want to do –on water and on land.”  Naish shows up on the water regularly though, together with surf-legends such as Dave Kalama or Jason Polakow, who belong to the extended ‘Naish-Clan’.


To this day, Robby Naish sits a lot in airplanes.  He still visits Germany too.  He has a very special connection to the island of Sylt, which he visited for the first time in 1978.   The worldcup is always marked red in his calendar.  No wonder that Naish can speak German very well by now.


Surfing, eating, driving a car

German virtues hardly started his perfect day however, he’s very American:  “A healthy day is a good day.  Breakfast with my family, afterwards a stand-up-paddle-session. Then a turn of windsurfing in three meter waves in front of Hookipa; in the afternoon going kiting with a couple of good buddies; after dinner going for a spin in something fast.”  Nothing gets him as close to windsurfing though, the sport that has brought him to where he is now.  “It is a huge part of me.  I love nothing more than a good day of windsurfing.”


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