Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zero to Spock in 10 days: An interview with Jan Nilsen

Jan showed up to Rio earlier this month with the goal of landing a Vulcan in 7 days or less.
If you don't windsurf, this is a very ambitious and lofty goal for sailors at any level of the sport and is usually not met. The Vulcan is one of the most difficult moves in the sport to learn and can take people years before they make one.
So when this Colorado native showed up, his smallest sail being a 5.2 (that's most guys big sail here) and no prior attempts, we thought it would be a long shot. However Jan was committed to his goal, he had the right board and fin for the task and once on the water I don't think I saw the guy jibe once. Every single run he went for it, over and over again.
Not only did Jan meet his goal, but he exceeded it taking things one step further my landing a Spock.
I had the chance to ask Jan a few questions, and here is what he said:

Chachi: How long have you been windsurfing?
Jan: Maybe 10 years but very sporadic.

Chachi: Did you have your freestyle board before you decided to learn the Vulcan or did you buy it after you set your goal?
Jan: I got my freestyle board in the fall of last year, wanted it because of the planing capabilities and i figured it would help me do slide moves one day.

Chachi:Tell me a bit about your background as a skier?
Jan: I skied since I was little, gates first then mogul/aerials professionally on/off for 10 years.

Chachi: How many Days did it take you to land it? How did this all go down?
Jan: I had just taken a 9 day personal training class in San Diego and I was ready to have some fun. I was on a mission to land or at least get close to landing a Vulcan and I had a week to do it, all I needed was some place windy. So i drove north to Rio Vista; cool place but where's the flat water? Conditions looked a bit intimidating. Anyway, i rigged and reminded my self to "cowboy up cream puff"

Day 1 was spent looking and feeling like a cat out the window. I kept chucking airs ( probably got about 30 tries in the first day) and at the end of the day 1 i actually started to get around past 1/4 turn digging my rails in, to sliding a little. That was enough information and attempts for one day.

Day 2 the first thing I wanted to work on was the timing on the takeoff. I remember from my mogul skiing days it's all in the takeoff if you wanna fly straight and land straight. I got super cognitive in my takeoff attempts, to make sure i would not program in a faulty motor engram. This took all day, and at the end of day 2 I felt the timing was getting there. The difference this made was huge, it meant that almost every time I jumped, I now made it past the point of digging the rail in, whip lashing, ankle twisting, to a very nice slide and soft fall. Probably had another 30 tries total day 2.

Day 3 I was starting to feel the abuse from previous days carnage. I decided to sail around less to conserve energy, and only go far enough out to have enough speed to do the next vulcan attempt. The timing was there, but I knew I needed more speed. What do you know? you go twice as fast, you only have to pop half as hard. It now started to feel really good in my takeoffs but planing backwards in landing was not. Had a total of 25-30 reps day 3.

Day 4 started with my mind wanting to do more vulcan attempts, but my body thought otherwise, mind over matter right? I'm back in the water stiff as hell, forcing out some reps. Took half a day just to get warmed up. Started thinking about, for the first time, what the sail and hands were doing? This messed with the timing of the takeoff, but at the end of the day I was getting very close to landing my first vulcan.

Day 5 second attempt, I did it, I landed the vulcan, celebrated for ONE minute, ( this is how my mind works, go figure) got greedy and down on my self for not landing another one until the next day. Totally ignoring the fact of the accomplishment I came for was now in the bag!

Day 6 a much needed rest day for lack of wind. wanted more, shuffled my schedule around so I could stay another 3-5 days.

Day 7-9 I was trying to get some consistency with my vulcan and also started to try them going on port. This was almost like starting completely over again. Cognitive motor programing, but also couldn't help my self for trying spocks on my good side.

Day 10 I landed my first spock, tried the rest of the day to repeat, I couldn't.

Day 11 I was overpowered on my 5.2, tried a few tricks but realized just sailing around enjoying my self was good enough today as I only had the morning session before I had to pack up and leave to go back to Colorado. What an adventure it had been!

Chachi: Anything else you want to add?
Jan: I'll be the first one to admit it's easy to get caught up in making that vulcan or next move yesterday, at 46 feeding a pathological ego is still fun, but I also realize every day is Sunday and the wind and the waves are my church!

Thanks Jan! We're looking forward to seeing you out there again, maybe another two weeks and you'll go pro!

Photos By Brendon Baird Quinn aka "The Wind Gypsy"


  1. That's fucking unbelievable... Took me months to do what took him a few days.

    Ah well, just goes to show we're not all cut from the same cloth.

  2. lol; Yan is a monster; i'm not too surprised.

  3. Awsome, way to go you fuzzy forgeiner!!!!


  4. yeah, i didn't even know he was trying vulcans yet, and then i saw him bust his 2nd one a few days later.

  5. What was most impressive about him to me was not his sailing but his FOOD! I would go back to the levee for lunch and find him grilling a steak.... then as we got off the water in the evening he would be grilling another STEAK!

  6. i'm so proud of you!

    love Nicole