Interviewing the World of Windsurf Girls - WOW
By Hanna Oltmanns, 24th of Feburary 2023
World Of Windsurf Girls (WOW) is a unique collaboration between 3 extraordinary waterwomen of which we had to privilege to interview two: Elena & Helle.
You can find them leading the way on the Olympic iQ Foil circuit and PWA World Cup Tour.
Whilst all three athletes are aiming for Olympic Gold, WOW is so much more; bringing together world class performance, a platform for social change, and business excellence and innovation.
The WOW girls are leading by example, and hoping that they can inspire the next generation to chase their dreams, and realise their potential. That’s a pretty big mission, so naturally we wanted to find out more!
You all had very different lives before you started windsurfing. Can you let us know what got each of you started on this journey to the Olympics?
Helle: I have been windsurfing for as long as I can remember. I started windsurfing because I found my dad’s old windsurfing equipment and I thought it looked really cool, so I asked my dad to try it. Ever since then I have been hooked and windsurfing has always been a big part of my life!
Elena: My journey started in a quite peculiar way. My father has been a windsurfer his whole life so we spent every summer at lake Garda. That’s when I saw the Italian iQ Foil Team which was the new Olympic class. My dad pushed me to try the foil and after my first session (which was terrifying and looked ridiculous) I decided to start my Olympic campaign in January 2021 after having tried foiling only once before! It was definitely a bit of a crazy decision but I couldn’t be happier.
Elena: I am extremely lucky that my family loves and supports my out of the box ideas. Their support has definitely helped overcome the fear of the unknown and to take this step from medical student to professional windsurfer. Meeting Helle made this whole process even easier. We hold each other accountable and we both want to create this life we’ve always dreamed of so taking action together is what created World Of Windsurfgirls.
You three are all from different countries! Elena is from Switzerland, and you're from Norway, Helle. How did you all meet?
Helle: We met during a winter training in Tenerife 2021. We were all training individually at the time, but we figured that by doing our Olympic campaign together we could achieve way more than we would individually. We created a training group together and WOW came to be.
Helle: It’s very fun!! We get to experience so many different places and meet so many incredible people. It can be tough not seeing our family and friends, but we kind of created our own family within the windsurfing community and that for sure makes it way easier!
Elena: I love it! I have been able to travel to places I’ve never been to before. I now have all my belongings in my van which I bring everywhere. It’s been an incredibly freeing process to reduce my belongings to the minimal amount. I now focus less on materialistic things and more on moments and people I get to meet. It’s been hard not seeing friends and family from home but WOW has become my second family so I don’t feel like i’m missing out on too much 🙂
Helle: We usually do two sessions a day. We start off the day with a gym session and then head out on the water for a windsurfing session.
Helle: I think that being a professional and Olympic athlete is usually a very selfish path where everything revolves around one individual developing skills and evolving, however I felt that it can (and should) be done differently. Since we get to live the lives that we do with support from many incredible companies and different people, it’s important for us to give back to the community in return. Winning a gold medal is insane and it is my dream, but for the gold medal to represent a journey of inspiring and empowering people to also reach for their own dreams would make the gold medal mean even more!
Elena: Coming from an academic background and having no knowledge about how to run an Olympic campaign I approached my whole journey differently to anyone else right from the start. It was always important to me to share my project with the public and show others that they can break out of their daily routine and follow their dreams too! Over time it has become just as important to me to spread that inspiration and empowerment as it is to win an Olympic gold medal.
Elena: You’re right, this project is something that has rarely been done before in Olympic windsurfing. I think a huge benefit is that we are not competing for the same national spots which takes away a lot of pressure. We are both able to compete at the Olympics and don’t have to have the internal fight for the national spot. WOW brings together world class performance, a platform for social engagement and business excellence and innovation. Our brand was created from the desire to be better and do better.
Elena: That’s a very hard question to answer because so far our journey has just gotten better and better so it feels like every new memory is the favourite memory so far 😉 We are taking huge steps in the business area of our brand as well as on the water so I think the best is yet to come!
Helle: Our lifestyle is pretty much in the extremes, we are either experiencing the most amazing feelings that come with winning races or learning new skills, or we experience the very difficult feelings that come with losing races or feeling exhausted after hours and hours training and breaking down our bodies. However the highs would not feel as good as they do without the lows, so even if some days are tough it’s all worth it when I think about all the good days that I have behind me and not least all the incredible days waiting for me in the future. This life is truly my dream life including the good and the bad. Whenever I’m feeling slightly demotivated I just look around me and see this incredible life that I have created for myself, I put things in perspective and feel beyond grateful that I get to do this!!
Elena: I definitely pull motivation from being in the moment as well as looking at my long term goal. Being in the moment helps me be grateful for this incredible lifestyle even when it can get extremely hard at some points. The long term goals allow me to keep going when times get tough and push through. I think having the WOW team around is definitely also a huge factor that makes me want to grow as a person and athlete so I can then help the team develop.
Elena: Don’t worry about what other people might think. So many people who are completely irrelevant to your journey will have strong opinions about what you’re doing. The biggest downfall would be to listen to those voices. It’s obviously not easy to go against the status quo but if you’re aligned with your goals and surround yourself with the right people (or as I like to say: your vibe attracts your tribe), you’ll be happier than you could ever imagine.
Helle: I think it’s very important to create a situation that you truly believe in. A lot of people will have opinions about how you should do things and who you should be, but I believe that by staying true to who you are, and by doing things your own way you will reach way further than by copying someone else’s path to success.
Helle: We’re definitely not the best at keeping a healthy balance hahah, but we have some routines to help us stay grounded. We started this ritual a year ago where we apply the zink sticks on each other while manifesting the mood for the training session and set our goals. It’s not a lot, but those few minutes where we consciously decide how we want the training to look like really helps us go into the session with a clear and focused mind.
Elena: We also have weekly meetings where we distribute the workload from the business and plan our training sessions to make sure we have enough time for ourselves. We are definitely not the best in keeping that balance though; you’re looking at a team of workaholics 😉
Helle: It’s super important that the sunscreen prevents you from burning (not all sunscreens actually do) but the Suntribe sunscreens have really made sure for that not to happen. It is also important that it lasts long even in the water, sometimes we train on the water for four hours and to be ensured that the sunscreen will stay on and not have to worry about our skin burning is very helpful for us to be able to stay focused on our training. I absolutely love the Night Cream!! After my skin has been exposed to the sun and salt water for a whole day I love to come home and put on the very moisturising Night Cream that calms my skin down so nicely.
Elena: I’ve been obsessed with the tinted facial sunscreen with factor 20. I’ve used it every single day and switched all my cosmetics to Suntribe products. It’s very important to me that the sunscreen protects my light skin because I burn super easily (especially on my nose). I also like to make sure the products don’t clog any of my pores but since switching to Suntribe products, my skin has cleared up a lot!
About Elena & Helle
Elena Sandera | Age: 21 | @elena.sandera
From complete beginner to the Olympics in just 4 years. That´s Elena´s goal. With an open mindset and huge ambition, Elena is well on her way to qualifying for Paris 2024. Her background as a medical student helps her with a more scientific approach to her campaign.
Helle Oppedal | Age: 21 | @helle_oppedal
With a World Championship title to her name already, Helle is one of the shining stars of the windsurfing world with a hugely promising career ahead of her. When she´s not pushing the limits on her foil, she loves traveling and spending time with her family.
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