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  July 19, 2003
Robby Seeger - Professional Windsurfer & Towsurfer
Age: 33
DOB: 11-12-69

Height: 6'0"

Weight: 220lbs.

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Green/Hazel

Children: 2 (Shamana & Bradley)

From: Kiel, Germany
Current Residence: Haiku, Maui
Occupation:Pro Windsurfer
Years Windsurfing:21
Years Surfing:16
Years Tow Surfing:8
Sponsors:Powerplay and Red-Bull



Home Breaks: All over Europe/ Hawaii

Favorite Big Wave Spots: Jaws is close to my House

Favorite Tow Spots: Wherever it’s glassy and uncrowded and big enough to justify the use of the PWC

Intro:
By Diane Haecker

Born in Germany, raised in the world of professional windsurfing, and evolved into an all-round waterman in Hawaii: Robby Seeger's journey resembles a gigantic swell complete with big storms, high peaks and low valleys, death-defying drops and horrendous wipe-outs, yet always powerfully riding the beast called life.

If there were only one word to describe Robby Seeger, it would be intense. Everything he does is driven, full on, go hard - no matter what the consequences are. Seeger's intensity hides behind a warm smile and an infectious laughter, but shows in the confident - sometimes over-confident - way he carries himself. His burn-the-candle-at-both-ends approach to life reminds of the red-hot lava streams running underneath the black rocks of Kilauea volcano, smoldering under the surface of Seeger’s Herculean physique. Add water to this mix and you have one of the most explosive windsurfers in the world.

Although he’s been around the professional windsurf circuit for 17 years, living in the limelight of our small water world, under the scrutiny of media and his peers, his personality remains elusive, shrouded in a fog of contradictions. Gentle giant on one hand, ferocious competitor on the other. Dedicated father and husband, yet a lone wolf and addicted waterman drawn to ride ridiculously huge waves. Boisterous and strong-willed. Underneath his intimidating and commanding outer appearance lies a vulnerable spirit. Putting up a massive wall of ego to protect himself, it’s obvious that inside the fortified shell hides a whole different story.

Roots:

Robert Carl Seeger was born to Karl and Dorit Seeger on a cold November day in 1969 in Kiel, Germany. Growing up, young Seeger was always attracted to sports, swimming, playing soccer and softball. Eventually he and his sister Christine, three years his senior, would get into horseback riding and competition, tasting the excitement of competitive sports. Fairly early in his life, the desire to become a professional athlete formed in his mind. "I didn’t care what sport it would be, I just wanted to be an athlete", Seeger remembers. Then, in 1982, a fateful family vacation in Gran Canaria exposed him to the concept of windsurfing for the first time. At age 12, the line backer build teenager saw a young, pretty girl windsurfing graciously through the shore break and he knew: whatever she’s doing, I’ve got to learn this. Two weeks later, he sailed next to the girl and found the sport that would shape his life.

Back in Germany, the mood was quite different. The Eighties were characterized by a bleak attitude of ‘no future’ among teenagers. It was the time of passive rebellion against the establishment, punk, safety pins pierced through noses and cheeks, black outfits, pale make-up and lots of booze. But you wouldn’t see Robby Seeger among the kids in black. He was obsessed with windsurfing. His father had presented him with a windsurfer and whenever the wind rustled the treetops, young Seeger was out sailing, ditching school and all. His homespot: Postsee. A lake 300 yards wide - minus one hundred yards on either shore to give room for fishermen - he had only one hundred yards to sail around the middle of the lake. In wintertime, to the dismal of ice skaters, he broke the ice and windsurfed in sub-zero temperatures. "That is how I got into tricks. The lake was just so narrow that sailing back and forth was not really an option", Robby says. "Key was, not to fall off. As the wind shifted and whirled around, I came up with different moves just to stay on the board. I wanted to be like my hero Robby Naish, never falling off." Thus was born his love for tricks and his dream to become a professional windsurfer.

Unfolding of a dream:

"I didn’t pick the career, the career picked me", Robby laughs, " windsurfing was just the best sport I’ve ever done." Participating in the Euro Funboard Cup from 1983 until 1985 however blew the bubble. Racing and slalom, sailing against amateurs had nothing to do with Seeger’s passion: "I hated it." He wanted real competitors, the real thing, going up against the big guys like Naish, Cabrinha and Hoenscheid. Robby was hungry for battle, impatient to waste his time with friendly games. It is the year 1986. He’s at the height of the Age of Immortality - and behaves like it. Robby Seeger has, to this day, little patience to walk the road well traveled.

He’s got to have it his way and at a young age developed the art of talking himself into competition. Seeger: "I went to Stefan Zotsches, WBA manager at that time and said, I wanna do the World Cup. He didn’t say anything, and a few weeks later he called me up and gave me a wildcard for the World Cup event in Sylt." Already touted as a young, hot German, he blazed through the heats, only to lose against Alex Aguera, finishing 17th in his first World Cup appearance. "I was heartbroken", Seeger on losing the heat. But he left his mark, the media -otherwise occupied with a young kid named Bjørn Dunkerbeck- took notice and the legend of the underdog was born. In 1987, Seeger turned pro and competed full time in the World Cup. "I had no clue what I was doing, I followed my passion and the dream was unfolding as I was living it."

The promised land: 

Any windsurfer’s dream involves Hawaii. Shortly after his high school Graduation party, Seeger found himself on O’ahu. The cocky 17-year-old was sleeping, eating, and breathing windsurfing. Sharing his pad with five other guys, existing on a diet of Jack-in-the-Box and Ramen - all for the delicious luxury of windsurfing exquisite waves in consistent winds from sunrise to sunset. Living the dream. In 1988 he moved to Maui and a time began where everything was easy. Sponsors flocked to the young up &coming superstar. The media couldn’t get enough of the good-looking and brazen but charming German. And a woman entered the scene. Seeger: "I thought, I’d live forever." Life started slowly but surely to chip away at the sharp edges of his youthful arrogance. At 22, Seeger got married, only to divorce his wife at 23. The fat years of windsurfing continued.

Living in Hawaii, he discovered the endless possibilities of ocean sports. Intrigued by the ancient connection of Hawaiians to the sea, Seeger opened up to the spirit of the islands and expanded into other realms of water pursuits. The ocean suddenly was more than just the medium to windsurf in. It became alive; it instilled an unnamed spirituality in him. In light wind days, you saw him speerfishing, canoeing, snorkeling along the reefs or surfing as his world cup colleagues rigged big and practiced course racing. Banking on his talent alone, Seeger was never one for a rigid training program. Growing complacent, the world title never really was his goal. He was one of the most feared competitors and he placed in the top 3 almost effortlessly. But the world according to Seeger was a fun place and he rode the wave of easy living as long as it lasted.

Fall from grace:

It was boredom that which killed Seeger’s passion for competing in the World Cup. Bored with the same places, the same beaches, and the same faces, traveling nine months out of the year. Bored sitting at airports and waiting. Bored hanging out at windless beaches and waiting. With the same intensity he used to slay waves and rip it up, he spent the whole winter of 1994/95 on the couch, stuffing his face with sour candy and playing video games 24/7. The black hole called inertia sucked him in, deeper and deeper. Seeger financially supported his roomate so that he could play video games with him. "I got pretty good at those games, though," Seeger jokes now. But it wasn’t funny back then. Hopelessly out of shape and overweight, his friends and shapers stopped by, trying to get him off the couch. "What are you doing?" they said. "You could be world champion, if you only tried!" they said. And one day, Robby answered: "OK, next year. Tell everyone to get ready." He got off the couch and back into the water. His trials were over, but the real life-changing challenge was about to come.

Suicidal devotion:

Just as a wave at Jaws demands full commitment, so does life’s wave called relationship. As Seeger turned his attention more to riding big waves, both windsurfing and tow-in surfing, he found himself with the same suicidal devotion committed to a dysfunctional relationship. To the union between him and his girlfriend was born a beautiful daughter, Shamana Seeger. Little did he know back then, what he was getting into, again, full throttle. Devoted to his child, he took the year 95/96 off from the World Cup, experiencing every moment of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Yet, Jaws beckoned.

On one of the biggest days at Jaws ever, he took a horrendous wipeout, was held down for two waves and about to die. "The thought of my baby being born kept me alive." Counting 22 strokes swimming through the darkness back to the light. His head popped out of the whitewater 80 yards from the impact zone, he climbed into his boat, retrieved his demolished windsurf gear - and went home to engage in different battles. After five and a half years of trials with his girlfriend, the pair split up and war began. It was a time, when he learned most about himself and painfully matured into a man and father, who began to grasp the concept of responsibility and the meaning of unconditional love. Hercules crumbled and cried. And then stood up and fought, burning through tons of money, losing friends and sponsors left and right, until there was only the bare Robby Seeger left. "My world championship title was, when I was awarded full custody of my daughter," Robby concludes. "It was the first time in my life that I really worked hard for something."

Powerplay

Even the biggest swell eventually subsides and a period of calm and peace comes back. Having tested his limits in and out of the water, Seeger never wavered in his belief that there is a compatible woman for him somewhere out there. And knowing that he still gives the freestyle young guys a run for their money - any day in any condition - there was little left to prove to the world or himself. As he made a comeback in the World Cup, winning the prestigious King of the Lake twice, teaming up with Australian surfing legend Cheyne Horan for his tow-in pursuits, he also found his companion and partner Elyse Hallahan.

During her pregnancy with now one and a half year old Bradley, the whole family traveled all over Europe, from one event to the other until Seeger realized: "This is the end of my World cup career. " Powerplay is the word of the next chapter in his life. Robby: "It describes my personality: Powerfully playing, being passionate and living 110% in the moment." Going back to the roots of just having plain fun out there in the water, inspiring people with his creative intensity, giving back to the sports that have given him his passion for life. " I am looking forward to riding the biggest waves on my windsurfer and experience anything Nature throws at me."
 

Towsurfer: Your love and passion for the sport of windsurfing is so evident in your career. Do you have the same desire to grow into the sport of tow-in surfing?
Seeger: I just love being in the water. Tow-in surfing gives me the chance to ride big waves more often than on my windsurfer. Many of the bigger swells in the last years had no wind. That was one of the main reasons why I actually got into the sport. Teaming up with Cheyne made it a little bit more serious. Nobody knows what the future holds. I get turned off by over regulations. On my windsurfer I don't need to ask anybody if I am allowed to go out.

For you, what is the highlight of having the ability to be an extreme crossover sport athlete?
I do about every water board sport there is. Maui brings that out in people with a lot of time on their hands. Every day here is something great to experience out there. It’s all about fun in the end. I am not a gym person, so I do it all. It makes me stronger and I end up spending more time in the water.

Have you ever been in the throat of big Jaws wave while riding a windsurfer?
There have been a few attempts for the tube out at Jaws. But it is not very practical, very expensive and every try is the end of the session. Our line is way different than surfing. I always come from behind the peak, high on the face, drop down with the main section and go into a cruise control bottom turn. Windsurfers can do filthy carves on giant faces and the air we get is pretty sick. It makes up for not pulling in.

It would seem pretty intense and almost impossible to get barreled while windsurfing, and coming out.
When it’s big enough the barrel at Jaws on the west set is wide open. You could fit five rigs inside her. The danger is that we ride the wave front side on our windsurfers. You pull in, the sail is between the wave and you. The consequence is that with any error you get to eat your rig. Trust me, it doesn't taste that good.

Tell us when and how tow-in surfing started for you.
We used to windsurf out at Jaws before the Strapped crew showed up for their first tow-in trials. It was kind of their sport. I gave them the respect of exclusivity. And I was stoked on windsurfing out there. One year there was no wind and plenty of good days up at Pe’ahi. It was like "sorry guys".... it just looks too fun to be standing on the bluff.....

You and Cheyne Horan have a pretty strong partnership going on. What type of commitment has it taken to get this partnership to this level?
Mutual respect is a good start. We have a great time together out there. Cheyne and I both have accomplished a lot in our careers on the circuits. We are not starving for the ego boost out there. We are not competing against each other. We are learning from each other. We are very colorful. He is Aussie and a regular foot and a surfer. I am German, goofy foot and a windsurfer. Its all about working together.

Where have you traveled these past few months and what plans do you have coming up?  
No where to exciting to talk about. Cheyne and I were going to hook up in South Africa. We might still go down there if a big one comes. Life is moving slower at the moment.

What are your thoughts on the whole Jaws Tow-In World Cup Contest?
It was an honor to be a part of it as a competitor. Especially the Hawaiian blessing will always be in my memory. I am not too keen on contests anymore. Politics and all sorts of other B-shit gets in the way of the real experience out there. On the other hand if I don't want to get a real job one of these days I will go with the flow. It’s great surfing Jaws with only 4 guys out on a macking day. I give a big hand to Rodney Kilborn and his crew for a job well done. Him and his Family did the legwork for years.

Were you disappointed they never pulled it off this past season?
Not really. I was actually quite relieved because Cheyne and Paulina had their son Chicane around the time and he couldn't make it. I surfed the expression session with a borrowed driver and had some fun lefts.

Share with us the evolution in growth and equipment designs between windsurfing and tow-in surfing. Which of the two seems to have evolved faster and more m ainstream during each one at their beginning stage?
There is no comparison. The legwork is already done. The same goes for Kitesurfing. It is incredibly easy these days to integrate the R&D immediately into the production. Tow-in Surfing and also Kitesurfing take on a lot of designs from already existing details of the older sports, like wakeboarding, windsurfing and surfing. Plus you catch so many more waves with the help of a PWC that you know quicker what you like and what not. The mainstream interest is created by the media. It's radical and people watch it all over the world. The regular guy doesn't care if you make the wave. He wants to see someone die on camera. But it will never be a sport for the masses.

Give us your latest and most recent specs on your tow board.  
My Jaws Board is a 6’2" and my Fun Board is a 5’8". Jeff Timpone is making all my boards now. He is on the cutting edge of it all with the great help of David Kalama. My baby is my foilboard. Jimmy Lewis built this super awesome 4 footer that looks like the landingbase of a sea airplane.

What are your thoughts with respect to Hawaii’s new State Tow-In Licensing Course requirement for all tow-in surfers?
I think Archie and Brian, Ken and the others have good intentions with the safety issue at hand, but it will be very hard to regulate. A lot of foreign surfers will have bench warrants when they don't show up for their court dates. The question of liability remains. If I get issued a license for tow-in surfing here in Hawaii by an official state entity, who will I have to sue when something happens to me out there? I will definitely get one if I have to. Just because I live here and I hate going to court.

What kind of training and diet program are you currently on?
I play as much as I can in the water. The heritage of the waterman from the early days translated into our fast pace, PWC driven modern world. Kiting, windsurfing, a lot of speerfishing and yardwork. My biggest mental training is given to me by my baby boy Bradley growing new teeth every day. Lots of Red-bull in the morning to get my wings for the day. Taco bell is a must also...

Share with us in detail your worst ever experience while windsurfing out at Jaws?
My worst experience out there was probably breaking my knee while getting huge air with a big gash alongside with it. Having to swim to the boat between sets. Getting the anchor up, getting the boat on the trailer and driving myself to the hospital.

Now share with us your worst experience while towing out at Jaws.
I have had a few uncomfortable wipeouts. But it has been pretty mellow compared to the windsurfing hold downs. I think the flotation vests have made life a lot easier when pushed into the black. And there is always a PWC around to pick you up eventually. In the early windsurfing days you had to swim like hell or end up on the rocks. I feel like I have had my own pre-leash days out there in our times. I am wearing the vest now when I am windsurfing. Before it was only one stubbie swimfin on the harness. But I will always have those too.

Now share the importance of training and safety while out in giant surf while pushing yourself over the edge.
Safety is no.1, good teamwork creates a larger safety net. I try to always have two skis out there when it is big. Physical fitness is your key to know that you have done your homework. But the wipeout is a mind game for me. Fear is good to the point where you become more alert. Too much fear translates into panic and then you are in trouble. If I am afraid I like to get my first fall early in the session and that way I know if I am done for the day or not.

Which sport in your opinion is more physically and mentally demanding and challenging, windsurfing or tow-in surfing?
Definitely windsurfing. When I am windsurfing equally big waves as towing, I am working with the waves and the wind. It is nonstop. There is no downtime, no sitting on a sled, drinking a can of red-bull. None of that leisure stuff. After each ride I have to beat back upwind. When the wind is gusty it takes a lot to position yourself for the drop with no leeway for errors. There is nobody else to blame but yourself when you miss that perfect wave.

Who are some of the top towsurfers that you have been inspired by?
Cheyne, Laird, Ross, Poto

What’s the next chapter for Robby Seeger?
I will show up at places like Mavericks, Cortes Bank, Channel Islands, Todos, Belharra, Shipstern's Bluff, Western Oz when its big and windy, choppy and nobody wants to surf on it. Then I get to have it all to myself on my Windsurfer. I dream of Windsurfing big waves up in Ireland. I love the people and the culture and the beer of course.

So who do you think will ride the biggest wave in the future, a windsurfer or towsurfer?
Seeger: The media buzz is defenitely around tow-in surfing. Nobody has brought big wave windsurfing to the mainstream attention. I can already prove that we have ridden bigger waves in the past on our windsurfboards compared to surfing. I think that a windsurfer can ride a massive, bumpy face safer than a surfer and not only survive but perform on it. A 3 foot crosschop on a 70 foot face is not a deathtrap for us. We can do 40 foot chophops over it quite safely, using the sail as a wing. To answer your question who will ride the larger wave in the future ? It might be a Towsurfer on his Windsurfer........

Sounds like it’s time for a cold one right now! Thanks for the interview Robby!
Thanks Eric for your time and commitment to the sport.


If you or your company would like to contact Robby Seeger, you may drop him an e-mail at:
RobbySeeger@Towsurfer.com
.
For more photos of Robby during a session at Jaws on a very rare and strong Kona Wind day, click here.

© Copyright 2003 Towsurfer.com/Eric Akiskalian

-- Eric Akiskalian

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