For French version click here Sam Bittner

The AWT (American Windsurf Tour) becomes bigger, and changes it’s name to IWT (International Windsurf Tour). Some question to Sam Bittness, the boss of the Tour, to know more about it.

WINDBASE : Hello Sam, can you first tell us more about you (your passion for windsurf, how you discovered it…), and the history of the IWT ?

SAM : I first learned about windsurfing in school at Western Washington University. I immediately fell in love with the sport and after seeing photos in the magazines of Maui, bought a one way ticket by myself in 2008. I soon after began organizing wave sailing events around the US and world.

WINDBASE : How many riders apply to the IWT each year, counting amateurs, and pros ?

SAM : Last year 372 different riders participated in AWT events. I expect even more this year with the IWT.

WINDBASE : Imagine I am a normal windsurfer, and I want to register to your tour, which are the qualifying conditions ? Is there a minimum skill, or something like this ?

SAM : Anyone is welcome to the IWT! (Windbase Note : This can’t be more clear!)

WINDBASE : On the pro riders side, why do you think some of them choose to ride on the IWT tour ?

SAM : The IWT has amazing locations for top level wave sailing around the world!

WINDBASE : How do you make difference between a pro and an amateur rider? As, unfortunately, it seems pro riders have less and less budget each year…

SAM : Typically it is up to the rider if they choose to register in the Pro or Amateur division but for some events we do hold trials to enter pro.

WINDBASE : Wich events will the IWT offer in 2017 and in the future ? Wave, Freestyle, Slalom / Racing, Long Distance Racing, maybe Speed ? Will they have unique or special features ?

SAM : In 2017 we have 10 events. 7 of them are wave sailing and 3 are racing/freestyle. The Hatteras event this year will feature a Defi Wind style of race with many people on the same start line. Very exciting!

WINDBASE : Wich gear do you allow on your tour ? Only production boards / sails (masts, fins…), or do the riders can compete with custom parts ?

SAM : We have not limited the type of gear used by riders on the tour. (Windbase Note : Custom welcome, so nice!)

WINDBASE : You offer amazing spots for the wave contests, now that you are International, will you offer even more events all around the world ? We have great spots here in France :p

SAM : I would love to hold an event in France! For 2017 we are traveling to Hatteras, Morocco, Barbados, two events in Oregon, California, Baja, Peru, Chile and Maui. We welcome more ideas/locations for the coming years!

WINDBASE : Can you tell us wich budget is required for the IWT to set up an event ? How do you manage to gather the money, do the regular sponsors cover all the needs, or do you get help from, for example, the cities or coutries where the tour organise the contests ?

SAM : Each event has a unique budget as each event has different requirements as far as permits, set-up, logistics, travel and such. Funding for the events come from government grants, sponsors, and registration fees.

WINDBASE : Does your IWT activity gives you enough salary to live only with it all year long ?

SAM : I have been working a full time job event coordinating on Maui for the past year. For 2017 I will be on the tour again full time and hope to make it work financially myself but expect to pick up other side jobs to make ends meet.

WINDBASE : Do you think bigger sponsors would be interested by the IWT ? As you organise events in so beautiful and cool spots all other the world, you have tons of pictures, videos, and other interesting stuff to give them back ?

SAM : Yes, the goal is to attract bigger sponsors with the event locations and name change!

WINDBASE : Wich relations exist (or not) between IWT and PWA? Does the IWT plan to take the place of the PWA?

SAM : The PWA is still the standard for Professional Windsurfing, and we don’t want to take anything away from them. As the IWT grows, we intend to provide prize money, and an opportunity for all windsurfers to compete. The core values of the AWT remain true, and that won’t change. So call it what you like, but we think there is plenty of room for 2 “Real Tours” to coexist.

WINDBASE : What do you think about critics about IWT?

SAM : To those who criticize, we invite them to come on tour, and see for themselves. It is true that we have run events on a very low budget in the past, but we do have a high standard in judging. Our judges are right in the mix of the whole event, and some of them compete on the tour as well. It’s part of our family experience, and any rider that is interested in judging, can have an opportunity to learn and participate.