At a time when some of his peers are starting back at university, Philip Köster, the 19-year-old prodigy says he is 85% of the way to completing what has become windsurfing’s latest holy grail – the triple forward. For the uninitiated that’s a triple forward loop, rotating end-over-end three times in the air and landing so that you can sail away and live to tell the tale. “I’m 80-85% (of the way there),” Köster says matter-of-factly. “I think I’ve got the height and also the rotation, now I just need to do it. I’ve tried it. I just need the right conditions. It will happen in Gran Canaria (where his German parents raised him). Last year I was 50-60%. I’ve been doing a lot of doubles and some really high stalled ones and I think now I’m controlling them. I feel safe.”
Köster is redefining the art of the possible. The g-force he will be experiencing 30ft up in the air rotating at that speed is the same as a fighter pilot. If he makes the triple he will start ascending into the company of the greats: a Usain Bolt, a Nadia Comaneci, a Bob Beamon, a Greg Louganis, a Robby Naish.
What’s the difference between a double and a triple in feeling safe? “It’s trying it, it’s just a mind thing. Just doing one forward (loop) is really hard, with your mind, doing the rotation and then you know also that you can hurt yourself.”
Has he hurt himself trying to do it? “Not really, just my back hitting the water hard,” he says. “I think I hurt my back on once, my vertebrae, I was twisted and I couldn’t breathe properly. I waited two days, and I thought it would be alright, but it was hurting when surfing, I think I should have been waiting longer, like two weeks. That was the week before the world cup event in Tenerfie (in August), so I was still hurting (when he won).”
He is intent on retaining his world championship title. “I don’t want to give it away,” he says, “I want to win it again and it gets tougher to win each time. I love this competition in Klitmøller, I love being her and I always want to win. You can get perfect waves sometimes, it’s pretty nice. We’ve had a lot of luck with the conditions before so I hope Saturday is still a possibility (to finish the competition).”
But the quest for the triple is what is keeping him motivated as he trains at home in Gran Canaria. Does he worry anyone will beat him there, Ricardo Campello, the flying Brazilian perhaps?
“I think Ricardo is crazy enough,” he says laughing. “He’s definitely one that could do it.” But when does this end, is there a 12-year-old whose going to do a qraduple in ten years?
“Well, you never know. Not so many years ago a forward was like the craziest thing. Things improve, so maybe in five years.”
Has he been doing physical training for it?
“No, no special preparation. Normally I eat a pizza before I try.”
Köster is one of those naturals often misunderstood by the rest of the world. Journalists and windsurfers looking for advice cannot fathom him - they are looking in the wrong depths. “People come and ask about the moves, but I normally don’t know how to explain them, because I don’t think about it, I don’t think about how I do it,” he says. “People don’t really believe that it’s true that I don’t think about it.”
Köster is not arrogant, he is more a shy teenager still and would prefer to be out on the water than on the Cold Hawaii sofa - though he is not ungracious. Last year after becoming world champion in Klitmøller he said: “I can make time slow down,” by way of explanation. It was not said at a boast, it was a fact.