Interview by Chris Yates, PWA World Tour:
Oda Johanne Stokstad Brødholt has enjoyed a quick rise through the windsurfing ranks. The Norwegian only made her debut in 2013 – where she finished 5th overall in Fuerteventura. Since then the 28-year-old has rapidly established herself as one of the best female freestylers in the world – having not finished outside the overall top 3 for the last 4 seasons, while also setting her sights on the race scene (11th overall in slalom for 2017). However, life used to be quite different with Oda Johanne transforming herself from a professional handball player into one of windsurfings best talents. We recently caught up with Oda to find out more about her story and goals.
Hey Oda, how are you and how is your winter going?
Winter is great! I spent 2.5 months in Brazil, then 4 weeks in Norway. Catching up with family, friends, the gym and my powder skis! Then I went for 4 weeks to Cape Town for some training. Pretty amazing there! Both on and off the water! Then I had 4 days in Norway, before going to Bonaire. And I will be here now for the next 6 weeks! (In between I will go visit Sarah-Quita for some days this month on Aruba!)
You used to be a professional handball player, but now you are a professional windsurfer…that´s a pretty big change in career. How did you originally get into windsurfing and what made you change?
Yes! It´s been a wild change, especially the lifestyle. The life as a pro handball player means you have to search for a weekend to go sailing/skiing/taking time off in your calendar, and that weekend off you might not find for at least 3 months… It means we had so many games and training. I started windsurfing just by luck. A neighbour of my sister asked us if we wanted to try. Honestly I was not that excited. I was WAY to hooked on handball. It was my big dream, life and everything. But I joined to try. It was blowing 30 knots and I tried on a small board. I had no chance! Somehow that summer I worked for some months in a shop, during my school holiday and I spent my salary on a board and sail. From there on it just went one way. I met other sailors who motivated me a lot. Learning new sports for me is great. Windsurfing was just something completely different. With my motivation and physics from handball I was feeling that I improved pretty fast. And as it normally is, you get hooked on what you are getting better at. I realised I had to windsurf more in life, the day we played an important handball game. That day my head was at the beach with all my windsurf friends who were windsurfing on this very windy day. I asked myself the question: Where would I really want be right now: playing this top game in handball or windsurfing? And the answer was windsurfing. At that moment I took the big decision of not signing a new contract with my handball club. It was hard, but the right choice.
As soon as you started competing on the tour you quickly enjoyed success – now you haven´t finished outside the overall top 3 for the last 4 seasons – how happy are you with how things are going? And do you think that being a former professional handball player helped you in terms of competing?
It all went really fast. I´m loving the competitions. But I have to say the main goals for me are always to learn the moves I´m having dreams about. What I learned from handball is discipline and having training as a daily thing to do. The fact is that I hate to lose, but if I do lose I know handball taught me that you need to evaluate what you can do better for the next heat. I love that I never feel like blaming others if I don´t have success, I always think about what I have to change. If I have a bad session I get over it really fast and move on to the next one! My inner voice is great in making solutions and gives me a lot of strength. As a handball player I played a crazy amount of games/competitions. I learned how to handle pressure and what to focus on. I know I need this pressure in my life, as it´s just a sick feeling. With more years and experience I also choose a bit more of what I want to/and who I want to spend my time with. All this together makes me ready for any challenge on and off the water!
What is it that you love about freestyle?
Rotation, flying and the power in the sail while spinning around a one-handed burner or a pushloop.
As well as freestyle, we have seen you competing in slalom – do you plan to continue to compete in slalom?
YES! Slalom is actually one of my top 2 main goals. Nothing feels better than passing another sailor…haha! That said, nothing is worse than being overtaken!! Let´s see how far I can take it… I don´t want to say more =)
And also you´ve released plenty of videos showing off your jumping with perfect forwards, backloops and pushloops. Do you have any plans to also make an appearance on the wave tour?
I really want to compete in the event in Portugal (starboard tack) in the waves, if it´s on! That would be interesting as I do spend quite some time jumping that tack! The other wave events I am not planning to do this year, as I want to focus on my 2 main goals first: slalom and freestyle.
What is your favourite move?
1. Body drags
2. One-handed burner
Move you found most difficult to learn?
I think it was the body drag on my bad side… Haha!
What are you trying to learn at the moment?
Freestyle: switch moves on my bad side, regular ducking on bad side and trying to make culos consistently.
Who would you most like to have as a dinner guest, dead or alive?
Usain Bolt – someone has his number?!?!
Where would you most like to go that you haven´t been to yet?
Lofoten in Norway with my new van and Peru!!!
Most visited website?
Goals for 2018?
I´m not gonna say them all, but one of them is to keep doing what I do!
Thanks Oda, enjoy the rest of your winter and see you competing on tour again soon!