MAN Truck & Bus

Windsurfer im Wasser

The fastest surfer in the world

Reading time [5 Min]

Strong, fast, successful: Frenchman Antoine Albeau holds the world speed record in windsurfing at almost 100 kilometres per hour. When driving on Europe's roads with his wife, child and windsurf board, then he switches to his latest speedster – a customised TGE from MAN.

Like intoxication Windsurfer Antoine Albeau holds the world speed record at almost 100 kilometres per hour. © pwaworldtour.com

The flat Île de Ré in the Atlantic lies off the west coast of France as if it had been poured there. The "white island", as it is also known, is characterised by pine forests and fine sand beaches with mostly small houses in between. A heavily loaded van heads off from one of these houses every few weeks and sets course for the high bridge that connects the island with the mainland. 

The van slows briefly on the apex of the three-kilometre-long crossing; a look back to the glittering white island and then it's full steam ahead. Behind the wheel sits Antoine Albeau, who once again is on the way to a windsurf competition somewhere in Europe, together with his wife and child. His mode of transport: a MAN TGE customised just for him.

Record breaker

Frenchman Albeau is one of the world's most successful windsurfers: he has accumulated 25 world championship titles and above all has dominated the slalom discipline for many years. And he is also the fastest. For wind surfers, a record speed of 50 knots was equivalent to the 100-metres, which took decades for sprinters to run in under ten seconds. Albeau broke it at last: four years ago he raced over the water at the Namibian coastal town of Lüderitz, where a particularly strong wind was blowing, at an incredible 53.27 knots – which is 98.66 kilometres per hour. Nobody else has ever surfed so quickly.

"It's like a form of intoxication", recalls Albeau, 100 kilograms heavy and big as a wardrobe. His nickname: "Elephant". He needs a lot of strength and weight for his sport, if he wants to keep board and sail under control to ride through storms and waves. The constantly tanned giant practically grew up on a windsurf board. He was born in the coastal town of La Rochelle in 1972. Shortly thereafter his father opened a surfing and sailing school on the nearby island of Île de Ré. Little Antoine took part in his first competitions at 11 and turned professional when he was 19.

Mann surft mit Windsurf-Board

Highly successful Antoine Albeau has a total of 25 world champion titles.

Now Albeau runs the surf school on the island together with his wife Paola. There you can learn windsurfing and sailing using small "optimist" boats or rent out boards and boats. Albeau himself attends his company's beach camp every year from June to September and plays his part. He compares the local dunes on Île de Ré to Sylt – although Albeau finds the water temperatures less pleasant at his home on the rough Atlantic. In spite of that he calls his home island "a little piece of paradise very close to the mainland".

ON THE BEACH AND ON THE MOTORWAY

The customised TGE minibus is also stationed here, directly at Albeau's surf school. The surfing champion is pleased that its 4x4 drive easily propels the vehicle along the beach. And the van can also comfortably cover long distances thanks to the automatic transmission. "I use it to travel to all the competitions in Europe", explains Albeau. So he is shortly setting off on the 1500 kilometres to Denmark, where a large international competition is planned. He and his wife Paola take turns at the wheel, they drive in a relaxed fashion, a maximum of 700 or 800 kilometres a day and never more than 130 kilometres per hour on the German motorways.

The child seat for their three-year-old son Alani is installed up front between them, so they can easily sit together three in a row. "Alani is used to such journeys", says Albeau, "we always take him along every time we travel." Directly behind the driver's cab in the TGE there is an extra long cargo compartment for the small family's baggage and bicycles – and even a table the parents can convert into a small bed if they ever have to spend a night by the roadside. Albeau transports his equipment, surfboards and sails at the very back of the vehicle. "The TGE offers so much space that it's not a problem", he says: "You can just chuck everything in."

I use my new TGE to drive to all the competitions in Europe.

Antoine Albeau
Windsurfer

RECOGNISABLE FROM AFAR

Albeau can soon be recognised from a distance if you come across him somewhere on Europe's motorways. Because emblazoned on the exterior of his anthracite-white-light blue van is not only his customary start number 192 and the inscription "25x champion du monde de windsurf", but also a large picture of him on his surfboard, its nose into the wind. "I like that a lot", he says grinning.

While the vehicle is once again pausing for breath on its native Île de Ré, Albeau wants in future to become increasingly involved in the next generation of windsurfing athletes and perhaps organise training camps for promising youngsters, for example. But first he will have to leave the TGE van at home, since he is boarding a plane. Because Albeau is drawn back to Namibia. Should the winds once again propel him particularly strongly, he wants to break the next speed record: 100 kilometres per hour – as fast as a car on a main road.

 

Antoine Albeau

Born 17 June 1972 in La Rochelle, France, he is one of the world's most successful windsurfers. He has won 25 world championship titles in the course of his career. He also holds the world record over 500 meters at a speed of 53.27 knots.

Text Florian Sievers
Photos Carter/pwaworldtour.com

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