I last interviewed French professional board sailor Julien Quentel in St. Martin in 2001 when he was at the awkward teen stage … not a lot to say and barely a few spoken words in English. But even then he was winning every windsurfing competition, his natural skill doing the talking. He looked the part. A cascade of sun-bleached locks tumbling onto his shoulders … the definitive surfer dude.
What a difference ten years makes. Today the 25-year-old Quentel has matured, speaks English, and is at the peak of his career. The locks have gone, replaced by a short cut and some designer stubble. The sun tan and blue eyes are still there.
‘JuJu’ as he is popularly referred to was born and raised in Guadeloupe and entered his first competition at aged seven. Since then he amassed a slew of youth, and regional titles before moving to France and turning professional.
It was evident to his sailor parents who later settled in St. Martin that their son was born to surf after realising it wasn’t a passing fad. They subsequently scrambled to find adequate resources to support their son’s passion.
2011 was a banner year for Julien culminating in his first place in slalom, first in combined (waves and slalom), and third in waves at the French Championships. He also finished first in the European Championships and second in the IFCA fun board championships.
To top it off he finished eighth overall in the PWA world rankings, his best result ever on the tour and against the biggest names in the sport. His ambition is to reach the top five.
“I’m young enough to get there,” he says. “World champion BjÃ¶rn Dunkerbeck, Antoine Albeau, and others at the top are all much older. Dunkerbeck is 42 and still beating everyone. But they are hard to beat because they have so much experience and are very consistent. Yes, I beat them sometimes in races. My goal in 2012 is to continue improving.”
Right now he’s on a long vacation in St. Martin before returning to France and preparing for the 2012 PWA tour that begins in Vietnam in March.
“I’m just relaxing, doing some kite surfing and fishing, and working at the water sports to help out,” he adds. “I work out in the gym too because you have to be in good physical shape to be competitive.”
Oddly, Julien considers himself semi-professional and that’s because he hasn’t hit the big time in prize money yet. Clearly at the rate of his success, that’s going to change. He admits 2011 was more lucrative but while his sponsors pay the travelling and material expenses, the long gaps between events makes it hard to make ends meet.