The interview with Florian Jung is a continuation of the “Motifs” series launched by Polestar to find out what drives unique individuals to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and to spread the message of sustainability. More about Polestar and the whole video by Florian Jung can be found here. The first part of the series, published in rampstyle#21, was an interview with triathlete Sebastian Kienle.
Mr. Jung, what makes windsurfing such an attractive sport for you?
Florian Jung: It’s the special mix of adrenaline, pure joy and becoming one with the forces of nature. That’s the thing that I found thrilling about windsurfing from the very beginning: you learn to read and understand the forces of the ocean and the waves and to become one with nature. I play the game of natural forces, so to speak.
What sorts of skills do you need for windsurfing?
Discipline and courage. When you’re on the water, you have to be able to perfectly adapt to the prevailing conditions – and overcome barriers. You get washed down by a wave. Or you have to practice a new maneuver over and over again. That’s what I find so exciting about the sport: that you have to adapt to unique conditions every single day. Sometimes the waves are small, then they’re huge, sometimes there’s hardly any wind, other times it’s blowing and howling. You always have to focus on the present moment. Then you’ll have fun – even if the conditions aren’t perfect.
Since we first met in 2009, you’ve become one of the world’s most successful windsurfers. What’s the secret behind your success?
You’ve got to constantly re-invent yourself, grow as a human being. Competition does play an important role for me, but it has never been my main motivation. I never just wanted to surf from one title to the next, I wanted to be able to experience and absorb everything around me. I’d say I’m more of a free spirit than the competitive type. I do like competitions, of course, but I also want to be able to come up with my own projects and new ideas. Environmental protection, for example. Or new aspects of travelling. That’s very rewarding for me personally. And I hope I can also inspire others. I use my sport as a vehicle for reaching out to them.
When did you start to care about the environment?
When you travel as much as I do, you automatically become more sensitive to the issue of environmental protection. When you’re out there, you can’t help but look more closely at what’s happening. How are the reefs changing? Where does all the plastic waste come from? I’m confronted with these threats on a daily basis, so I feel that it’s my duty to become active. I don’t want to only talk about problems, though. I want to make people understand the beauty of the oceans.
“Sometimes the waves are small, then they’re huge, sometimes there’s hardly any wind, other times it’s blowing and howling. You always have to focus on the present moment. Then you’ll have fun – even if the conditions aren’t perfect.”
And how exactly do you do that?
On the one hand, I try to launch projects and initiatives. I organized numerous beach clean-ups as part of the Love the Ocean campaign, for example. Other projects involve expeditions with athletes and environmentalists that are covered by the media. I also go to German and South African schools to talk to the students there and explain to them how simple things can help them to integrate environmental protection into their everyday lives. In the end, we’re all in the same boat, surrounded by a huge amount of water. If every single one of us tried to care just a little more, we wouldn’t have to make any tremendous sacrifices, but we’d all gain something.
Is that how you would define sustainability?
I think that the term “sustainability” has become a little overused. I like to use the following image: the world is like a big house. As long as everyone keeps their room in order, it’ll be possible for seven-and-a-half billion people to live good lives in this house. If the majority of the people don’t contribute their share, however, the house will collapse sooner or later. To me, sustainability means doing the cleaning now and again and reflecting on your actions. If we do that, we’ll all have a good time together.
Where do you have your real house right now?
Due to the lockdown, I’m currently stuck in Germany. But before that, I spent a lot of time in South Africa and I plan to go back there some time in the next few months. On the one hand, the conditions there are perfect for surfing. On the other hand, we have a non-profit project there that helps kids from the townships to receive a school education. In recent years, we’ve also built a self-sustaining house of sustainable materials like hemp at one of the best surf spots on the Cape Peninsula in an attempt to live in a minimalist way in accord with nature. And I approached Polestar about the possibilities of some sort of cooperation.
“The world is like a big house. As long as everyone keeps their room in order, we’ll all have a good time together.”
I think that Polestar brings together values like a certain pioneering spirit, harmonious design, sustainability and, above all, transparency. There are some interesting approaches here on how to shape the automotive industry more positively with new impulses in the future. We’re living in a world in which we shouldn’t avoid change but try to make active use of it.
. . . in the form of a car?
Among other things, yes. We should take a closer look all areas of our daily lives and ask ourselves where change is possible. The fact that the Polestar 2 drives like an electronic spaceship, with plenty of speed under the hood, is a nice bonus on the side. [laughs] As it is connected to Android, I have unlimited possibilities of obtaining information that is important to me. I can check the weather or the waves while driving my car. That’s a kind of luxury, of course. But a luxury that feels good, because it’s the right kind of luxury.
What role do cars play in your life?
As one of my main means of transport, my car is extremely important to me at the moment. Because of what I do, I’m practically always on the move. I have to be mobile. That’s not a very sustainable way of life, I’m aware of that. People have criticized me for saying that I’m an environmentalist while jetting around the world a lot more than most other people do. They’re right, of course. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be possible for me to realize my vision if I wasn’t traveling so much. I’m not perfect. That’s something I need to accept. Nevertheless, I see this as an opportunity to face up to these kinds of questions and then try to find solutions to make things better.
“Every day that I can start in the ocean is a good day for me. I don’t care about the conditions.”
What can you do to make cars better in this respect?
They should be as easy on the environment as possible. E-mobility may not yet have reached the final stages of its development, but currently it’s the best option – even more so if we increasingly use green electricity. It would be ideal if I could charge my car at home using solar energy, so I could go surfing and come back home again without causing any emissions at all.
Do you enjoy driving?
Generally, yes. My life is very rich and varied. Longer drives offer me the chance to be with myself a little more. I can use the time to reflect on things or have a deeper conversation with the other people in the car. And I have a huge library of interesting audiobooks. When I’m listening to an interesting audiobook, I can easily drive ten hours in one go, if necessary.
Let’s leave the road and go to the sea. What does living with the waves feel like?
I love being in the water. Every day that I can start in the ocean is a good day for me. I don’t care about the conditions. Every wave asks for a unique kind of creativity. You try to move your own limits further and further. The week before last I rode some huge waves in a storm. Waves like that will stretch you to your limits in practically no time. But if you have the necessary experience, you know you’ll be able to cope with these sorts of challenges. To a certain extent, after a session like that, I’m a new person when I get back to the shore. Out there on the ocean, I load up on new experiences. I really love that.
What sorts of new experiences do you want to make in 2021?
That’s difficult to say at the moment. I hope that we can resume our World Tour. I’d love to make it to the top five or the top ten. I also want to launch a film project that I hope to release in 2022. Apart from that, I am planning a few projects with some environmental organizations to raise awareness about the fragility and importance of the oceans. It will definitely remain interesting.
One last question: what exactly does “Bula, Bula” actually mean?
That’s what people in Fiji use to say “hello”. The year before last, we went there on a short sailing trip. My two-year-old’s first words were “bula, bula”, and during the entire trip he kept saying that to everyone we met. That’s what’s so beautiful about travelling: you can learn so many things from other cultures and then adapt them to fit your own life.