Tom Squires is used to a bit of banter. After all, he is a windsurfer in a sailing team.
“We’re not quite the same,” he admits with a laugh. “You get used to being told: ‘You are not a proper sailor!’
”A lot of people think it doesn’t make sense, but our racing is so similar to the boat racing that it fits very nicely.
“The British Sailing Team does fully embrace windsurfing,” he adds, in a more serious tone.
It’s mid-November and Squires is in the midst of winter training in Portland Harbour. “Obviously it’s a lot more serious now. I’ve got to bring home a medal!”
Squires was chosen for the Tokyo games next summer after what he admits was a “pretty big battle” with colleague Keiran Holmes-Martin over the past 18 months.
“I was the underdog in a way,” says Squires.
He took a step back from the squad over last winter, training in Hong Kong and New Zealand, before coming back to the summer regattas with guns blazing.
“I spent all all my money on travelling but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
The on-form Squires was fourth in the Olympic test event, narrowly losing out on a medal, and then sixth overall and first Brit in the World Cup event that followed.
“It is surreal [being selected]. You go a bit mad for a day, then it’s back to training and organising your life for the next six months.”
Squires was on holiday in Cornwall aged 11 when he first tried windsurfing with his father.
They enjoyed it so much that on their return home to Oxford they signed up for an RYA course at a local reservoir.
Squires junior was soon sailing on weekday evenings as well as on the weekend. Then he found out about the wider windsurf racing scene and never looked back.
He is a sailor too but “a very bad one…I do Bart’s Bash each year, normally sailing a cat. The rules of windsurf racing are very similar, although we are allowed to hit the mark.”
His top speed on an RS:X?
“About 28 knots. Some people have gone 30 but I haven’t seen that yet on my watch. I will try for it in Japan!
“The venue is super-tricky. The wind isn’t quite what it seems. It looks like a nice onshore sea breeze, good for speed-racing, but in reality it feels like an inland lake.
“The windsurfers mainly race close to the shoreline and the wind is so unpredictable. It’s tricky to know which way to go. It’s going to be interesting.”
Meanwhile he is gunning for a medal at the worlds in Melbourne in February.
Two days before we speak, World Sailing confirmed the windsurfing equipment for the Paris 2024 Olympics would be the iFoil.
So the RS:X has its last Games in Enoshima, but Squires is positive: “When I was younger, getting into windsurf racing, I was so excited with the RS:X. That was only option for me and all my friends.
“But these days in Portland Harbour, it’s foil city round here. That is what all the kids are excited by.
“Whatever makes the kids happy and getting the excitement that I had – that should be the Olympic board.”
Squires isn’t averse to a spot of foiling himself and comes clean that his biggest ever windsurfing wipeout came just two weeks previously on a foiling board.
“I was doing a training camp for young windsurfers looking to foil. The breeze kept building…it was a brand new £3,000 board and I split the nose in half.
“Foiling wipeouts are just another level. But the good thing is with windsurfing if it goes a bit crazy you can just let go and all the power is gone.
“When you crash it’s rare that you hurt yourself. Kite-surfing is a different story.”
Is he in favour of kite-surfing as an Olympic sport?
“Yes, I think so. The training and structure they have in their campaigns, the professionalism and hard work they put in…people act like they don’t care and like they’re the cool kids, but some of the stuff you see them do in training…they take it very seriously.”
Despite an agreeably laid back manner, Squires takes things pretty seriously too.
“I was in the gym this morning! I tend to do a lot of cardio but I have to become more like a sprinter. I stay away from weights. I’m 6ft 4in and I have to keep my weight down for the RS:X. It’s a nightmare!”
Then it’s out to Portugal to join his colleagues for warmer weather training.
“The structure of being in the British Sailing Team is the best thing, the knowledge you get from other sailors. The people you’re surrounded with are the key to success, with everyone feeding off each other.”
First published by Yachts and Yachting. For more sailing content visit www.yachtsandyachting.co.uk