Polish Spirit
Rider profile:justyna sniady

So while all my friends from primary school where freaking-out about boy bands, I was obsessed with windsurfing. I had Brian Talma on a poster over my bed. I was hard to convince my friends to find him as cool as they did their pop stars. If I could hunt down a windsurfing mag I was super stoked. There weren’t many in Poland in those days. I put all my pocket money towards buying anything to do with windsurfing. I even tried reading German Surf mag with the dictionary, as it was the only one that came with posters at the time.

Actually I still have all those mags - around 700 of them in the boxes in my old bedroom. I’d carry at least 10 to school everyday, and analyze them carefully during breaks. I could tell in the tiniest pictures who it was, by their position in the air, gear or whatever. I think at the time of Josh Stone’s era I was the biggest windsurfing gear and news expert in the world! Getting hold of any windsurfing footage was the best. I still remember the NP signature Series, of Core, NR and Zone sails, DVDs they attached to some of the mags. I think I watched them a million times! It became my obsession and huge part of my life, even when I couldn’t be on the water. I gathered all the posters of Jaws and was thinking about sailing there so much that I use to have nightmares about drowning there!

One day I just grabbed my gear and dragged it to the open sea side of the Hel peninsula - where I learn how to windsurf. The waves weren’t big, but adrenaline was pumping as I could barely waterstart at the time. I loved the experience. Since I really wanted to at least once in my life hit spots like Robby did in his movie, I was always trying to work out a way to live in a place like that at least for a while. It’s not easy when you’re in your early teens and can’t even drive to the beach yourself, yet. I didn’t even have my own board or wetsuit! I had to wait, but I never give up on the dream. I went to the USA for a high school exchange hoping they would send me to California where I could windsurf. I got stuck in Idaho in the end! Don’t get me wrong – it was one of the best few months of my life, I played basketball for the city club and tennis for the school team driving around USA for tournaments. But, still no windsurfing.

My second time on the waves ever was in Poland was in 2002. And it was huge. The spot was Karwia, and there were few older guys out there. To my surprise, people did go out on the waves! All I got from asked was “who you carrying that board for?” and a disbelief that I would go out. Well, I did. I almost drowned that day too. Got spit out 3km from the place I started. And funny enough, that’s when I really fell in love in waves! I knew I have to practice more. I knew Poland wasn’t the best place to start, so I made my Aunt drive me to Sylt for the PWA weekend. I thought I’d get to watch PWA finals and sail in a place I could get rescued. It’s hard to think of many worse places to learn waveriding then Sylt perhaps, but at least they had a jetski. Next year I signed up for the PWA world cup there. I was 18.

So when I got to Uni, a student exchange came to mind. Destination Hawaii or Australia. Turned out Australia was a cheaper choice, and had Universities that offered degrees in my field of study. It took until my 4th year of Uni but I managed to organize everything. It was a bit scary, doing a trip to the other side of the world and trying to sort a life not knowing anyone there, but exciting at the same time. I saw footage from Australia and couldn’t wait to ride these waves – as scary as they looked - so off I went! With my 6-yr old F2 guerilla and a huge smile on my face, I said goodbye to friends and terrified family!

Unfortunately their fears come true in a way. A month after I arrived in OZ I had a head-on car accident. I almost died. Stiches everywhere and a broken nose. I also had a broken spirit. And it was downhill from there. I ended up starting from scratch. Staying with some friends from College, and walking around Perth on crutches trying to organize myself I started-off by setting my nose so I could breathe properly, finding a car and a place to stay to passing my finals in College. It was a shit period with a lot of drama really. I was alone in the other side of the world, hiding from my ex, shopping for my first ever car – that I still have - and hoping to stop looking like Quasi Modo one day. And, as is life, more shit happened! The car I bought? Well, it wasn’t in the best shape. Cheers to the French guys who sold a car to the girl on crutches after an accident - the engine exploded a week later - while I was driving! All you can do is laugh.

This kind of stuff doesn’t bring you down anymore. Also since I did just survive a car accident I had a different perspective on worrying about “small” things. With all of the bad things happening and assholes I met on the way, came a lot of good things and helpful people who became my really good friends over the past 2 years. I got accepted to Murdoch University to do an MBA degree.

After getting back out on the water I decided to stay. To give Australia another chance. The accident also help me decide to go to Pozo the next summer, as I realized I wouldn’t wanna die without ever trying to sail this famous spot! So in a way, you can say I’m happy it happened!

I ended-up doing the weirdest jobs ever to pay the bills! (Disassembling TVs and PC for recycling). I also got to sail a lot. Often alone. I have hundreds of stories to tell about my living-in and lonely trips to spots with my shitty prone-to-breakdowns car. Sleeping in remote places, always with my extension by my side! About first times on the reef and studying and working whole nights to have the days free to sail. The drive to windsurf got me through all the bad luck. I finished Uni, got a regular office job doing what I love, design, fixed my car, got a nice place to stay together with some of my best Ozzie friends, and lived some of the best adventures of my life here.

I also got noticed by the Australian sail brand KA.Sails and got my first ever brand new set of sails! I was flying helicopters thanks to Colin Leonhardt, went proper Ozzie off-roading, sailed Margaret River and Gnaraloo, jumped cliffs, windsurfed to Rottnest Island and back. So yeah, all the effort paid off and a lot of good came out of the bad! I would highly recommend following your dreams as I think it will always pay up in the end. And look at the bright side; you can’t have much more bad luck then me! Close Story

How’s a girl from Poland get to end up in WA riding perfect waves?

Well, simple as it sounds, “I had a dream”. That’s it. And I followed it. A dream that goes all the way back to when I was 12 and saw the Robby Naish’s R.I.P. video for the first time.  I knew that I had to ride the same kind of waves one day. Living in an apartment

in Warsaw, 500km from the sea with long winters and short summers, I wasn’t exactly perfect material to become a proper wave-rider.

The first few seasons I windsurfed about a week a year. But I got overwhelmed with the experience of being out there on the water from the very first time. I was addicted. And that was back in the days when windsurfing wasn’t popular in Poland at all. Let alone wavesailing – maybe there was a few guys trying waves, but I was way too young to know them. It wasn’t something people start doing ‘cos it was cool or fashionable.  My drive for the sport as a 12 year old girl came from a feeling I’d never experienced before and couldn’t really explain or describe – the sensation of going really fast on the water with wind in my hair! READ MORE

She can fix your Diesel engine, burn you up on a Motocross Bike, do forward loops and ride big waves on the reefs. Not only that, she’s happy to spend weeks on-end living rough in the dust hunting surf. Sounds perfect, but bloody hell, can she talk the hind legs off a donkey or what? If you’ve got 2 hours spare to read all her fascinating story then meet 26-yr old petrol-headed PWA Wave Tour regular Justyna Sniady…
Pics: Colin Leonhardt / BirdsEyeViewPhotography.com.au unless marked otherwise