Dave Hackford - World Champion Windsurfer - Competitor at the 1984 LA Olympics
Dave Hackford – World Champion Windsurfer and competitor at the 1984 LA Olympics – is relaxed, self-deprecating and easy to talk to, despite being one of the best British windsurfers ever, as we talk about his Olympic experiences.
Born and raised in Weymouth, Dave was an intelligent student who did well in exams and had a place to go to university – but by then another occupation had started to grab his attention.
“I started windsurfing when I was 17 years old in the late 1970s,” he said. “At the time the sport was undergoing a massive expansion. I had the chance to compete at some high-level championships but had to put off going to University. I had very supportive parents and they allowed me to do that – and the rest is history.”
He never went to University but he did make the Olympics and become a multiple world champion. Not a bad trade.
Dave now is the co-owner with his business partner Roger Tushingham of Tushingham Sails, based in Halwell, selling windsurfing, paddleboarding and other watersports equipment. He still competes in national championships and seems to be very content with life.
Dave has been a Blackawton resident for 13 years. He loves the area for its beauty and people. He’s strongly involved with the local community and recently has been helping Dartmouth Academy students with an Olympic-themed project called “Be the Best You Can Be”.
28 years ago he was training like anything to prepare for the Olympics – having just won the Torquay International Regatta in May to qualify as one of the first windsurfers ever to compete for an Olympic medal.
“The Olympic Committee had added Windsurfing as a yachting class for the 1984 games,” he said. “The sport had come on so quickly from virtually no-one doing it in the early 1970s to one in four households having a board in the 80s.
“When I started I had no plan to be an Olympian, obviously, as it wasn’t an Olympic sport. To then have the chance to go was very exciting and a bit strange! Once I qualified I had to train so much to get used to the official board and sails. It all went in a bit of a blur.”
And then, suddenly, in July, he was in LA waiting in the Olympic Velodrome for the opening ceremony to start.
“It was all a bit overwhelming really – I was lining up with Daley Thompson, Seb Coe, Steve Cram and many more I’d only seen on TV. We missed most of the opening ceremony – the famous man arriving by rocket pack and all the glitz and glamour - waiting to do the procession. We were in the stadium for Lionel Ritchie though! Life was strange in the Village – we once got to meet Princess Anne and the American media went crazy – there were helicopters and goodness knows how many cameras on the ground.”
Despite Dave’s relaxed manner today – he gives an insight into what it takes to just get to the level of an Olympian when he describes his life in the competitors’ village:
“We got out there two weeks before the start of the event and it was basically training and then straight into the racing. I’d get up in the morning every day for running, then on the water and then in the gym.
“When the racing starts – there is only really one thing on your mind – and that is to lock into the mindset of trying to win. I reckon it was not until around six months after the event that I truly thought about what an amazing overall experience it is. To illustrate how focused you are, at another championships an interviewer once asked me if the rain was a problem - I was actually oblivious to the fact that I was racing in the rain. I was so focused on other matters. That’s what it means to be at the top level.”
Dave had a difficult regatta and came in 21st out of 51 competitors – and then had a tough decision to make: to become a professional or not.
“At the time there was a lot of money coming into the sport and I had the chance to get sponsorship and make my living as a windsurfer, the sport I love, and I decided to go for it,” he said. “But that meant I couldn’t compete at the Olympics as they had very strict rules about it being an amateur event. I became a professional and two years later at the 1986 World Championships I won.”
I ask Dave what he thinks about the Olympics coming to Britain.
“It’s wonderful it’s here – to so many people it is a dream to compete at the Olympics and I’m very privileged to have taken part myself,” he said. “Weymouth is my home town and I’m looking forward to being there this summer and watching at such a wonderful venue. The Olympics has a prestige no other event can match – it’s an inspiration.”
Looking back, Dave seems to have few regrets.
“I’m very lucky to have made a career in the sport that I love. Because I love it so much the dedication and determination you need came naturally. To become the best in the world at something you have to spend huge amounts of time doing it, honing your skills and I loved every minute of that process!”
First Published July 2012 By The Dart