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Alex Palau, Our Ibicenco Jetski Star

In our Meet the Sea Series debut, we interview international jetski star Alex Palau, spanish champion in 2020 and third place in the European championships 2019.

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Transcript of video interview:

Gregorio Cañellas: Hello everyone! We start today our “Meet the Sea” series. A series of interviews with men and women, boys and girls who all have something in common: their passion for the sea. This passion has led them to turn it into a sport, a hobby, and in some cases in their profession.
We want at Meet the Sea to acknowledge all these people who share with us that passion for the sea. Today we could not start in a better way: behind me is Alex Palau, our spanish jetski champion in the offshore category in 2020 as well as runner up in the rallyjet category, and who in 2019 was also third place in the European championships
Today we start with a practical demonstration of his abilities and skills on a jetski.

G.C: Hi Alex, How are you?

Alex Palau: Hello, how is it going?

G.C: Allright. Today we are lucky to have you with us, you are going to do a little show for us on your supercool jetski. Alex, compared to a regular jetski, how much work is there to get it to this competition engine?

A.P: Well, this bike is ready for competition, the price tells the story, for instance the handlebar is a lighter plastic, it is wider, so that it may turn better.

G.C: Your weight allocation is more efficient as well with a wider handlebar.

A.P: Of course,I can lean forward a lor more.

G.C: Great. Let’s see, what can you do for us today? In the videos we could see of you there is something I found quite interesting, for instance, the Grand Prix start is assisted by two people holding the stern of your bike… Could do that? Can we replicate a start?

A.P: yes, of course! I’ll do a start and a circuit simulation with buoys…
G.C: Fantastic! That way we can appreciate the importance of that buoy entrance technique during the race and we can see the incline, Great Alex, let’s do it.

G.C: Hello everyone! We are at the Hostal La Torre, an ideal setting in Cap Negret, in ibiza, where we are waiting for Alex, our champion, to find out all about his sport life.

Early in his career
We want to know about his early beginnings, why he started with a Jetski, his life, his effort, his diet, and, at the end of the day, how a champion is forged. Thank you to the Hostal la Torre for offering us the ideal spot to find out more about our champion. Let’s get to it!
We are with Alex, our local champion from the Balearic islands and Spanish champion. At the age of 18, he is already offshore national champion 2020, rallyjet runner up 2020 and last year he was 3rd place in the European championships in the circuit category.
At the age of 18, Alex, already an impressive track record…

A.P: I can’t complain. On my first race at the Spanish championship I got second place, and so things were good from the very beginning. I hope they continue to be!

G.C: Wonderful. Well, I think we are respecting social distancing, so we can remove our face masks and and carry on.
Alex, you mentioned your early beginnings and one of the things that may be of interest to our audience is the first time you laid eyes on a jetski…

A.P: All started with Toni Vingut, who this year will compete in the DaKar race and who last year was the only Spanish participant in the quad category at Dakar. He then started racing jetskis, my cousin did as well, and so I followed suit and two months later…
G.C: How old were you then?
A.P: I was 15 years old. Two months later I did my first race. I didn’t have a bike then, so I borrowed Toni’s and got that second place at the Spanish championship.
G.C: So it’s almost an innate skill for you…which brings me to the question… what is the main quality or the more important ones to succeed on a jetski?
A.P: To begin with you have to like jetskis, get good at riding it… and train a lot!
G.C: We are lucky today to have with us Sandra, Alex’s mother, how are you?
Sandra Palau: Hi, how are you?
G.C: Sandra we wanted your perspective. We know you faithfully go with Alex to all competitions in Spain, Europe and the world championships. I imagine that it must be quite an effort logistically to organise all this, what does it take?
S.P: Its mainly all the time we have to invest. Economically it’s also tough on us, but we do get support from various sources. Transport is challenging as we live in Ibiza and we have a double stopover, and workwise its difficult for me. My holidays are not when I want them to be and are spent travelling to different countries where Alex competes.
G.C: Sure, we are not only talking about the Spanish competition, you have also travelled to Poland, Hungary, fairly long distances…
S.P: yes, many kilometers. 2500 from Barcelona, which we have had to do for each of the competitions, so in the end I just bring all of my kids in the van…
G.C: So trying to bring together pleasure and duty… After all that effort you arrive to the Grand Prix, it’s three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I’d like to ask you Sandra, about the atmosphere in jetski competitions, how would you describe it, what is it that you like about it?
S.P: The truth is that it’s spectacular. I was very surprised from the start, there is great camaraderie, particularly in international championships, in the end all Spanish racers end up together with all tents lined up next to each other, or at the world championship, where we didn’t have the means that other pilots had and the bike didn’t start so the mechanics from the Spanish federation worked for a day and a half for free to get the bike in racing shape. The camaraderie is incredible.

G.C: You say something very interesting there because you talk about improvising, fighting against adversity, you also talk of camaraderie, that leads me to the question… What are the values that as a mother you think are important and that Alex is learning at a young age?
S.P: Besides all we have mentioned, I think Alex is learning about failure. He has learned how to win, to get victories, last year he was third in the European championship, but this year he was doing very well, he got pole position, he was first during the first leg and he made a mistake, he took the wrong buoy and he was disqualified. At first, it was the end of the world for him. But then he started to ponder a bit and I know I insisted a bit, that a lot of things and accidents can happen during the race and that’s not the worst that can happen and he is learning a lot of important lessons.

G.C: Sure. We have other examples in the world of sports and very close to us in Balearic sports, where the proximity of family appears to be a very important factor in the tranquility and at the end of the day the performance of a champion. How important is it that Alex knows that you are near him?

S.P: Well, even though he doesn’t tell me very often, I think I do bring him stability. Both in victory and in defeat he looks for me. I give him stability, he knows I am there. The family support of knowing that I am there if I am needed.

G.C: yes, family support is very important. There is something that looks quite obvious, we are talking about a surface like the ocean that at high speed is hard like concrete, we are talking about a sport where the crowded turns can lead to collision… How does a mother deal with that?

S.P: Not very well at first. But it is something that he loves and I have also learned that I cannot always protect him and that in life there are thousands of situations where anything can happen. Ye, it is a sport that involves risk, it seems that it is only about a bike doing laps, but there are many accidents and the truth is that I am nervous and unsettled when he is racing.

G.C: You made reference before to the logistical efforts involved, and also the financial stress, could you tell me a bit about the role of institutional support and sponsors?

S.P. Without support we would not be able to do any of this. The Spanish Federation is helping us a lot in that sense, when there are international competitions they contribute a lot regardless of Alex’s performance, he knows he is going to get that support. We also have contributions from the Consell, and the Ayuntamiento of San Antonio and private sponsors like Motomon, who provides him with all riding gear like gloves, helmet, back protection…Nautiluxe is involved in all mechanical aspects of the jetski. And our main sponsor is Palladium, without whom it would be impossible to get the transport financing in place.

End of video, part 1
G.C: Alex, you spoke about getting on the jetski for the first time at the age of fifteen and I imagine you must have had considerable athletic skills previously.

A.P: I loved sports since I was a kid, I used to combine swimming, football and track and field, I did not stop all week, and then I had to put some aside because I couldn’t handle it all. But I always loved sports and I chose motor watersports because my father loved the sea and to me doing a sport on the sea was the ultimate!

G.C: That is quite important, you had your father with a strong devotion for all things relate to the sea…

A.P: yes, he loves the sea.

G.C: How about your mum, does she also do any sports?

A.P: Yes, my mum was big on athletics and We run and train together.

Alex’s training routine
G.C: Wonderful. So this love for sports is something of a family tradition…lets talk abit about your training routine…When does jetski season start and finish?

A.P: We start early March and go on until end of October.

G.C: Ok, so we are talking about six, seven months of competition. Obviously including Spain, European and world championships, and all different categories. Tell me about your training during the season, both on and off your bike.

A.P: On the bike I train in the summer, less in the winter because of the temperature, so then I stress the importance of athletics and gym work.

G.C: Of course, tell me more about about that winter training. What do you do?

A.P: I do gym time and athletics four times a week and I run with my mother as well.
G.C: So it’s quite intensive. You often talk about the importance to balance exercise and nutrition. Do you have a strict diet or specific nutritional guidelines?
A.P: Lets see, I love to eat and I have tried different diets but I find it very difficult. I try to avoids sweets and fatty foods but it’s quite a challenge!
G.C: And if you have to indulge? When do you say, I shouldn’t but do it anyway?
A.P: With chocolate, my sin is chocolate.
G.C: Well, we agree on that one. Well done Alex.
G.C: We have talked about the physical aspect which is key for your sport, but what about the mental aspect? Friday comes around, you have the briefing with all other riders, and qualifying starts, do you have a routine that you follow?
A.P: During racing weekends I go to bed very early, I have dinner quite early as well and then go to bed, and my mother and all others go to dinner but I stay in and go to sleep.
G.C: Really? You rather stay in and keep to yourself?
A.P: Yes, I have dinner alone and then I go to bed.
G.C: An what do you do, do you watch TV, listen to some tunes?
A.P: No, I’m usually fast asleep. I listen to music prior to the race.
G.C: Yes, let’s get to that… tell me about the morning of qualifying.
A.P: We get up quite early, we are really focused on the day, on what is going to happen, we get to the racing ground, the briefing starts with the riders…
G.C: what do they tell you on the briefing?
A.P: Briefing is about rules and regulations, circuit conditions and checking the list of participants, and the security inspection that you must pass, otherwise you cannot start the race. It’s important to get up early and not oversleep!
G.C: We are getting up to the start of qualy: the mental tune up for the qualy session
A.P: Yes, just before the start I play some music and I ask people, about 30 min before to stop talking to me, I sit down and listen to my music.
G.C: So your crew knows to leave you alone…
A.P: Yes, I dress up while I listen to my tunes, calmly, and well, the time comes to get on the bike…
G.C: What do you listen to, sorry to interrupt?
A.P: Something relaxing, just before the start my mother wishes me luck and but she doesn’t talk to me much begause she knows that I get nervous… we throw the bike in and off we go!
G.C: In the videos I have watched in the fantastic work you do during the race there is something that really caught my attention. It’s the moment just before a race or a qualy and there is a sixty second recording of the camera on your helmet where you turn your head about 60 or 70 times… What is going through your head in that moment?
A.P: Just before the start I am looking left, looking to my right, where everyone is positioned, the waves, where the sea is flatter so that I get a better grip on the jetski…and time my start perfectly.
G.C: We talked during the jetski session on the beach about the buoy strategy, the start, how important is the start? Does a bad start jeopardize your race?
A.P: Its possible to come back during the race, but its very hard to get to the top if you have a bad start. Something would need to happen or disqualifications, because the wake from the other bikes makes it very complicated, you can pass a few of them, but you wouldn’t get to the very top.
G.C: So you consider the start a crucial part of the race…
A.P: To me the start is 50% of the race.
G.C: That much? Obviously you are a great starter because your titles tell us so, but you clearly pay attention to your starts…
A.P: yes, a flop at the start has cost me dearly.
G.C: We have talked about the competition, the level of concentration, your training, the difficulties, injuries, difficult trips… we finally get to what you deserve: the trophies that are here with us. Tell us, what have we got here?
A.P: Here we have the offshore trophy Spain 2020
G.C: which is July of this year…
A.P: yes, 2020. The 2019 third place at the European championship medal, and the runner up of Spain rallyjet 2020.
G.C: out of these three, if you had to pick one, which one would it be?
A.P: probably the third in Europe, the competition at an international level is very tough.
G.C: Where did you crown yourself as European champion?
A.P: over three races, in Portugal, Hungary in Croatia where I got the trophy.
G.C; And you did it in different seas, Atlantic, Adriatic… Alex, when you get a trophy of this category, unimaginable for most of us, tell me what you think when you get the trophy…
A.P: well, that all the training and effort of the year has led me to this…
G.C: Do you dedicate the trophy to someone? Do you think of someone specifically?
A.P: To my mother who always takes me everywhere and who makes all this possible.

How does Alex celebrate his wins?

G.C: How do you celebrate? Lets see, you get the trophy in a country far away and then you get home. How is the celebration in the moment and later at home?
A.P: Right in the moment it’s very emotional because you just got third in Europe and the celebration on the podium is great… but then at home, more relaxed you celebrate with family and friends…
G.C: Ok Alex, lets talk about the bitter side of sports: injuries. That fear that I imagine that as an athlete, as a sportsman, you feel. Tell us a bit about the experiences on the ones you have had…
A.P: Yes, im going to tell you something… in 2019 I had been training very hard all year for the season and four days before the start of the season I broke my wrist. I was floored when that happened, felt like the world had ended for me..I had been working for a year, and then just one bad movement…
G.C: Devastating. I can imagine…
A.P: Yes, its true that later I was able to get that third in Europe, but I miseed the Spanish and world championships.
G.C: And tell me Alex, during those moments, what do you tell yourself during those weeks when you can’t do what you love, How do you pick yourself up?
A.P: Well, it’s tough. You don’t seem to get better fast enough, that a long time goes by, that you can’t train properly, and then when they finally removed the bandages I went to see the physio but it was a no go…
G.C: Because I suppose it’s also very difficult, I mean we have the recent example of Marc Marquez, who, perhaps in his rush to get back did something he shouldn’t have and… you pay a much higher price. So you laso have to measure carefully how far you go on your rehab?
A.P: Even if it’s tough to hear, when the doctor says no it’s no.
G.C: Sure. Because you put at risk a lot more… Perhaps even at that time, just to give a positive reading to all this, you appreciate a lot more what it means to be healthy…
A.P: yes, because when you can’t do it you look at it with different eyes…
G.C: Understood. You have had other injuries, aside from this one,
A.P: Yes after that, when I recovered I had a knee sprain and starting over again was very tough…
G.C: I saw a picture of you that I wanted to talk to you about… It’s a black and white picture, you are on your bike, shoulders down, head down, tell us about that photo…
A.P: That photo is from the European championship of this year. I got pole position, I was in first place during the whole race and with two buoys to go I made a wrong turn and I saw the black flag and was disqualified.
At that moment I thought I had done nothing wrong… Then I apologised, but after leading the whole race I was gutted that after leading the whole race I was out. A few seconds and everything was ruined.
G.C: you can forgive the mistake, that is human. But as an athlete I imagine it must be difficult to deal with the moment. On the one side you need to prepare yourself for the next round, in this case the second leg, you also want to not be so hard on yourself and also keep that competitive edge.
How is that done? what do you tell yourself?

A.P: In that moment you know you are not going to be able to be at the top because everything must be done perfectly. On the second leg you start in last place, you are not going to get back in…

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