Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Windsurfing a family affair for Cyril Moussilmani and his brothers

By Ravi Ubha and Brooke Bowman, CNN
September 11, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
'The Flying Frenchman'
  • Windsurfing is a family affair for Cyril Moussilmani and his younger twin brothers
  • Cyril first wanted to try windsurfing as a nine-year-old in his hometown of Marseille
  • He trains about 10-15 hours in the gym, aside from practicing his skills on the water
  • Frenchman enjoys traveling the world, although lugging around his equipment is tough

CNN's Human to Hero series screens every week on World Sport. Click here for show times, videos and features.

(CNN) -- Where there's wind and water in Marseille, you are likely to find "Les Mouss."

Three brothers with a passion for windsurfing, and a love for their native south of France.

They train together at home, travel the world together for competitions, and they also party together.

The siblings still live near each other in a port city known for, among other things, its Proven├žal fish stew bouillabaisse and being the birthplace of soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane.

"At the beginning we were football players," Cyril Moussilmani says of his younger twin siblings Sylvain and Benoit.

"From the age of 10 I started windsurfing and two years later my brothers followed me. Now we do everything together. We still see each other pretty much every day."

Several members of a family competing in the same professional sport are rare.

The Sutters from Canada were one such exception, with six of the older generation playing in the National Hockey League -- which has also featured the four Staal brothers. Baseball's Molina boys, meanwhile, each won the World Series while the three DiMaggios were all MLB All-Stars.

Read: 'Beauty is a woman riding a wave'

The Moussilmanis aren't quite so high profile, but they are happy in their niche. Their parents separated 25 years ago, but they were able to stay with their mom close to the beach.

"It's very nice because first of all for training, it's very important for me and them because we can compare speed," Cyril, the oldest of the trio at 33 and most accomplished, told CNN's Human to Hero series.

How to master 'chess on ice'
Water polo ace on school of hard knocks
Japan's 'rock star' tennis pro

"As well, when the motivation isn't really here for me or them, one goes sailing and you say, 'Oh, I'm not going to let him go alone for training.' We help each other a lot."

That also applies to looking for sponsors, and it's apparent that a bit of banter between the siblings is never too far away.

When Sylvain is asked what Cyril would be if not a windsurfer, the 32-year-old replies with a laugh, "Nothing."

Cyril, a world champion in 2008 in the speed discipline and known in his sport as "the Flying Frenchman," can still remember the day windsurfing caught his attention.

Read: The kite rider who fought back from the brink

He was nine and walking in Marseille with his parents when he spotted people sailing, and decided he wanted to give it a try.

Not long after, he began to take lessons and his interest has never diminished.

"You get the feeling to glide on the water and this is very special," he says. "It's what I like in the sport.

"Even now sometimes I go sailing and I say, 'It's not my job. It's just what I like to do.'"

The only negative, he says, is lugging around all the heavy equipment -- Cyril routinely tests gear in the off-season for the development of his own brand, and owns 15 boards and 20 sails.

"When we travel, three of us, it's like almost one ton, so it's really hard," he says, laughing.

'Unbeatable' sprinter: How I stay on top
Kitesurfer overcomes near-death moments
Female discus thrower defies stereotypes

Having won the world speed title, Cyril finished third in the slalom rankings in 2010 and fourth last year, and is fifth so far in 2013 -- all the while trying to live up to his slogans of "do the best" and "be a machine."

Read: Brazil's 'perfect 10' surfing pioneer

France is a country excelling in slalom, with Antoine Albeau a multiple world champion and holding top spot in the rankings currently. Julien Quentel is ranked second.

Sylvain and Benoit have yet to match their brother, lying 20th and 27th in the slalom rankings respectively.

"We have people with talent, people who work and people with talent who work -- and Cyril is a person with talent who works," says Sylvain.

Benoit adds: "Cyril loves windsurfing, competition. For sure he's very focused on it compared to me and Sylvain."

Cyril says windsurfing is like a mixture of several different sports -- a combination of the laidback nature of surfing and the formality of sailing.

"It's tricky because you have the freedom of a wild sport, but on the other side you have the sailing part," he says. "It's mixing between the two so you have the free spirit of 'party' and enjoying life, and the sailing part is more strict and more square."

Read: Curling champ overcomes McEnroe-esque like temper

Exerting all parts of your body is the norm and like skiing, different disciplines exist. The oldest Moussilmani brother spends three to five hours a day on the water and puts in 10-15 hours a week in the gym.

The website of the Professional Windsurfing Association lists rankings in slalom, freestyle and wave but competitors can participate, too, in super x -- combining freestyle and slalom -- and speed.

Windsurfing retained its Olympic status after originally being replaced by kiteboarding, although Cyril doesn't expect to be in Rio in three years because the board used is different to the one he trains with.

We travel together all the time and we party together sometimes
Cyril Moussilmani

He began competing in earnest as a 16-year-old in Australia and has tried his hand in many of the sport's formats, concentrating on slalom for competition and wave for fun.

Read: Back to school for rally superstar

But despite enjoying his travels, Moussilmani is always happy to be back in Marseille.

"I like to stay home because we have a lot of wind almost all year," he says. "Maybe in the summer it's a little tricky because it's very warm and a lot of people are on the beach, but during the rest of the season it's a very clement place to windsurf.

"When we have big storms we have waves, but most of the time it's choppy, so that's the only bad point about Marseille. But around Marseille there are two or three spots where you can do waves in proper conditions and you can travel as well.

"I like to go when it's super-strong wind and just be on the edge. When I do wave I like to show to everybody what we do -- we jump very high and we do loops. I like to be a little bit like a showman."

Part of complete coverage on
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Sunday Oliseh plays for NIgeria at the 1998 World Cup in France.
When Sunday Oliseh was a young boy, he never dreamed he would one day carry the hopes of 170 million people on football's biggest stage.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
Retired Nigerian midfielder Sunday Oliseh went from playing football on the streets of Lagos to taking part in two World Cups.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Olof Mellberg never lived out his childhood tennis fantasy, but he did achieve something millions of football fans around the world can only imagine.
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
If you're aiming to land a top job at the world's most famous financial district, it might help to take up a sport -- but perhaps not the one you're thinking of.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
He travels in private jets and is one of the world's highest-paid athletes, but Fernando Alonso does not forget his humble beginnings.
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1211 GMT (2011 HKT)
Being blind has not stopped Verity Smith. The singer has starred on stage and written a book -- but she's most at home on a horse.
March 19, 2014 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
Tai Woffinden's arms, hands, face, neck and shoulders are adorned with tattoos. But most revealing is the portrait of his late father on his back.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
He established himself as one of the most famous American players in European basketball history -- and is still cooking up a storm.
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
Sebastien Foucan has proved even more elusive than his acrobatic bomb-maker who was eventually blown away in "Casino Royale."
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Imagine hurtling down a mountain at 60 miles an hour. Now imagine doing it virtually blind. For Kelly Gallagher, it's a thrilling reality.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
Having suffered bitter disappointment on the running track, Jana Pittman is finding peace on ice at the Winter Games in Sochi.
February 12, 2014 -- Updated 1341 GMT (2141 HKT)
Sochi is preparing for an Olympic invasion -- but perhaps it didn't expect a former Soviet soldier to be leading the charge.
February 6, 2014 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
The words no athlete wants to hear: "You can't ski anymore. Racing is finished for you." But, luckily for her, Fanny Smith refused to believe her doctor.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
"Blood was coming out of every hole in my body and I was completely unconscious," says French daredevil Xavier de Le Rue.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jenna McCorkell has been dancing on a knife edge since first representing her country at the age of 10. "How ice skating is evolving, it's insane."