What is your definition of extreme big air?
For me I like to define extreme big air as what is possible in wind-speeds above 35knots. Without this energy it is impossible to gain the height that relates to extremity. A great analogy might be to think that in lighter wind, we are simply like a Ferrari that can only use 1st and 2nd gear. Megaloops are the most extreme moves. The sheer amount of force that is put through the equipment and the body is just incredible and the risks are high. Straight jumps are simple for the top level kiteboarders, but if they involve a land gap or object clearance, they naturally become extreme too
Your teammate Aaron Hadlow caught a special move of you on camera recently, tell us about it.
The Doobie Loop is a natural evolution of the Boogie Loop (a Front Roll Megaloop) It is effectively a Double Boogie, hence the name Doobie. The move requires the first front roll to be complete and for the second front roll to be in action as the kite starts to loop. What is difficult about the move is that it requires a fast spin rate on takeoff, in order to keep your momentum going through the loop. It is also difficult to see any clear reference points during uplift, so as a pilot you have to rely on feeling. I have had this move in my mind for a while, but it took the reassurance of my friend Aaron to be riding behind me in order to go for it. I chucked him the GoPro and explained I needed something captured. I do not believe he expected anything different than usual, but I like to think I surprised him! A hard thing to do, as Aaron himself has created and achieved so much in Kiteboarding.
Where do you see this discipline going?
Over the last few years we saw the Megaloop Board Off become the forefront of extreme big air. It became one of the highest scorers at the KOTA as it was new. A lot of the guys are doing it well now and it looks to have peaked. Some riders are starting to perform it with rotations, which looks very technical and skillful. I do not deny that the Megaloop Board off is a trick I strive to perform, but I respect the guys that perform it in really strong wind. The direction I am going and focusing on is more minimalist. I still believe there is room for more progression in the known moves, but performed in stronger wind. The equipment and materials are evolving which gives us access to stronger and stronger wind. Higher, more powerful and more extreme moves are achievable. I feel that Megaloops performed in combination with rotations are at the forefront of extreme big air in high wind ranges because of the awareness required. So much can go wrong! Any extreme big air riders that have lost arial awareness during a move before will know how much that can knock your confidence.
The ability to wait calmly…., for days, weeks and sometimes months for the session you crave. Patience to wait for the right wave in order to perform your move, not to rush things.
To your passion. And commitment to being there for sunrise at 07:00 on a winters day, if there is only an hour of strong wind to come. Commitment to go for it when you see the opportunity present itself on the water, to pull on the bar and send it.
Tell us about your home spot, has it influenced your riding style?
Yes hugely. I was born in Worthing, West Sussex in the UK. It is very south central to England and the strong South West wind hits from the right on our beaches. I remember the storms as a child, they are incredible. My interest in the sea was always there and I am fascinated by the storms. They are beautiful in that you cannot predict them. The sea where I live is a sleeping giant that sometimes wakes up and puts on the best Starboard Megaloop conditions worldwide. Sessions here are intense where it can squall, rain and hail then turn sunny in the space of 20 minutes. This is truly unpredictable and exciting and provides the perfect ingredients in order to gain perhaps the biggest jump of your life. Riding here requires control. Control probably best defines my vision of perfection. I personally do not like to see bodies flung out in all sorts of positions during extreme big air moves. I see it as a loss of control. If you hit a 10 knot gust and are in one of these sorts of positions, you are in big trouble riding where I ride.
What set up are you riding?
My go to kite has to be the 9m Dice on 22m lines, centres split from the standard small click bar. The 8m will take you to another dimension but the wind has to be off the scale. The reason I am riding a 9m, is that I like to be at the top end of a kites range rather than be average or below on a smaller kite. I also want the kite to loop in the roundest most aggressive path possible, giving you a higher chance of becoming level. The 2021 Dice is extremely precise during the loops and for some time the kite has been pullyless. With new materials the kite is lighter now, but it still produces a solid frame. You simply cannot ride a 9m in the winds we do, without the kite being solid as a rock. I also wear an impact vest, which really does help on the bad landings.
For boards I choose the Hadlow or TS as the landings are great due to the large surface and rocker line. There is also grip in the channels and in combination with 3.5cm fins I have good manoeuvrability should I need to change stance quickly. The strong bases on these boards help with access in and out of the ocean, as it's a stoney beach where I am from. Especially useful if running away from a shore breaker.