The World Kiteboarding League 2017 is well underway and boy we’ve enjoyed the action so far. From France to Holland and most recently Turkey, the rest of the schedule is equally epic. With North Kiteboarding being represented in a major way by our Team, we catch up with Stefan Spiessberger and Paula Novotna for a bit of half-time chat.
How is the 2017 season going for you?
Stef: "This year has been really fun for me so far. Despite the lack of contests in the summer I stayed busy filming for The Bubble and other little edits. Now, it’s all about the World Tour again. After my 4th place in France I’m stoked to be up in the top 5 and it’s kind of what got me going for the season. Riding in that final was sick!
We were unlucky with the conditions in the Netherlands and last week in Turkey there wasn’t enough wind to complete the remaining two heats of the competition. Nonetheless it was a really cool event and i’m happy with my result, finishing in the top ranks again."
Paula: "It’s been amazing for so many reasons and I’ve been able to travel to many places doing what I love. Competition wise it hasn’t been that great as out of the 3 events so far, we’ve only managed to complete 1.5; but we’re not finished yet! Egypt and Brazil are lined up for the coming months and I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.
The ’17 Tour started off in Leucate, France and was a big success for many. I arrived with absolutely no training due to a hand injury and managed to come 5th. Considering I hadn’t ridden for 3 months I was stoked. As Stef said, the Netherlands was a write off due to no wind and the third event in Turkey saw only the Women’s division finish. I took 4th place.
This season has been a bit different for me as I’ve changed my training in order to stay healthy, avoid injuries and become stronger. Working together with a trainer and physiotherapist has helped a lot. I want to become a more powerful rider, step up my game, ride better, and keep improving. I’ve always been a hard worker and i’m determined to get there."
How was Turkey?
Stef: "It’s pretty amazing with thermal winds. I grew up kiting in similar conditions in Austria so I felt comfortable there. The flat water also set the stage to go big during our heats. The only problem with thermal winds is that there are a lot of factors that need to come together for it to really work. A slight change in the weather can result in no wind. There were two cloudy days during the holding period of the event which resulted in write offs. We managed to make it to the Semi Finals of the men and finished women. We made the best out of it!"
Paula: "It’s a top spot! The natural surroundings are stunning , the wind is stable and the water mostly flat. This was my first time there and I was surprised by the beauty of it all. If you’re keen to check it out then the best months to go are from June until September, unfortunately we were a little late in the season to get the conditions we needed.
We made the ladder way shorter to finish faster. The guys ended up with 12 winners and we completed. I was super stoked to get to compete as the wind only arrived for the last day of competition and I was riding my 13m and 11m. I had a great heat achieving the highest scoring heat of the day. The wind picked up for the final - which was good - but frustratingly I didn't manage to land the last two tricks out of six which kept me off the podium.
Next year i’ll be going back over the summer for an event with a North Kiteboarding school in Akyaka. If you’re there you should definitely come and enjoy the weekend with us. "
Highs and Lows of the event?
Stef: "I think both happened in the same heat actually. I reckon I rode my best heat of the year in the Round 1 which I was amped on! However, there were some questionable Judging scores on one of my tricks that put me in 3rd place in that heat, meaning that I had to go through Round 2 instead of advancing straight through to the Semis.
I tried some new grab variations during the 2nd Round as I was really curious to see how they’d score. It was good to see that simple tricks with a good double-grab can score well!"
Paula: "I really enjoyed this competition. I love to compete and challenge myself. I think I can take a big advantage that my tricks score a lot when I do them powered and well executed. One of my heats was scored as the highest scoring heat of the competition within ladies. My advantage of powerful style is not going to leave me. I’m hoping to nail some new tricks soon that haven't been landed yet in the competition."
How's the WKL organisation getting on?
Stef: "Since starting the World Kiteboarding League back in 2016 , i’d say that we’ve come pretty far in a really short space of time. One of the most important things for us was proper live coverage in order to make it easy and cool to follow for everyone around the world. The change of format has really brought back the excitement to Freestyle. There is strategy involved now and you have to be smart during the heats. It also makes a big difference to those watching. It’s way easier to follow and understand, and spectators can see who’s leading in realtime. We still have two super good locations to go and next season looks promising too. I think the Freestyle World Tour is growing in the way we’d all like it to."
Paula: "We are moving forward with the Tour, trying to have more events confirmed and run. There are a lot of people behind the cameras from Case Production. Next to providing a slick livestream, they are filming a TV Show from each stop which will be broadcasted on lots of sports channels around the world. I can see that 2018 is gonna bring us even more events."
What gear are you riding?
Stef: "The new Team Series is working really well this year and I’m super stoked about the performance of the board in all conditions. I ride the 142cm TS and delivers the power I need to go big. The pop is insane and with our new bottom shape on that board the landings are way more stable than before.
I’m still a Vegas fan with the 13m being my favourite. It’s crazy how stable it is and how much pop it delivers. It’s also incredibly predictable, you know exactly how the kite will behave once you are up in the air. Using the Medium depower on the bigger sizes delivers an easier take off and will help you to get more height in your jumps."
Paula: "I’m riding the Team Series and the Vegas. I have started riding a bigger board and I love it. I used to ride 134cm and now I changed to a 138cm. I can edge more, get more height and land more tricks. It’s way better! The Vegas this year feels even more smooth than before thanks to the new material. I use the Hard setting with Low depower on 6m to 9m. For the bigger sizes I switch to the Medium setting and Medium depower. I simply love my set-up and wouldn't change it for anything else. My favourite harness is the new Nova from ION as it gives me optimal support for my back and the Muse wetsuits are so comfortable with a huge amount of stretch."
Where to next for you?
Stef: "I am in Tarifa right now for the North Kiteboarding dealers meeting where we go through the entire 2018 range with all the dealers. It’s great that everyone gets to ride every new kite and board in the range. I’ll be training in Tarifa until beginning of next month before flying to Egypt for the next stop on the World Tour!"
Paula: "I am home for few days before heading to Egypt for a kite clinic with BigDayz on a luxury kite safari. After that I have two weeks of training in Egypt before the next WKL competition in El Gouna, Egypt. I am already very excited! "