April sees the start of the 2017 World Kiteboarding League (WKL) which has quickly become established as the official tour for most professional kiteboarders to compete. As one of the three board members that set up the WKL, Airush pro rider Alex Pastor shares his unique perspective of what goes on behind the tour.
When Alex says he works to help design a pro tour that he’ll be proud to compete in, he means real work. Back in 2015, the future of professional kiteboarding was at risk. It was Alex, together with Youri Zoon and Liam Whaley that stepped up to take matters into their own hands.
As one of the longest running competitors, his drive to create a quality tour was born from a concern about the future. He’s not getting paid to organize the WKL and there’s no benefit to him as a competitor. His pure commitment drives him to want a better tour for all athletes. He works hard for the WKL for the love of the sport in addition to training as a competitor, and on top of his own business needs.
The first thing the WKL wanted to introduce was a new way of scoring to make it easy for an audience to follow. They recognize that the future of the sport partly depends on viewers understanding the heats. The idea was to have an improved clear trick format which would work perfectly for a live stream. They hoped the format would increase viewer ratings getting more people interested in the sport, and therefore attract more sponsorship.
The live feed is incredibly important and something the WKL won’t compromise on, despite it taking up a lot of the budget. It’s brought in 20k viewers, and the on-screen scoreboard system means everyone can see who is winning at all times.
Of course making large changes to the judging format wasn’t without challenges and initially met with a lot of resistance. Taking opposition from your peers isn’t easy to manage. Like the others, Alex is prepared to stand up, be outspoken and pursue the greater good ensuring the longer term benefit.
Having a live stream makes the tour a lot more accessible and interactive to a wider audience. It will hopefully attract fresh talent to the sport and the WKL is always thinking of the future.
They want to make it easier for kiteboarders to start out competing and have set up a Qualifier League to drive that. Getting kiters into competitions earlier will push the level of kiteboarding and ensure a better future for the sport.
Marc Schmid, Airush Marketing and Team Manager, agrees that:
“Alex and the WKL are helping to design a future for the kids below; 18-year-olds might not understand that having a pro tour may not be secure for their future.”
Alex is someone that is taking matters into his own hands to safeguard the future of professional kiteboarding. It’s important to Marc that the Airush team bring ambassadorship in what they do to promote the sport.
2017 kicks off with Mondial du Vent in Leucate, France, where the tour gets a head start in a location famed for its strong wind.
The WKL will host at least five kiteboarding events throughout the world. Some of the various locations are still to be announced. They include a Big Air league which is new for 2017, along with the Freestyle Elite, Junior, and Qualifier leagues.
Alex calls this year the ‘decision year’ as there’s been a lot of changes that have taken place within the WKL. One of the biggest challenges is more sponsorship is required as the live stream and scoring board budget has increased.
Making changes and improvements takes time as well as extra money. There’s still a lot of work to be done to get the tour scheduled confirmed. Securing sponsorship is crucial to securing the planned events, yet the WKL remain positive.
The drive to win is always there. Alex is even more motivated to compete now the tour is back on track; the passion is clear to see. It’s all about training hard, and he’s been developing his trick repertoire in Brazil all winter. Recently the strong Levante wind of Tarifa, Spain has prepared him for Leucate.
Of course, training isn’t everything without the right gear. For seven years as an Airush pro, Alex works on improving the equipment he uses. He gives a great deal of input into the development and is always testing, giving direct feedback to the design team.
The biggest leap in development came with the Razor which Alex helped design since it’s conception. Being part of the testing and development process meant that even the smallest incremental changes took the Razor to perfection. It’s helped raise his riding level as a direct result.
The development of the first freestyle carbon board to the market now delivers more power and pop while keeping the board super lightweight. Over time the boots have also changed and now the articulating ‘flex zone’ means he can put more weight on his heels to go upwind better, yet has a lot of stiffness in the right places where needed.
The next design challenge is for Alex to fulfill his dream to find a way of making all sized kites feel the same, or even pull like a cable. Who’s to say that isn’t impossible; we’ll alway try.