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What’s love got to do with it?

It’s a big deal for our oh-so-nichey sport when a kiter winds up on the TV, particularly back in 2008 when the sport was in its oh-so-exciting infancy. Way back in the day, when we used jumpers for goalposts, our friend Murray Smith ended up on series two of the BBC’s seminal reality TV work, Last Man Standing, proudly branded as a ‘kitesurfer’. Highlights included him battering a fellow contestant with a seven-foot-long pole, in a borderline culturally misappropriated Ethiopian Donga ceremony that probably wouldn’t wash in our now more enlightened times. The boy did well though, narrowly missing the win in an emotionally charged canoe-based finale, but did a fabulous job representing our sport, although ultimately losing to a boxer from London.

Post his reality TV experience, he was promised further fame and riches, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for Muzza) absolutely tap all ever came of it. You’ll be glad to hear he now lives happily with his family on a farm near Dartmouth, and as a testament to his endeavor, Murray has been permanently etched on my phone contacts as “Murray off the Telly”. All in all, it’s a happy ending for Murray.

Here we are, 15 years later, in the same situation with young Edgar Ulrich on Love Island. In that timespan, and with the terrifying evolution of social media, reality TV has morphed into something far more complex than twatting each other with big sticks or some casual Indian mud wrestling. Luckily Colin has applied some vigorous psychoanalysis to the situation to help the more world-weary among us make some sort of sense of it all. Unlike Murray though, Edgar only went and won it…

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It’s basically musical chairs except, for the women, you have to sit down on a perverted Frenchman. Mind numbing and purely primitive, Love Island holds a mirror up to modern society’s idea of love. Or at least, it does for those trying to sound intelligent whilst writing an article on it.

Once upon a time in June 2023, Edgar Ulrich took a step into the unknown. For the first time in kite history [Ed: fact checking please Colin], a C-grade pro rider appeared on an ever-popular reality TV show, Love Island. Will he live happily ever after in a cocoon of love and Instagram endorsement deals, or should we pre-order his therapy sessions?

When I heard the news, and received a tirade of screenshots of Edgar Ulrich dancing alone in a wetsuit in a TV studio, it dawned on me that you should never meet your heroes. They’ll let you down. Unless it’s Aaron Hadlow of course. Always meet him. Few times a week if possible. But our boy Edgar, who is regarded in the kiting world as a wealthy-but-nice and pretty-talented-chap, had fallen foul to the lure of the lights of fame and Instagram fortune.

Whilst he was on Love Island, his friend Andrea Principi became World Champion for the second time, and the first Triple Loop was landed by Lorenzo Casati. In Big Air, 10 weeks is a very long time. Edgar, who is/was known for his distinctive style – keeping his board off for the majority of the trick, and for the way he fully flips into his boogie and doobie loops – his are more like an airborne roly poly – and it’s quite sick – he is/was on track to be a big name in Big Air.

But the thought of those $1500-for-a-tagged-post deals had proven too much for our boy. So he signed himself up to French Love Island. He waltzed in there, thinking that this was his big moment. And as someone who has made a living out of examining pro kiteboarders’ more questionable decisions, I have never clicked on anything faster. To this day, I have never received more messages of encouragement about a series. So I tuned in. Everyday. For an hour.

Let’s be honest. Edgar’s first few days on Love Island were rough. On a show where it is vital to place your bet on the right horse, he picked a dud. Pernelle, despite the obvious Freudian attraction of looking like his sister, turned out to be not a horse, but a one-eyed Shetland pony. Cute from a distance, however up close she’s got quite the kick. And has hairy feet. She immediately pitted our boy Edgar against Issam in a dance off (don’t ask). This would have been fine if it wasn’t for Issam’s unbelievably smooth hips, which seemed to resonate in perfect rhythm with Pernelle’s idea of what a man should be: tall, groomed and emotionally stunted.

So in episode four, our boy Edgar is left without a chair when the music turned off. And there he was. Vulnerable. Single. Alone, in a semi-circle around the Love Island campfire, being condescended to by the show’s presenter. And if it wasn’t for Cindy-The-Savior, things could have been very short-lived for our boy Edgar. Which to some, might have been a blessing, but then he would never have gained 30k followers and cried 5+ times on national TV, would he? And what a great shame that would have been. Cindy saved the day, giving Edgar a lifeline and on a few inappropriate occasions (such as at lunch), an erection.

For the following six weeks, Edgar and Cindy-The-Savior experienced what we are all taught is romantic bliss: where you both pretend to be someone you are absolutely not in order to please the other party because you’d much rather be that than be single and therefore logically lonely and miserable for the rest of your dull, insignificant life.

This phenomenon, as we all know, is a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps the equivalent of a 40knot gust. Which, as we also all know, is something of a treat for our boy Edgar, who simply sheets in and megaloops his way into the good books of the voting French public.

He saw off threats from the likes of conventional-Camilla and basically anyone that came into his vicinity, no doubt allured by his sexy status as a ‘kitesurfer’. Mmmmm. They enter the tacky villa, dressed head to toe in cheap Chinese fast fashion, make a lunge for our boy, who nobly rejects them in the name of true love for Cindy, whilst soaring to the top of the opinion polls. He was even voted ‘Sexiest’ on Love Island. This is (by a long, long way if you check his past performances in the GKA and KOTA) surely the height of his professional career.

In fact, the following weeks of Edgar and Cindy’s life together were so plainly uneventful that my translator, who I hired to wade through the dystopian swamp that is French Love Island, informed me in week seven that she’d had enough. “I can’t and won’t do it any longer. It has numbed me beyond repair. My mind is smooth, like a pebble.”

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I said perhaps I could use it to pave my driveway. That terminated the agreement we had, and I was once again left to fend for myself, watching copious hours of dopey 20-somethings trying to shag each other, intermingled with some toxic advertisement for skin creams and anything that the pharmaceutical companies can convince vain people that they ‘need’.

When watching such extreme quantities of the show, you’d be forgiven for thinking that love is really all we need. For upon the island, it is essential for survival. Without a dependable companion, you’re dead meat. Dedicate enough of your waking hours watching this show, and this notion starts to sink in. Without love, there’s nothing. It is life’s fulfillment. It is the most important thing. Which sounds, at first glance, quite innocent. Nice, even. But its subtext is: if you don’t find love, you’re doomed. Put simply: Being single is wrong. Don’t be a wrong’un.

This is what the western world tells you about love if you’ve grown up any time after the late 1800s:

• Love is something that should be based off of instinct – that instinctive feeling of excitement you get about someone. Hence “love at first sight”.

• If you properly love someone, you shouldn’t ever dare even think about sex with anyone else other than your partner.

• When in love, everything should be totally mint. Your partner should be like “wow, you’re awesome” about everything. Love is all encompassing and should pave over all cracks. Even if you’re awful, you should be accepted, whole.

The above points are the basis of ‘Romanticism’. Which a couple of soppy blokes came up with back in the day. These wetties wrote their soppy trite in reaction to the perception of love at the time: as a means for future prosperity. Marriage was for the fortification of funds. Marry to share fields and cows. Here, lovely, sweet daughter of mine, you know that farmy neighbor who likes sniffing seats? You’re marrying him! Yippee!

So you can see why the words of the wetties caught on. But the ramifications of their ideas are felt all around us today. None more so than when we watch Love Island France. Where our boy Edgar battled away on the romantic battlefield. Without a helmet.

But Colin, surely it is possible, on Love Island, to choose a partner based on their character. You know. Their spirit. Not just the size of their sexual appeal. Now now, young reader, you are forgetting that these contestants are picked specifically for their lack of personality. Otherwise the show wouldn’t work. If they were choosing each other based on their capacity for kindness, it would be catastrophic. Everything would break. For the same reason, the newly introduced characters get better and better looking. Edgar was in the first batch. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that.

The show toys with these rules of romanticism. It actively encourages love at first sight (a), and uses infidelity (b) to inject drama. C (the idea that love should be perfect) is there to justify the ‘cheating’. Love Island knows that it is only human to break B. Love Island knows that we know this. What is interesting is that the show is promoting the idea that love should be perfect, whilst showing in plain sight that it isn’t. The contestants are perfect people, in a perfect villa, with perfect chest hair and perfect bikini lines. They form couples based on lust. And if it is anything less than 100% perfect between them, they jump ship. Because that is what we are taught love should be. Perfect. And you need to be perfect, to justify it. No pressure.

Let’s imagine being in there. Living this gamified version of romanticism. What mental strength you’d have to find within yourself to survive in this environment. It is about as toxic as it gets – you’re surrounded by alpha males beating their chests, each vying for position within a hyper sexual hierarchy, competing within the walls of the villa and the rules of Romanticism. Surrounded by perfectionism. And for the women, the show provides a thinly veiled attempt to meet 2023’s requirements for equality – they are carted out on a platter for the men to choose, but thereafter, the men are the focus of the show’s desire to reduce them all to objects. It is the men who do the majority of the humiliating tasks. Only once have the women had to parade around in swimwear, doing something provocative and overtly objectifying.

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This hostile environment is totally livable and perhaps even enjoyable, if your brain has limited capacity for thought. But our boy Edgar proved himself in there. Which is brave when you consider the forces upon him. He was happy to laugh at himself, happy to play the fool and equally happy to show the chinks in his armor. He broke down on multiple occasions, and generally showed himself to be far too emotionally intelligent to be in there. He is a sensitive soul, and this is ultimately what won over the hearts of the French public.

So when Cindy-The-Savior openly admits that she finds one of the newly introduced contestants knee-wobblingly attractive, and Edgar all but vomits at the thought of betrayal and the potential of being alone once more (single=wrong’un), he has a meltdown. Oh Edgar, remember that Love Island is a game. And that Cindy, in firming up her options or romantic backup plans, is playing it. Because if the music stops, and some other tyrant has made a successful lunge for your partner, you’re done. You need options. This is the premise of Love Island. To challenge the strength of the relationships between these vacuous people.

But you can’t help but think, when you see him in tears, that maybe it is dawning on him: that the whole thing is a load of crock. Is he having an existential panic, confused by what we’ve been told about love? Has he seen through the veil of lust, desire and monogamy and is spiraling out of the control of the producers and what the show represents, and growing into a more emotionally mature human being? Are we watching in real time, our boy Edgar, evolve into an Edgar 2.0?

Now, I am aware that you are aware that I’m overcooking this for comic effect, and maybe his thoughts aren’t as profound as the ones I’m projecting onto him, as a 21-year-old. But I do believe that his time in Love Prison will have changed him, forever. How could being that close to the human use of lust for commercial reasons not change you? He was in direct contact with our culture’s manipulation of primitive sexual attraction. He was on the front line of love-for-money: competing for 10 weeks in a show designed to retain your attention long enough to satisfy the sponsors. Promoting ‘love’ in order to instill a fear of loneliness into all that come near it, in order to sell stuff to them. Single? Sort your sh*t out! Quickly! Otherwise you’re going to be doomed! Oh, and use this cream.

Are the producers of Love Island actually geniuses, who have created this show in order for us to question our perception of love? Is it in fact, a perfectly modern challenge to Romanticism? Somewhat of a slap to the face of the wetties from back in the day? Absolutely not. I’m pretty sure they’ve merely worked out a good way to glue people to a screen, using what is effectively swimwear clickbait and the human interest in gossip and lust. They are due no credit whatsoever. Edgar, on the other hand, is due some. He was surprisingly likeable and showed the sort of spirit that should be applauded considering the context.

By promoting toxic vanity, at the cost of his own dignity, he has accidentally undone the show by having multiple meltdowns on national TV. He is, and his involvement in French Love Island is, a credit to kiteboarding. I mean – he even put his 9m in the pool on ‘Nautical Night’.

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