GPT30464 - The Mission: EYES ON THE PRIZE

With their eyes set firmly on the 2024 Olympic Games, Roderick Pijls and Sam Aben have been training hard with their Dutch team mates, and recently headed to Tarifa for a kitefoiling training camp. This might be all about competition, but they had fun in the process, and even threw some surfing and winging in the mix.

Photos: Koko Fotografia

After a successful kitefoiling training camp in Valencia in the autumn of 2020, it was clear that we wanted to continue this progression. We consider ourselves to be spontaneous, and as often happens, the decision was made only a week in advance to train for two weeks in Tarifa. We trained, along with the rest of Kite Foil Team Nederland, for Olympic kitefoiling. In short, we race as fast as possible over the ocean with the most advanced hydrofoils and foil kites towards an upwind mark, round it and then race downwind towards the finish line.

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After several PCR tests, checks and interrogations from border control, we arrived in Tarifa, drove to the supermarket to buy some food for the night and checked in at our accommodation. We couldn’t wait for the sun to rise, as the conditions were looking promising for the next couple of days. Over the course of the two weeks we usually started the day with some work and school time (Sam is currently in his final year at high school), but on the days with good forecasts we were itching to get on the water at 9am and therefore skipped school and work! On average we had a racing session of two or three hours, and if the wind was still good we added a wave or wing session afterwards. Unfortunately Tarifa is not like Brazil with its guaranteed wind, and we had some days without wind, not even six knots which would have been enough to race with. On these days we grabbed our surfboard and surf foil board and hit the waves. We were actually quite surprised how much fun Tarifa can be for surfing – everybody knows that this place has some amazing kiting conditions, but it is also highly recommended for prone surfing.

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We had a variety of conditions over the two weeks – everything from six to 30 knots, with the ocean as flat as a lake, to proper swell days. To excel in all these different conditions a lot of training is needed – the 10,000 hours theory comes into play here. Before we started racing we were already real all-round riders in Big Air, wave riding and freestyle, and lately both addicted to wingsurfing. This is without a doubt where our strength lies compared to others. Perhaps the most important thing in racing is that you know how to adapt yourself well to the conditions. Due to our experience in waves, we can read the swell well and thus find the fastest and most efficient way between the peaks and troughs of the swell – if the wave height is more than a meter you can’t just race straight ahead. There are certain aspects from winging that can be used in racing – winging in light wind is super physical; it is one large cardio machine. But there is another big similarity between winging, windsurfing and racing, which is how to read the gusts in the wind and to make sure you are able to catch and make use of all these gusts as efficiently as possible. Thanks to the Big Air discipline you learn to kite overpowered and this is also an advantage for kitefoiling. In short, we try to bring all our skills from the different disciplines together in kitefoiling and thus have an advantage over our competitors.

Looking back, we are both very satisfied with the progress we made in racing on the trip. Furthermore, we had an awesome time and our stomach muscles ached from laughter. We think there is strength in a good team, both on and off the water. If you can train together and have great fun in the process, it becomes easy to improve and push each other. Roll on 2024.

This feature originally appeared in TheKiteMag #41. To read the full issue, subscribe here.

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