20-year-old Andy Yates (AUS, Slingshot) started competing on the PKRA tour in 2009 but now in 2010 he’s already won his first Freestyle World Championship title and brings the crown “Down Under” for the first time in kiteboarding history.
16-year-old Gisela Pulido (ESP, Airush) wins the freestyle world championship title for the 3rd time and shows that she has fully recovered from her knee injury that threw her back in 2009.
Read on for an interview with the two new world champions !
Andy, being world champion in your second year is an amazing achievement. How do you feel about it?
Andy Yates: I was so over the moon when they announced me as the world champion and I feel so lucky and fortunate to have achieved that in my second year. When I started this year I had set the goal for a top three finish and now tie it up in 9 events out of 10 to be the world champion I just would not have thought in my wildest dreams that I would be able to do that so I am so, so happy about it and so relieved.
Gisela, how do you feel about securing the Freestyle World Championship title 2010 after the drawbacks of last season ?
Gisela Pulido: It is really good especially because I thought I was not going to win this year. All the other girls had a really high level and I was not 100% good and coming out of an injury. I started in Thailand hoping to end up on the podium and then I actually won the event. That is when I realized that maybe there is a chance for me to win this year. I am very, very happy about this season.
You have won so many events, you are very dominant in the female freestyle competitions. Does this become boring and how do you keep motivated when you are on the top?
Gisela Pulido: No, it is not boring. Karolina (Winkowska) is a very, very strong rider and just won in New Caledonia. It is very difficult to keep winning and you have to be motivated all the time. This year I started really good and then got a bit too relaxed and only got 3rd in Fuerteventura which made me focus more again. It is never boring and this year has been the most difficult one so far.
Andy, you have only been kiting for 5 years and have improved incredibly fast. When did you realize that a World Title would be achievable for you?
Andy Yates: It was my dream and I looked up to it and thought that I would definitely want to achieve that sometime in the future. I always felt it was in my reach to do it and I worked hard and put all my afford into achieving my dream. Really only at the first event this year (in Thailand), when I beat Kevin Langeree who was the 2009 World Champion, I thought – o.k. I can definitely be a world champion at some point.
When you started kiteboaring did you already think – I want to be good at this?
Andy Yates: When I started I did not really think to take it any further but after a few months I started to pursue the Australian scene and competitions and did pretty well. That is when I thought, “hang on, maybe this is something I should think about”. So ever since I started to compete this is what I wanted to do.
Gisela, how do you keep motivated to go at it over and over again, train hard and stay focused on competitions and are you motivated to keep going for many more years to come?
Gisela Pulido: My dad helps me a lot because when I am not motivated he sends me out and keeps me focused. On the other side I do the same thing with him and so we are a great team. It is good to have a father and a friend at the same time that travels with you all the time and that can coach you during the competitions. Luckily I don’t get very unmotivated because kiting is just a lot of fun for me.
And sure, yes, I like competing a lot and am really motivated to keep going for many years.
Do you have a routine that you go through in your heats and that helps you to win against the other girls?
Gisela Pulido: Yes, in a way. I start with the easier tricks and go to the more difficult ones and then rotate back and forth between easier and more difficult ones. I also write down the tricks I want to do so I can memorize them and don’t forget what to do during the heat.
Andy, what about you, do you do any training outside of kiteboarding when there is no wind and how do you prepare for the competitions?
Andy Yates: I occasionally go for a bikeride or maybe I swim the pool but I find that if I am having fun I train way better and so I just surf, paddleboard or kitesurf whenever it is windy– that’s perfect for me.
Every session at home is a serious session for me and I got to do this and every session I want to improve. Sometimes I feel like I have to do this and feel really funny if I don’t do it. When all my friends are out doing one footers and stuff and I am on the other side just focusing on my tricks then sometimes it takes a little bit away from the fun maybe. But it is fine and it is much better than working in another way.
And do you actually get nervous before your heats and if yes, does that help you to focus better?
Gisela Pulido: I get nervous, especially in the finals. You need to do as good as possible and that makes you nervous. But I listen to some music and I just motivate myself and then I go full power in the heat. If you are not nervous you are too relaxed and might not show the judges what they want to see in the heat so I think it is good to be a bit nervous.
Do you do any physical exercise other than kiting that helps you to perform at your best during the season?
Gisela Pulido: Yes, I do a lot of physical training, it is very important for me. Running keeps me fit and helps me especially in light wind competitions. I also do some gymnastics, yoga and stretching that keeps me fit.
In addition to physical training, do you have a special diet?
Gisela Pulido: I try to keep a healthy diet but it is really difficult when I am traveling around the world. Wherever I am they have all those nice things to eat and I love to eat “picanas” (big steak) when I am in Brazil and to go to Hungry Jacks when I am here in Australia for example. But when I am back home in Spain then I eat really healthy.
Finally, when you are not competing on the tour, where do you train?
Gisela Pulido: I was going to school in Tarifa until now and was training there every day after school. Now I just started online school and can travel and do my school and homework when there is no wind. It is great and this winter I might actually go to the Philippines or Australia to train.
Andy and Gisela, thank you very much for this interview and congratulations again to your 2010 freestyle world titles !
Interview by Kristin Boese