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On the Road and On the Loose
By Paul Lang
After the end of last year’s PKRA tour, five-time world champion Aaron Hadlow announced that he wouldn’t be returning for the 2010 season. His good friend Ruben Lenten had stepped away from the competition scene a few years before and they decided to work together on a plan to travel the world while shooting episodes of their own TV show, On the Loose. With support from Red Bull, One the Loose is now shown on the air in certain parts of Europe and is bringing not just kiteboarding action, but the kiteboarding lifestyle to millions of homes. Webisodes are available to watch at www.ontheloose.tv. We caught up with Aaron (Azza, as Ruben calls him) and Ruben while they were in the Phillipines for the Wind or No Wind Board Jam where they talked about their travels around the world, where the sport is heading, and Ruben gave us a little insight to the S-Loop, a stalled megaloop where the kite changes direction at the bottom of the loop, a move that he has yet to pull off.
How did On the Loose get started? Are there a certain number of shows you are going to do, or will you two be at it for as long as you can?
Aaron: While I was still competing, Ruben came up with a concept that was a more in-depth personal video series that showed all the other things that come with traveling the world kitboarding, not just the action. I first got involved when we shot during the off-season in Cape Town — that was our first season where we really learnt a lot. I was competing for the following six months before we met again but this time I was able to film in Cape Town and then for the rest of the season as I was no longer on the circuit. It was the obvious thing to do, join up with Ruben and the Red Bull Media House and take it to a higher level. This season we made seven TV episodes that were divided into short versions for the web. Next season we’re aiming to step up the production, stories, and whole general show. We want to make it so people are hooked and are already looking forward to the following week for the next episode.
Ruben: In 2008 I came up with the idea to give people a better view of our lives as pro kiteboarders. In the beginning it was very basic and we didn’t really have a storyline going or anything. Ryan Gaw was hanging out with us and captured the fun and crazy things Azza and I were up to during our season in Cape Town. Sometimes this was testing our new gear, or we’d have a photo shoot, go wakeboarding, or just other fun lifestyle stuff and of course the good kiteboarding sessions got captured! Red Bull hooked me up with a budget and supported the start of On the Loose. My mates over at Creative Monkeys created a nice website where I’d keep people up to date with the latest photos, travel blogs, and of course a number of webisodes. The first season was actually broadcast in Holland on 101TV. After a while the Red Bull Media House in Austria contacted me with some good news: They wanted to pick up On the Loose. It’s been awesome and we’ve filmed like seven 26-minute shows. We’ve had some epic trips and we’ve really got a good crew together. Our good mate William Milne is the official camera man and Julian Kirchner is the producer who comes on some trips with us. We also had Susi Mai and Bruna Kajiya in some of the episodes which was good fun and shows that chicks can shred too. We’re planning another season for next year and from there we’ll hopefully step it up every year.
What kind of exposure have you got? What is this show doing for the sport of kiteboarding?
A: This year it went really well, as it was getting loads of views online and it was posted all over the Red Bull websites and Red Bull TV. Also, with their help it went on air on their TV channel in German speaking countries. I think the show is much more interesting for the general public compared to the videos of the latest action I used to post online. Those videos were cool, but only understood by a certain number of people. Now we get to show what traveling and kiteboarding is all about and show our personalities, the culture, and still fill the action with the sickest tricks. I think it’s pretty funny and entertaining already and it’s only going to get better.
R: Exposure–wise, things are being stepped up as well. With Red Bull Media House taking care of the production and distribution, the show has made it to Servus TV which is broadcasting in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to around 23 million households. As for next year we’ll hopefully get On the Loose on channels in the UK and Holland. It should spread all over the world sometime… We’ve got a lot of footage, so a DVD or highlight video will get edited too! This just takes awhile as we’re on the road most of the time and need to sit down and go through all the footage. We’re filming another season right now, so hopefully next year we’ll get both seasons on some more channels across the globe. It’s not only kiteboarding people that find it interesting and can relate with the show, so it definitely brings kiteboarding to a more mainstream audience, which is great. It’s a super fun sport to do and enjoyable in many different ways, so I’m more than stoked I get to promote this in such wide areas.
It’s obvious that the two of you spend a lot of time together traveling. Do you ever get sick of each other?
A: No not really, we always make the most of what we are doing and try to have the most fun. Even when we get a bad deal we end up laughing about it most of the time. We think alike despite our different personalities, so everything usually runs smoothly.
R: Ha-ha, it’s actually crazy. When I think about it, I’ve actually traveled with Azza for the past 10 years or so. He’s like a brother to me for sure. Never get sick of that dude, ever! It’s pretty cool though, as we totally understand each other and have pretty similar visions. We’ve both got our own things going on but also get to do some awesome trips together. The best laughs and good times happen on a regular basis.
Aaron, how do you feel about your decision to step away from the PKRA? What do you think about the state of the tour? Do you miss being on tour?
I think it was the right decision. I really enjoyed myself this year and found a new motivation. I had done the tour for years and it was too similar every year to keep on going. 2009 only had four events and the points changed depending on the prize money for each event. This year there were more events so hopefully next season will be even better with more funding so the points don’t have to change at any of the events. To be honest, I haven’t missed competing as much as I thought I would. I have enjoyed progressing with a different style and at the end of the day learning is what I enjoy the most. For sure it’s weird making my own schedule and promoting myself in a different way, but every trip is exciting and now I get to see some new parts of the world and learn about business and that’s what I am enjoying at the moment.
Ruben, in the episode in Hood River, you were obviously bummed about not making the finals at the Ro Sham Throw Down. How do you feel about competitions in general?
I wasn’t really bummed I guess as comps for me are just for fun now. I don’t take it too serious, but I enjoy riding together with all the other riders. As you know my ankle has been giving me quite some trouble so I haven’t been able to ride as much as I want to, but I’m still doing lots of other things to stay fit and on top of my game. Besides riding I just love promoting kiteboarding, spreading the stoke, and working on new gear. On The Loose requires some time to run smoothly as well, so I keep busy for sure! I’m more than happy with my decision to quit competing on the tour, as it was time to move on. It wasn’t so much fun for me anymore. Traveling to random places and having to ride shitty conditions to throw your millionth handlepass inside a box within a certain amount of time just got old. Now with the wakestyle side of the sport progressing a lot, I really enjoy that. I love hitting rails and I enjoy the freeride format events like the Triple-S and Wind or No Wind Board Jam that really let you have the freedom and stoke with all the other riders. It’s cool to try and impress your mates, that way everybody pushes it to the max!
How do you feel about the rising wakestyle movement? Is this the way the sport is headed, or is this just the current trend?
A: I think the wakestyle movement is heading in the right direction. It’s not for everyone, but if the pinnacle of the sport is about doing handle pass tricks then we may as well be smooth and stylish by using more body movement opposed to kite movement, adding grabs, and getting really technical. I think boots can be good for this in the right conditions because I’ve found you can load more, pop more, and take harder landings. This has potential to progress all of our current freestyle tricks eventually. Also adding sliders and kickers adds a new dimension and this has room to grow and progress too. Then there’s the high wind side of the sport. This is the more extreme aspect that attracts new people and catches the eye of the public. There’s a lot of risk and still a lot of room for innovation, but riding in high wind is not possible all the time. At the end of the day for me it’s about learning new things and trying to progress the sport. I find this way the most fun and enjoyable and that’s when new things come to mind.
R: Yeah the wakestyle side of the sport has been developing nicely the last few years. It’s something you’ve got to understand. Nothing is right or wrong when you’re kiteboarding as long as you’re having fun. What we’re trying with wakestyle moves is to make our sport look more stylish and to really perform the tricks clean and powerful. This is pretty hard and we’re all still learning every day. The sport is still young, but this is definitely going to be one of the main disciplines of our sport. This is how I see it, when the wind is strong, I go pull some big mega loops. Then when the wind is a bit lighter I love to go hit some rails or throw down in boots. All the gear is getting better and better for that as well. It takes time, but a proper move in boots looks and feels pretty dope! So get your shred on…
Ruben, how close are you to pulling off the S-Loop? What are the conditions you need to pull it off?
The S-loop is going to get nailed in Cape Town this winter. I just need to be in the zone, have my gear tuned properly, and have the perfect conditions. I’ll wait for a sunset session with 50 knots and big kickers, then think F@&# it and go for it. Maybe it should be called the F-loop, as that’s the only way you going to pull it off! I just need to get up to at least 15 meters, rather 20, then I’ll have enough time to deal with it. Or there will be a big wipe out as result, hopefully making the crash section in the video…
How do you guys decide where to travel to shoot On the Loose? Do you have arguments about where to go?
A: Usually we are on the same page and want to go to the same places. We sometimes have different ideas but come together to find the most fun trips and something that works for both of us. We are always looking for new cool places to visit with a little more purpose than just to kite. Maybe there is an event, road trip, promo event, or something to do with a different sport we would like to try, either way it will always be exciting.
R: Together with Red Bull we discuss our goals and our plans. This way we can travel where we need to go. There’s always something we’ve got to do, like getting invited to a contest like the Triple-S or the Wind or No Wind Board Jam in the Philippines. It’s cool, it just works out. To give you a little run down of what’s coming up on our schedule, we’ve got: Philippines, Cape Town, Mozambique, a boat trip in the Caribbean, and after that we’ll see what’s next. With a schedule like that, life can’t be that bad…
Be sure to check out http://www.ontheloose.tv to watch the webisodes from the first two seasons of On the Loose.