3 years ago, F-One launched the Next Generation Team. The principle is simple: their goal is to help young talents. F-One provides sponsorship to young kitesurfers with big potential in order to help them grow in the sport and guide them in becoming a professional kiter. To accompany them as much as possible, F-One has decided to organize a Next Generation trip on a yearly basis with riders from all over the world who are supported directly by F-One or by their distributors or retailers.
Next Generation team rider Tom Seager explained, “The way the Next Generation camps work is that you have to be an F-One rider and under 18. You then send in a video and some photos, along with a bit about what tricks you are doing and what you want to learn. I did this in December and then waited to hear back. I was excited about hearing back, but a little anxious as I really wanted to go and knew only about ten kids actually get picked. I was one of the lucky ones!”
Around eleven young promising kids, ages 10 to 17 years old, were selected to participate in this 2015 training camp in Fuerteventura with Etienne Lhote, a former pro-rider who is now coaching and sharing his experiences with today’s kite youth. In 2013, the team went to Dakhla, in 2014, to Tarifa, and this year, they discovered the gorgeous Canarias Island of Fuerteventura. On this trip, the kids learn the technical aspects of the sport including competition rules, gear preparation, what kind of gear to use and when, physical preparation, nutrition and more. Coach Etienne also emphasizes stretching and how to preserve the body. The group would also run video debriefings every day so that the kids can see what they were doing, recognize what they were doing right or wrong in their tricks and consequently fix their problems and improve with Etienne’s advice. Etienne acts as a great mentor, following them all year round through videos they sent him and attending their major competitions. There’s a lot to being a professional kiteboarder other than performing impressive tricks. Etienne also teaches the Next General Team how to communicate, how to create videos and gives them tips promoting themselves on social media networks. Through this global approach, this group of young aspiring riders are confronted with everything a professional kitesurfer needs to succeed.
This year’s team saw a very cosmopolitan group of youngsters all of various ages! Let’s begin the presentation. Two really young riders of barely 10 years old, Evan Drye from the United States and Mikaili Sol from Brazil were really impressive for their young age, riding in strong wind and never tiring. Same could be said about two other younger kids of 11 years old, Tom Seager from the United Kingdom and Oscar Perrineau of France. These two displayed great commitment, showing they were not afraid to make big jumps and tricks. Just a little older at 13 years of age, Javier Jimenez of Spain and Maxime Chabloz from Switzerland were pushing the riding level and displaying the experience they’d already gathered at some national and international competitions. 15-year-old Lazare Gournay from France has a great style and a professional approach that can be seen through the videos and pictures he regularly posts. The classy and smiley Kilian Blumberg hails from Munich, Germany and enjoys every session on the water. At 16-years-old he has a unique style and loves big airs, much like his French friend, Lucas Tarin. Lastly, the oldest and most experienced boys were both 17 years in age, Jop Heemskerk of Holland is an ace at video editing and Nicolas Delmas of France is currently following a specific kiting study program, showing a radical style and extremely high level.
Venturing from around the world, this entire group arrived in Fuerteventura on February 13th and stayed there until the 21st. They were hosted by F-One distributor Manu and his wife Edith, who welcomed them warmly with some generous and tasty meals for these young but big eaters.
For these kids, the trip is a great opportunity to be in such a unique atmosphere with so many young riders from around the world, all sharing the same passion for the sport of kiteboarding. It’s motivating for them to grow stronger and push their limits. Not only does it teach the young riders about the technical aspects of the sport and rules of competition, but also teaches them the mental and physical preparation they will need to compete at the next level. Etienne shows the team every aspect a professional rider should master to perform and puts them into realistic situations in order to be ready when the day comes. The trip is a great winter preparation for the European Junior Cup, the Junior PKRA and the national competitions that every one of the team members will face in the upcoming year.
Etienne ended up managing an intensive week as “Fuerte” delivered some solid conditions and provided them with a perfect week! The team had everything they could have ever wanted: wind, sun and fun!
When they arrived on the first day, they spent some time familiarizing themselves with the new location, their accommodation and the swimming pool! They were impressed by the unusual volcano landscapes and incredibly happy to discover some new kite spots. The team couldn’t contain their excitement and were on the water by end of this first afternoon. They hit the water in Flag Beach where everyone had unique reactions. The Europeans, especially Jop (from Holland) and Kilian (from Munich) found the water and air to be really hot whereas Evan from New Orleans and the Brazilian, Mikaili, actually found the water to be incredibly cold! For Mikaili it was her first time in a wetsuit, let alone traveling out of her country to kite! Actually, it was also the first time she wore closed shoes and pants! What an experience for her. Interestingly enough, she said, “It is cool to wear a wetsuit because when I crash it does not hurt so much”.
On the second day, the plan was established for the whole week. The routine was set as follows: wake up for breakfast at 8am, followed by a morning kite session before lunch, and then a second session in the afternoon and some stretching or physical training to wrap-up the activities. After dinner, in case they had some energy left in them, picture reviews and video debriefings were in the cards. What an intensive schedule for this young bunch of kids!
One of the highlights of the week must have been the photo shoot organized with professional photographer, Gilles Calvet. This was a first for almost all of these up-and-coming riders! The shoot was set first in the beautiful Cotillo Lagoon before heading for the small village of Majanico. They also hiked on one of the volcanos to discover the incredible landscapes of Fuerteventura. Finding it challenging, the kids learned how tricky it can be to jump near to the photographer while smiling and looking at the camera and getting the right sun exposure. 11-year-old Oscar said, “We were so lucky! Our first photo shoot just for us! Gilles explained everything to us but it’s not so easy. Your jump has to be not so far, when the sun shines and with a smile… But it was really nice and we enjoyed a lot of funny crashes!”
Almost everyday, Etienne organized mock competitions. He would plan heats and applying the same rules that the young athletes would be confronted with in true competitions. This has proved as a great way to show them the conditions, including the stress and heavy preparation that they will face in bigger events. Some of these competitions were based on old school tricks with foot-straps and others on freestyle tricks like in the European Junior Cup or Junior PKRA. The young athletes were confronted to differing conditions throughout the week: the wind was blowing around 30 to 35 knots for most of the their trip, so 20 knot winds were really appreciated when the conditions lightened a bit.
The trip really was a fantastic experience for these up-and-coming young kiters. They were able to learn on so many levels, all the way from the technical side of kiting to fostering important human relationships. Being together and sharing the common passion they have for kiting has helped to them to push their limits and try new tricks. Jop explained, “After the kite session, Etienne organized some yoga and sophrology exercises. He asked us to imagine the trick we want to learn. We had to visualize the trick in our mind to help us to do it after on the water. I thought to my KGB. At one point, you get relaxed and don’t ever think to the reality, you just see the trick you want to learn in your thoughts. But on the water it helped a lot!” Etienne’s solid advice from everything including gear, rules, concentration, and relaxation is key to their progression and they can continue to count on him after the trip to follow up throughout the year with video reviews and support. What a life to be living for those future pro-riders during the Next Generation camp! Be sure to keep an eye out for them on the magazine covers as they progress into fine professional athletes.
PHOTOS: Gilles Calvet