The Word Kiteboarding League world tour has kicked off its second season with a cracking first event in Leucate.
North team rider Stefan Spiessberger has previously spoken about the physiological barriers he has encountered during competition, but following his outstanding performance in France which saw him take 4th place, it seems that they might be a thing of the past.
The WKL is now in its second season. How’s the overall vibe and what updates can we expect to see this year?
It’s going great so far and this event was really good start to what’s set to be an exciting season! We’ve been competing in Leucate for many years now on various tours, but this year is definitely a big step up. The event was sick and it has never been more fun to compete than it is right now.
What are your thoughts on the format?
I think that the format is starting to work really well. Not only is it easy for spectators to follow, but it makes competing interesting and fun. It also presents the opportunity for tactics to come into play. You have to be smart and know what risks you need to take in order to get the scores you need. It’s a refreshing format and it’s made competing exciting again.
How are the conditions in Leucate and what are the biggest challenges competitors face?
There’s no doubt that Leucate is the hardest spot on the tour. You’ve got to have your whole quiver (7m-13m) pumped and ready to go as the conditions can change in an instant, so it’s wise to be prepared for absolutely everything! To win heats here, you need to be able to switch off your brain and not think about the ‘what if.’ What if I get hit by a 35 knot gust during take off, what if the wind drops etc. It all looks so calm in the media, but this spot can be gnarly!
In the past you’ve spoken about the physiological barriers you encounter in competition. Making it all the way through to the finals, you’ve obviously come a long way. How is your mind set now, and what have you been working on?
Over the past few years I’ve really turned my perspective on competition around. I used to get so tense and be super, super focused to the point it where it became negative. That mindset and approach really didn’t work out well for me. Now I just try to have fun and enjoy the place I’m in. Deep down I know that my level of freeriding is good enough to get me to a final, and that’s what I rely on during my heats. Now competition is enjoyable.
How do you prepare yourself for a heat?
For me, the most important thing is to be comfortable with the size of kite I’m going to use. In the lead up to the event here in France, I spent a lot of time riding my smaller kites so I was super happy riding a 7m and 8m Vegas in my heats.
What tips do you have for creating the ultimate freestyle setup?
Put your settings on low depower. It might feel a bit weird at first, but you will feel much more comfortable during your tricks once you get used to it. I also ride almost every kite on the slow steering setting.
How do you manage adrenaline and energy when the heat is on?
I’ve started to use that energy to my advantage. If I see another guy doing a big trick and the crowd is cheering, it fires me up! If I know I need a high score on the last trick attempt, I also get fired up which gives me the confidence to pull it off even if it is the last chance. Getting fired up is exactly what I need.
Do you have a competition sequence?
I don’t have a trick list, but I do have some tricks that I know will score well without taking too much risk. I like to start a heat off with those ones and put points on the board. This also helps build confidence. If I’m in a good position halfway through the heat, then I’ll start having a go at the more risky ones.
What was your highlight of the competition?
That S-Mobe 5 Melon Grab in the semis which carried me though to the final. Before that trick I needed to score a high 6 in order to overtake Aaron Hadlow. I know that if I could really lock in and hold on to that grab which isn’t seen too often during heats, then I would get the judges attention and be rewarded with the score. The landing was a bit sketchy and I wasn’t really sure if I’d got it. When I saw I’d gotten a 7.2 I was unbelievably stoked!
This article was updated on July 16, 2019.