Typically, the athletic field is populated with a group of individuals that roughly resemble one another and use the same basic approach with small stylistic tweaks to climb the ladder of sponsorship and competition. But every once in a while, an outlier comes along that completely breaks the mold and changes the game, and in Fred Hope’s case, skillfully taunts the boundaries of physics and the basic laws of nature. With a laidback and low-key style that is metered by analytical precision, Fred Hope has a good-natured outlook and a general commitment to pushing foilboarding’s boundaries with the baseline goal of having fun. Now midway through a marine biology degree at the University of Washington and fresh off his win at SuperFoil, kiteboarding’s
first world-caliber freestyle foil competition, Hope’s Jedi version of freeride foiling is not only setting the tone for the hoards flocking to the foil’s magic carpet ride but he is also commanding the direction of competition foiling. We caught up with Fred between his university exams to learn a bit more about the foiling line he’s taken.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START WITH KITEFOILING SPECIFICALLY?
I grew up living in Baja, Mexico, during the winters, and one of the days when it wasn’t windy enough to kite, I went out on a rowboat with a friend. While we were out there, Gabor Vagi zoomed right by us on one of the first foils. I immediately wanted to try it, so I put an ad in the La Ventana View, the town’s email newsletter chain, to see if I could borrow someone’s foil to give it a try. I was 16 at the time, and Dan Koff emailed me back saying he had one I could use. It had one of the original Carafino wings on the front, a homemade mast and a weird custom wing on the back, all bolted to a Wam surfboard. I weighed about 130lbs and the contraption weighed something like 45lbs so it was super awkward to get into the water. It took me a couple of times to get the hang of it—I kept finding myself way upwind, and the only way to get back downwind was to sit on the board and taxi it back down to where I started. It was awkward and unstable, but I immediately latched onto it because the foil was a great way to get more time on the water on those light wind days.
EARLY ON YOU BEGAN TO TURN HEADS AT THE BEACH. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE INITIAL INNOVATIONS YOU BROUGHT TO FOILING?
I began to start thinking about experimenting with stuff that you couldn’t do on any other kind of board. Jumping and backrolls were possible on a surfboard, so the search began for tricks that were unique to the foilboard. I started experimenting with the kite upwind of me, and I remember one of my friends asking me, “What is the plan with that?” At that point, I had no idea. I just wanted to see how far upwind of me I could get the kite.
At first, there was no plan to get the kite around me—I was just messing with the wind. Eventually, I would go so far that the kite would fall out of the sky, land in the water, and I would still be foiling. I began pumping when the kite would fall on the water, getting closer and closer to going all the way around the kite. Then I tried shorter, 10-meter lines on a homemade bar and that instantly changed the equation. I could foil around the kite while keeping the lines tensioned, and that became the around the world trick. When I transitioned back to regular 20-meter lines, I couldn’t maintain the tension, but I could position the kite just perfectly so that it would glide downwind while I went around the world. These became the two forms of the around the world that I have today… To read the rest of Fred Hope’s interview subscribe to Tkb Magazine.