There’s a lot that goes into winning prestigious kiteboarding events… hours of hard work and time on the water, but not many people think about the team that backs those athletes. The person who pumps the kites, runs up the beach and helps swap them out so that the athlete can preserve his/her energy and get ready for their next heat. Hayden Jonas, the 23-year-old Capetonian and kite caddy for the last two King of the Air Champions has aptly earned the nickname, ‘The Golden Caddy’. The guys over at AK Durable Supply Co. caught up with him to learn a bit more about him and his coveted nickname.
Hayden, for those that don’t know, what’s your story so far?
I am a born and bred Capetonian, and Blouberg local. I used to race superbikes up until 2019, where I claimed my 7th Western Province Championship, after which I hung up my race suit and closed that chapter of my life. I grew up with an attitude of always trying to be better every day, and that showed in my results as a sportsman. From playing rugby in school to racing bikes, I was always willing to put in 110% to be the very best that I can be.
Watersports have always been a part of my life. My family is big into swimming; my mom has SA colours in synchronized swimming, my uncles all played SA waterpolo, and my dad grew up surfing in Milnerton. From a young age, I would spend my days wakeboarding and water-skiing over summer holidays. Since then, I knew that my life was going to go wherever the water takes me, whether it was going to be with wakeboarding, or with kiteboarding.
Cape Town is a watersports mecca, what a place to grow up! How did you first get into kiting?
I flew a kite for the first time in March 2015, but it wasn’t until the Red Bull King of the Air in 2016 that I was truly inspired and decided that this is what I want to do. I already had my own kites and was teaching myself how to kite every day the wind decided to blow.
Kiting was more of an escape for me, before it became a lifestyle. As the days went on, my life changed and once I retired from racing bikes and invested my time into kiting, it changed the game for me.
Your race days looked particularly epic, and although in a controlled environment, potentially high risk too. That being said, you’ve had some serious down time kiting…
The biggest adjustment in my life so far was breaking my leg in November 2020. After just signing with Airush two months prior I was on cloud 9. Riding for my dream team and performing the best I ever have in my life was flipped upside down when I tried to clear a sand bank, landed short, and snapped my right tibia and fibula.
Though it felt like my life came crashing down, I feel like it was bound to happen. I was getting ahead of myself and wasn’t thinking about anything. Breaking my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me, as it opened my eyes and changed the way I see the world. It gave me a new perspective and put me on a new path where I am happier and more focused on my personal and kiteboarding goals and dreams.
Nothing like some broken bones for perspective. We can only hope that you keep on pushing the limits while keeping yourself in one piece from now on.
Having just wrapped up another successful KOTA as caddy to the winner, Marc Jacobs, tell us about the experience?
I’ll get to my experience with Marc in a bit, but there’s a back story here too.
Being involved in KOTA is always something special. It’s an event that I hold very near and dear to my heart, and it is a dream of mine to compete in KOTA one day. I submitted two video entries back in 2019 and 2020, but due to injuries I haven’t been able to train correctly, and my dream of being in the event is on hold.
However, helping out at this event is always a great experience, and the first time I caddied and helped out was in 2019 when I teamed up with my kiting hero, Jesse Richman. It was an eye opener for sure, and I got to see the event from a different perspective, which helped me see what I need to do if I want to be in the event in the future. I helped Jesse both in 2019 where he podiumed, and 2020 when he took the win. Man, it felt so great knowing I helped someone achieve their dream, and to be a part of that process was really special.
Assuming Jesse didn’t just fire you as caddy, how did you end up on Marc’s team?
Leading up to KOTA 2021, I was ready to help Jesse defend his title and go for the all-important 3rd title to match Kevin Langaree. Being a caddy takes a lot of stress off the rider, so that they can conserve their energy. Coming from racing bikes, I understand that having a well-structured team around you, and being perfectly prepared is half the battle won. That being said, Jesse pulled out of the 2021 event as he has his son on the way and wanted to be there for his family. So, I hit up New Zealand powerhouse, Marc Jacobs, and offered him my services.
So, tell us about KOTA 2021 then?
This year was very different. Working with a new rider meant a different way of doing things, and a new synergy to develop, although there was the same relentless hunger to win.
After chatting to Marc and connecting with him on a more personal level, I noticed something about him that you don’t necessarily see; he’s a very dialled in and confident person. He has a rock solid belief in himself and he visualized everything into reality. He woke up every day for the past 2 years with the hunger to win and the fighting spirit that he will be the best. When the moment arrived, he put on a flawless performance and was crowned the undisputed King of the Air 2021. Again, it was a magical feeling to be a part of someone’s journey and to see their hard work and dedication pay off. It was an emotional moment seeing him go quiet behind the podium waiting for prize giving, and watching him trying to fathom what he has just done and shedding a tear of pride and relief. It was truly a beautiful moment and one I can appreciate a lot more as an athlete myself.
Personally, it was a very proud moment, as my 2nd KOTA title as a caddy. Proving yet again, that being a dedicated team member can really play a massive role in helping someone achieve their dream! I believe I will be there one day, but if it doesn’t happen, I will know I played a vital role in helping two amazing athletes become legends in our sport. It feels like a win and I am proud of that. They call me The Golden Caddy, and I will own that title! Even though most people think it’s an easy job, it is far from that. A lot of hard work and coordination goes into this, and most importantly, the rider has to trust you. It is a lot of responsibility, but it is an amazing job, and to be involved is a dream come true.
Amazing, well done to you and the team. Now that you’re back on the water, what’s your personal training schedule or routine like?
When I’m not nursing an injury, I love to spend my days on my mountain bike. I like to get out at least 4 times a week, especially in winter (I love a muddy cycle), or my personal trainer and I train Monday through to Friday focusing on strength and mobility.Weekends I reserve for big cycles or for time away at my holiday house, either wakeboarding or foiling behind the boat. When it’s windy, I’m on the water!
If you could jump on a plane right now, where would you go and why?
Mauritius. I feel homesick for that place. The conditions, the island lifestyle, just everything is pure magic. I would give anything to go back.
Who are three people we should keep an eye out for?
Adriaan Louw, the little ripper from Melkbos! The kid is fearless and is learning how to send it big, for sure one to watch!
Luca Ceruti, this man is a machine! A short line specialist that knows how to put it low and look super stylish in the process!
Sera Mason, this little shredder is 9 years old and is on course for great things! Her dad is a massive sender himself, and I really believe she is going to take the kiteboarding scene by storm the more she progresses!
Duly noted. What are you most excited about moving forward?
Now that I’m riding again, I’ll be more involved with testing out exciting new products with my team, which is always a pleasure. Plus, I’m excited to slowly get back to where I was before my injuries. After breaking my leg and then my finger in July of 2021, I have been through a tough time trying to progress. But this journey is wild and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way…
Good catching up, see you on the water!