Glancing at the roster of professional kiteboarders that have risen out of Holland, you’d think the northern European hotspot would have a steady wind pattern with picture-perfect conditions that can’t help but routinely pump out Dutch kite freaks like Ruben Lenten, Kevin Langeree, Steven Akkersdijk and Annelous Lammerts. Yet, the Netherlands’ latest kite prodigy, Stig Hoefnagel, has gone through some serious pains to paint the real picture with an honest assessment of the good, bad and ugly sessions of the Dutch windy season.
Kitesurfing in Holland is a mission. According to Stig, “It’s never easy—the conditions along the southern stretch of the North Sea are always changing.” With frontal variations that range from ferocious winds, sometimes accompanied by snow and blinding rain, to clear and sunny, light wind foilboarding breezes, Holland’s coast and waterways subject its kiteboarders to a little bit of everything. Stig points to kite destinations like Brazil or Cape Town, where the wind comes from the same direction every day and blows in long, predictable cycles and contrasts that against Holland, where the best days are frontal driven with the direction and wind strength variables dancing like a moving target. Always in the pursuit of wind, finding the best conditions requires a quick study of the wind flow maps and an eager willingness to drive from spot to spot and swap kite sizes like the olden narrow-range C-kite days. The frontal-hunting kiteboarder is a very different animal than its much lazier thermal-harvesting counterpart, and this basic difference is perhaps why so many Dutch athletes are exceptionally resilient, talented and endlessly driven.
Having grown up kiteboarding in the Netherlands’ diverse bays and heaving ocean swells, Stig is a capable operator in every discipline. From technical wake-oriented freestyle to big air megaloops and jib-style freeride, the Stig abides. He spent his early kiteboarding days focused on the insanely technical details of flat water freestyle and has since shifted gears in recent years by making a name for himself in the European big air scene with appearances at the Megaloop Challenge, Cold Hawaii Games and Big Air Kite League competitions. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, his most recent video collaboration with The Stoke Farm, Stig capably showcases every discipline, but his megaloop sessions in monster seas with tempest conditions pounding against breakwaters are what stand out the most. If these are the conditions made famous by Ruben Lenten when he invented the megaloop, Stig carries that torch while looping over monolithic jetties, nailing each massive jump with amplitude and casting severe kite angles in the most difficult and unruly conditions.
The King of the Air has always been a beacon of fixation for Stig, who recalls watching KOTA YouTube videos on repeat as a young kid. After submitting entry videos for past events, this year his entrance edit was finally accepted. When the Cape Town spectacle fired off in November, Stig landed himself on the podium in third next to fellow Dutch kiteboarder Kevin Langeree in second and Marc Jacobs in first. The field of competitors was remarkably thick with talent which makes Stig’s third-place podium an achievement in its own right. Reflecting on the state of big air competition, Stig identifies a growing trend towards introducing technical tricks to big air. As a proponent of overall jump height and the critical angle of the kite during loops, Stig notes that he would prefer to see riders rewarded with points for whipping themselves above their kites at the highest altitudes possible rather than scoring high for technical board-off additions at half the intensity. Judging critical riding first and technical riding second is Stig’s preference, but he also acknowledges that having three big air events on the schedule allows for diversity of styles in the field. Whatever direction big air kiteboarding ends up going, Stig will be one to watch with his The Real Stig video parody and confident style of riding ranging from savage megaloop storm front sessions to flat water freestyle behind protective dikes. One thing is for sure—the real Stig will always represent the real Holland.
This article was featured in our winter 2022 issue, Vol. 18, No. 4. To read more, click here.
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