One-to-One with Giel Vlugt
The biggest event of the year in Big Air is fast approaching, and although he spends more time on the water than off it, we managed to pull Giel Vlugt aside for a few moments to find out how he’s preparing for the Red Bull King of the Air event in Cape Town…
Giel, what a year you've had so far! Tarifa Full Power Champion, Winner of the GKA Move of the Year and the big one... Male Rider of the Year! You've got a lot of fans out there; how does it feel to receive so much support in your career?
I mean, this year has been unbelievably special. It’s the year that all the hard work is really starting to pay off. And yes, I’ve absolutely gained some fans and that is still so special to me. I can’t believe how fast it’s going on one side and on the other I feel like I could push more and harder to achieve more!
Tarifa is a special place for you and where you say it all started. So tell us, how did you end up in Tarifa, and what were you doing there?
I started teaching kiteboarding in Tarifa as an internship, knowing absolutely nothing about kiting and Tarifa. I just picked it because it looked cool! Only when I arrived did I realize that kiteboarding was huge here and that I had arrived somewhere very special. So to be honest, I got crazy lucky!
When did you decide to focus on turning pro and did you ever have any doubts?
About two and a half years ago I decided to give it a shot and start training. I did have doubts but really only once. I remember seeing Janek Grzegorzewski train in Balneario in April 2020 and thinking “How will I ever even be close to this guy?” But instead of getting demotivated, I started working harder and exactly one year later I shared a final with Janek in Full Power 2021. I remember getting off the water and somebody telling me they weren’t sure if I won or Janek. That is still to this day one of the best compliments I have ever gotten, even though Janek beat me by 2 points, haha!
We've got to ask… As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At first a professional football player, a goalkeeper to be exact. Then probably a professional tennis player. After that I went back to the goalkeeper dream, for a while, then a physical therapist, and when I decided I wanted to mix my life up completely I found kiteboarding.
Many Big Air kiters come from a freestyle competition background, but you went straight into Big Air. What was the reason for this?
I was in love with Big Air from the start and it was my biggest dream to be in the King of the Air one day. I personally didn’t like freestyle too much so I decided to focus on one thing only and skip freestyle. If people would see me attempt freestyle they would most probably be having a good laugh though!
Can you tell us about your training routine and what you do to ensure you're in the best shape possible?
I do a lot of gym work to make sure my body is ready and able to take hits. In order to progress in Big Air you need to be able to handle the big crashes. So I decided to be as ready as possible so I would never get crashes that are too serious. Which has worked, for now…
Any special tricks you’ll be pulling out of the bag at King of the Air?!
Absolutely! More than one! But I will not be sharing those with you, haha! I’ve got to keep some tricks up my sleeve. All I can say is, you can expect a lot of doubles and a lot of S-Loops!
There's no doubt about it, you've got some cajones! So how do you prepare mentally when learning a new trick and overcoming the nerves? (if you have any, that is!)
With Big Air, it’s all about taking the next step. Every trick you learn is scary at first. Some more than others but it is always scary. You have to accept you’re scared, prepare as well as you can and then simply go for it if you feel ready! I never try anything before I can visualize it and before I’m sure I know what to do.
The documentary '3 Days Well Sent' was filmed leading up to the 2021 King of the Air competition, following some downtime adventures before the event. Will you set aside time for any exploration before this year's big event?
Absolutely! I love a good adventure and I’m always ready and excited to explore new places and spots. So if you guys had a good time watching that one you can expect another one. Hopefully even better this time!
The Rise has been your weapon of choice until now.... Can you give us some insights into your current setup?
The Rise is still my favorite kite and my weapon of choice. For a twintip I love my Tumbler 138 on light and strong days and 135 on really strong to nuking days! I also ride a 46 and a 52cm pilot bar. The lines are usually 22 meters unless I want to get a better angle, then I like to change it down to 19.
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