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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

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Apr 05, 2017

“Outrageousness” with Pro Freestyle Kitesurfer Julien Leleu

A broken knee can’t stop 22-year-old athlete Julien Leleu.

WRITTEN BY

Lorenzo Fornari

From playing in Paris Saint-Germain’s junior football team to World Championships in kiteboarding, this Parisian doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. TOJ caught up with him at the Kite-Tech in Dakhla, Western Sahara.

At the age of 16, Julien Leleu decided to become a professional kitesurfer and left PSG after four years. In 2013, he came third in the French Championship and the following year, he was in the top nine at the Professional Kiteboarding Riders Association and Virgin Kitesurf World championship. He surfed, filmed, joined and founded Light Bros and competed worldwide when a sudden injury thwarted what was until then, a smooth-sailing career. The Outdoor Journal’s Lorenzo Fornari met him after his comeback, at Kite-Tech in Dakhla, Western Sahara, where he’s gliding and pulling off his wicked tricks once again.

What makes you different from other athletes?

Maybe outrageousness. I’m always extreme in everything I do. If I start to do something, I do it fully, or I don’t do it. It’s the same with business, parties, everything. If I start to train as well, I train a lot.

For me, there was always been one sentence that has led my life: ‘Chose a job you love, then you’ll never have to work again’. In anything I do now, even if you can call it work, I surf, wakeboard and skate because I love it. I think that that you should never have any regrets. If you want to do something, if you have an idea, if you’re dreaming about something, you don’t want to regret it.

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Photograph courtesy of Julien Leleu.

What would you say that your biggest sports accomplishment has been to this day?

To be honest, it’s coming back from my injury. It was a hard one for me because the doctors were not really positive about me getting back in the water. The accident happened when I least expected it. I broke my knee in the World Cup, when I was doing the best out of four. I had to be out of training for one year after that, trying to get back. Now, I’m back and stronger than before.

Photograph courtesy of Julien Leleu.
Photograph courtesy of Julien Leleu.

 

What is the greatest goal that you aspire to?

I want to go as far as I personally can and I think that I still have a lot under my feet to go. When I had the most amount of points, I was in the top nine in freestyle kitesurfing. My biggest challenge is to stay on top every day and find enough time to dedicate to all my activities. I’ve got a lot of things to deal with; I’m a professional kitesurfer, work for a video company, as well as Ride & Dream. It’s not easy all the time, but I try to “go with the flow” more and find the time at the right moment for everything. Also, the first time I entered the top ten was an achievement for me because I probably started kiting later than others. For me, just to be able to catch up on all that time I had lost was a good for me.

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From Parisian footballer to surfer boy. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten from the people around you?

My stepfather helps me a lot, he is on top of things and gives me advice. He was the French tennis team’s trainer at the Sydney Olympic Games and he has always been there for me; to let me know if I’m on the right road or maybe going a little bit too far. All the time pushing me and believing in me. My mother and father as well, but he was the one on top of things. He had the key to help me get there. I was the one who had to do it, but he knew the road.

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Photograph courtesy of Julien Leleu.

Who inspires you? Who are your heroes?

In football, it’s Zidane. In tennis, it’s Federer. In kiting, there are a lot of different names, but I like Alberto Rondina and Aaron Hadlow. They have been examples. I don’t want to follow the same road, but they are inspirational.

How did you get into kitesurfing?

Every time I stayed with my father, when I was little, I used to watch him kiting or windsurfing, from the car. He has always been around water sports and started kiting when the sport was growing and it was really dangerous; two line guides, no security and a lot of accidents. I was around 12 years old, the first time I kitesurfed. I was playing football at Paris Saint-Germain until I was 16 and couldn’t kite as much as I wanted. When I was 16, I decided to live with my father. I started to kite every day when it was windy and entered the first kitesurfing school in the world. It was in the North of France, in Dunkerque, and it’s pretty cool.

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Photograph courtesy of Julien Leleu.

We are at the Kite-Tech right now, in Dakhla, Western Sahara where tech entrepreneurs and startuppers are coming together around their common passion and curiosity of kitesurfing. How has it been for you?

It’s been interesting, definitely. It’s really cool to see people getting together thanks to kitesurfing and around tech. It’s not just a sport, it’s a meeting; people are getting together to talk about their ideas, their point of views and businesses. It’s very interesting to see how the sport creates a lot of interaction.

I like all kite competitions, because we’re like a little family and it’s different to any other sport. In football, for example, there’s a lot of competitions between players, and even though we still have that, we are also friends doing high-fives before and after competing. It’s good to share all of those moments because either you win or you lose, but you can always rely on the boys.

You can follow Julien Leleu’s adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube and find out more about the diverse and creative ‘meeting of minds’ at the first ever Kite-Tech here.

Feature image courtesy of Julien Leleu. 

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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