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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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Travel

Mar 19, 2019

Is ‘Sidecountry’ a Four-Letter Word?

A team of Avalanche experts define the word, and discuss how to deal with the phenomena. Do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive, or shape the definition and attempt to harness its power?

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This article originally appeared in The Avalanche Review, a trade and scientific journal serving the American Avalanche Association Membership. It was written by Scott Savage, Simon Trautman, Ethan Greene, and Doug Chabot.

Riding in the sidecountry is fun, and it is marketable. Google ‘sidecountry’ and you get 438,000 search results. As more people recreate in the sidecountry, ski areas promote it, equipment manufacturers capitalize on it, riders benefit through new technology and increased availability, the media eats it up, more people want the experience and WHAM! – we are lost somewhere in a very successful feedback loop. Ski area avalanche professionals and backcountry avalanche forecasters, however, are scratching their heads about how to deal with the phenomena; do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive in its tracks or do we embrace the term, shape the definition to benefit our mission, and attempt to harness its branding power to educate the various user groups that recreate in terrain adjacent to ski areas?

One of the great slopes on Gornergrat with plenty of sidecountry opportunities, near the top, with the ever-distracting Matterhorn in the distance. Location: Zermatt. By Doc Searls Santa Barbara, USA

Currently, defining sidecountry is similar to defining pornography; people disagree on a formal definition but you know it when you see it. In our opinion, sidecountry is very useful term for describing a certain combination of human behavior and geography. It is intuitive because most people understand that sidecountry refers to the terrain adjacent to ski area boundaries. This terrain is easily accessed, easily “lapped”, and in many cases highly visible. Observing this reality and thinking about the term in a geographical and behavioral sense is important because it showcases the idea that sidecountry terrain is used differently than backcountry terrain, and as such, suggests that sidecountry users may have different needs than those traditionally addressed in avalanche education. We believe that using the term benefits avalanche professionals by allowing them to relate to audiences and be succinct when speaking, writing, or educating on sidecountry topics.

“Sidecountry is backcountry”

“Sidecountry is backcountry” is a recently coined phrase that is also highly descriptive and accurate regarding particular aspects of sidecountry. Sidecountry avalanche rescue is effectively a backcountry rescue – regardless of the proximity to a ski area, organized rescue may not arrive in time. Since ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain, the phrase is probably an effective tool to communicate avalanche danger, especially to novice and casual sidecountry users. “Sidecountry is backcountry” is a simple message that is easy to understand. There is power in this: power to educate, power to simplify, power to feel that one is addressing the problem. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with a simple problem or a singular, simple user group.

Ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain.

Novice, casual, and experienced sidecountry users have different levels of expertise, attitudes, decision-making techniques, and educational needs. In addition, novice and casual users are highly influenced by experienced users. A cursory look at recent sidecountry accident and near-miss reports reveals that experienced sidecountry users appear to be involved more frequently than the less experienced individuals. The experienced group generally visits the same sidecountry terrain frequently enough to become familiar with terrain features, may actively manage or mitigate avalanche hazard (slope cuts, cornice drops, etc.), and at times may have more intimate knowledge of the slope-scale snowpack structure and stability than local avalanche professionals. Most importantly, an “I’m going there because it’s there and I want to ski” attitude seems to be common; experienced users access the terrain and then decide whether to mitigate or avoid hazard or just forge ahead. Will telling these more risk tolerant individuals that “sidecountry is backcountry” reduce their risk? Will it help us communicate with them? Sidecountry may be the same as backcountry in some ways, but routine sidecountry users and backcountry users are disparate user groups.

Skilled, experienced professional avalanche educators can create effective sidecountry-specific educational programs and presentations. As we have learned while reaching out to snowmobilers, relevancy is everything. Just as force-feeding traditional avalanche education to someone who never gets off their sled is ineffective, so too is drawing a “backcountry box” around someone who skis out-of-bounds 50 days a year, but rarely or never uses skins or established backcountry stability evaluation and decision-making techniques. Sidecountry is a growth market for snow sports equipment and clothing manufacturers, and these companies may be interested in supporting educational and outreach efforts to sidecountry users (their customers). Instead of abandoning or over-simplifying the term, maybe the ski and avalanche community would be well served to take advantage of the strong, established sidecountry brand by partnering with the media and outdoor gear retail industry to accomplish the following:

  1. Define sidecountry as the unique geographical and behavioral issue that it is, focusing on the specific dangers associated with sidecountry recreation
  2. Identify and define specific user groups
  3. Tailor, market, and promote user group specific educational programs

The term ‘sidecountry’ is descriptive, intuitive, and useful. We agree with the recent NSAA Journal Editorial “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Sidecountry’ ” that the avalanche and snowsports communities must better communicate that riders are on their own when they leave ski area boundaries. Our common goals are to educate the public on the inherent risk of avalanches outside that boundary and to help users reduce their risk in this terrain. In our opinion, we can enhance communication by acknowledging the difference in behavior and risk tolerance between user groups, by identifying and targeting the needs of those groups, and by partnering with those that have the marketing and promotional power to deliver the message.

Read Next: Charge Hard, Stay Smart: Guidebook Guru, Fritz Sperry, on Safety in Avy-Prone Backcountry.

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