The Office Rivalry

by Leo Koenig, WOO C.E.O & Co-Founder

I knew it was coming.  It was just a matter of time, I knew I should really enjoy it while it lasts.  See, earlier this summer, I overtook my friend and co-worker Patrick on the Global WOO Leaderboards. With a little bit of luck and a good chunk of determination, I posted an 18.5m air on a nuking windy day in Chatham on Cape Cod, roughly two hours southeast of Boston. Now, as much as I enjoyed that moment, I also knew it was just a matter of time before he struck back.  And finally, after a long fall of fading winds in the UK, the colors blue, pink and purple dominated the forecast for a few spots in Wales on November 8 2015, and Patrick geared up to break my record.

But before we get too deep into things, let me take a few steps back.  If there is one rule at WOO, it’s this – you don’t beat Patrick.  On any given day, no matter how hard we try, his height and airtime is far from anyone else at WOO.  We’ve almost gotten to a point where the one coming closest to Patrick is pretty much the winner.  Patrick has a rare combination of talent, athleticism, skill and determination, and even though we think we know why he jumps higher than all of us do, sometime we are still left in awe.

15404568511_d30b9bfd91_kThough, something has happened to all of us since the day we started WOO and started getting height readings after every session – our kiteboarding has changed.  My kiteboarding has changed.  Everything’s focused down to a determined effort to jump high, and that affects multiple (aka all) areas of your kiteboarding.  The gear (board, finds, pads or boots, stance, harness, lines, kite – everything).  The choice of spot, not just locally, but the determination to travel if conditions are better somewhere else.  The conditioning off the water.  The tiny things, technique, I try to improve on while on the water.  All the little things that shape my kiteboarding experience have all of a sudden shifted from “I don’t really care” to “this could get me another 0.2, 0.3m”.  I’ll be honest, I am a decent kiteboarder, but I am 35-years-old and nowhere as talented or skilled as many that currently rank below me on the WOO Leaderboards.  In short, I have no game being where I am, but I have one huge advantage – I’ve been on the WOO the longest time, and hence, since then, I’ve been making a determined effort to jump as high as I can.


And that’s how, on a stormy June day on the Cape, I pulled out my secret weapon – the Whippersnapper – and made it into the Global Top Ten.  The Whippersnapper is a 2005 North Jaime Pro board in 126cm, with large fins and boots.  Patrick was on his regular 135+ freestyle board and had no chance holding his edge in 40+kts gusts of wind, while the Whippersnapper sliced into the flat waters right behind a sand bar and allowed me to get that extra pop and edge to boost 18.5m on a 9m Best TS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 184cm (6’1”) tall and weigh 88kg (195lbs), so the board is pretty useless for anything but boosting in nuking winds, but I don’t care anymore.  You catch edges like five times every session (coined as being “whippersnapped”, see video below), it’s awful in the chop, and landings are more than challenging. I don’t care as long as its boosts well.  I broke the board in this session, and have mowed through two more 2005 Jaime’s in the meantime. I broke a rib and tore the labrum in my right shoulder. Yet I can’t wait for the next big storm to hit.  I’ve learned a few things here and there, and am determined to make another run on the Global Leaderboard.

To give you an idea just how much potential every rider has, let me walk through a few of the little things that, added up all together, make a huge difference.  It all comes back to the determination, focus and effort to boost high:

Kite – I used to fly C-Kites.  I still love them, the Vegas or GP’s of this world, but when it’s gusting 40+, I’m riding a kite that gives me more depower and lift, like the TS or Rebel.  I might take the C-kite out for a couple of megaloops, but when the wind is at it’s strongest, I want to be hopelessly overpowered on a 9m bow-ish kite.

Board – I used to have one board for all conditions.  If there was a windy day, I’d have that 137cm ish board with plenty of rocker, it makes for comfortable landings, and if the wind isn’t too crazy, allows for some freestyle moves.  Now, if the wind is nuking, I’m on my tiny 2005 North Jaime (or any equivalent), with boots in a narrow stance, and long fins.  The day I broke my record, I’m quite sure that board gave me an extra 3m.

Harness – I hate to say it, but I reckon a seat harness gives you a strong edge – literally.  The kite has just less leverage on the human body, and so you can hold the edge longer.  If you don’t believe me, slide up your harness on purpose and try to boost.  I haven’t ridden a seat harness in a while, but will soon, given that one of my ribs is cracked.

Conditioning – It all comes down to holding an edge, and what is needed for that is a set of strong legs and abs. I spend as much time as I can doing squats in the gym to build up those muscles.  Whenever you lose an edge in strong winds, it almost always comes down to strength in my legs.  Patrick used to be a highly competitive lightweight rower, and still has a high power to weight ratio.  Just another reason why he is so damn good at boosting.

Choice of spot – Gusty?  Long drive?  I don’t care.  I really don’t.  Just give me some flat water (we don’t have good waves here in New England) or side shore wind with clean waves (Cape Town), perhaps a breakwall to create an updraft, and then let’s boost.  With big sessions coming in from all over the world every day, I’m often getting on or Google Maps to check out new “could be epic boosting spots”.

The session – Here’s one thing about boosting: on any given day, there is always that one crazy minute where everything seems to go ballistic.  A huge gust coming through, with a few nasty updrafts at the front edge of it.  When it happens, no one knows, but if you hit it, it’s the jackpot.  To maximize your chances, you need to be out there.  For a long, long time.  Two equal riders, one is out for 1h, the other one for 4h, the latter will always win.
Almost after each tack, I come back to the beach, re-tighten my boots, catch a breath, slide down my harness, and re-focus on the next boost.

So, when I woke up on Sunday morning, Novermber 8, 2015 in Boston, the first thing I did was pick up my phone and check the WOO App for new sessions from Patrick in the UK.  Maybe the winds had faded, maybe Patrick got skunked, maybe I was still ahead of him.  The forecast called for 40kts of wind, he’s now on an 8m Rebel with a shorter board, and last I heard he was on his way out to the western tip of Wales to catch as much of the gale force winds as he could.  More than anything, he’s as determined as anyone I’ve ever seen. And sure enough, it paid off for him.  Two huge sessions, one with 18.6m, another one with 19.1m.  Damn, I am beat!  Dropped to #12 on the Global Leaderboard, and no longer in possession of the rights to talk shit to anyone at WOO.

First thought that morning: fuck it, let’s get him back.  Packed my bag and went to the gym to do squats.  The rib still hurts, but who cares.  If I want to make the most of my Cape Town trip this winter, I better be in shape.  If I want to have a shot of beating Patrick, I have to be determined.

Unfortunately for me, Patrick was far from done. The forecast for the next morning called for 50kts, so I was equally anxious to pick up my phone the next day and check the stats.  This time it was one session, with not one 20.0m jump but two at 20.0m!  And I know the only thing he is thinking of right now is how he can get even higher the next time…


All that said, I know what we are experiencing right now really is just the tip of the iceberg.  I can’t wait for the day we release a power score, which measures the “viciousness” (aka horizontal g-force) of kiteloops.  And I can’t wait to see names and spots pop up that I’ve never heard before once we reward, say, the most 10+m jumps in one session.  Check out PBKiteboarding on the WOO app, and you’ll get the picture.  Look at those sessions, and tell me you would have expected this to happen in the middle of friggin’ Canada.  Overall, the amount of activity and stoke we have seen from what we now call the “Canadian Airforce” is beyond epic.

But, aside of all those new metrics and challenges, trust me when I say that we are far from done in terms of height.  21.4m is huge, props to Phil Morstad, but with all the talent and new found determination, someone will be somewhere sometime soon, boosting to new heights, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was Patrick himself.

– Leo