Few and far between, some of our readers may not have heard the Wilby name, please tell us a little bit about yourself!
Ok, so my names Lewis Wilby, I’m 22 years old and I’ve been kiting for well over 8 years, firstly on land and gained my reputation through that and now I have worked hard to become a respectable level on water and snow too!
You have just launched your new website www.lewiswilby.com, did you design it yourself?
I designed my own website in between work, kiting at weekends and trying to have a social life too. It took a while because I was never happy with any of my re-designs over the last year and when I finally started working on a design I liked, it then took a good few months to put all my ideas together. All the hard work pays off in the end as it helps to keep your sponsors a little happier, plus the site has become a hub for all my videos, pictures and event articles and I’d like to think that for those who see it, it might encourage them to either take part in the sport, or maybe try something new.
A lot of UK riders head to South Africa or Western Australia for winter – what have you been up to?
Working to pay the bills! Unfortunately when it came down to it this year, I couldn’t get the money together to live out there like the rest of the guys which is such a shame because when you’re riding so much, new tricks tend to come a lot more naturally. I kitesurfed all the way through the winter and still enjoyed it even though it was really cold and I didn’t learn a lot! Landboarding becomes tricky in the winter because I like to ride on local grass spots and they tend to get flooded and bogged down very quickly but I have managed to fit in a few sessions here and there!
Last year you competed in the BKSA Kitesurf events instead of the Landboarding – how did you find it? Did you enjoy the much tougher competition?
After winning the 2009 Landboard championships and thoroughly enjoying myself, taking part in the kitesurf competition instead seems the next natural step! I came 4th overall which is amazing and my best result was 3rd at my local spot in Hunstanton. I was pleased with my results because I had beaten my original aim. I guess I found it weird not to be winning events but that makes me really motivated to catch up and be at the same level as the guys on the top!
Do you have any advice for land kiters looking to hit the wet stuff?
Yeah, definitelyâ€¦ I would say even if you are a top level land kiter, you’re still going to need to learn the basics of deep water pack ups, relaunching your kite on the water and general rules of riding with others because once you have those nailed, you will find you are able try all your land tricks and then progress onto much harder tricks and styles in no time at all! The hardest thing for me to pick up was learning to pop in all water conditions and sometimes it still gets the better of me!
Despite focusing on the water side of things more you still managed to enter and win a land event – the KLB Masters in Germany. Was it fun to compete against riders you do not know as well?
I was still riding lots on land despite only attending the water competitions so I was excited to show my hard work and new tricks during the event! During the event I was eager to do well but also very nervous because when you ride against other riders from different countries, you never know what to expect! The UK competition scene had become very predictable which is why I didn’t compete last year- you would turn up, ride against the same riders and usually there is a similar result too! Hopefully it will grow because the events are amazing.
You have really progressed land based kiting a lot by bringing in the handlepass moves seen on the water as well as the big kite loops. Do you think that all the tricks we see on the water today will be seen on land in the future? Where do you see the land scene progressing? Where do you get inspiration from?
There is no reason why someone couldn’t go out there and do every trick on water on land! But it takes a lot more strength and riding time than I have which is why I won’t be catching up just yet. One thing we will never see is the same power in our tricks on land but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make it more stylish! I don’t want to see land kiting go completely wake style but I do want it to be involved, just like I want to see board offs, skate style, huge kiteloops, rotation involved. We still need to experiment with ramps and rails more and hopefully get into gaps/ stunts as there are endless possibilities! That would make the sport amazing to watch and start to attract more people into the sport.
Are you flying C kites or Bow kites? What is your take on the difference between the two?
This year I am going to use the Flexifoil Hadlow Pro’s (C kite) for both land and water. This just means I don’t have to get used to two kites like I did last year! Also it should make my riding on both land and water feel a lot more similar because last year I rode Hadlows on water and Ions on land, which started to make things difficult when you don’t do one side of the sport for a few weeks and suddenly change kites.
You filmed a Progression instructional DVD with Fat Sand – are there any plans for more advanced DVD?
Not that I know about right now, maybe if lots of people got in contact with Fat Sand about it then they might be more keen to start something sooner rather than later! They did well with the DVD but they have lots of other projects happening right now!
A lot of the big name kitesurfers and snowboarders are now more focused on the media side of things as opposed to the competitions. How do you feel about this? Does land based kiting need more media?
Definitely, this is something I need to get more involved with because the public and other riders don’t always get to go to events and competitions and by uploading decent videos to the internet they can still be influenced on a much greater scale! It also gives us a better chance of showing other board sports enthusiasts what Landboarding is all about! I am in the middle of getting some new video equipment so I should be producing my own videos come summer!
Being in the spotlight with your fans and sponsors all year round must be quite demanding, do you feel any pressure from this?
No not at all, I do the media side of things because I enjoy it lots and if anything at events, I feel a bit of pressure from my friends and family to win competitions more than anything.
It’s important to kite for yourself as well as always for other people and collecting media, how do you divide your time?
Pretty much all my kite sessions are for myself unless I go to events nowadays! If I need some photos or videos then I will organise them for that occasion only which makes things harder because you might not get the best conditions for the shoot. When I get my own equipment I will try to do a bit of filming each session just to get the best out of each day!
You got a taste of snowkiting last year and really took to it, is this something you would like to spend more time on and take more seriously? As much as I would like to, it’s impossible to get the funds to do land, water and snow all year round, so there will always be one which doesn’t get done as much and it would be snowkiting purely because I struggle to choose between a snowkite and general snowboard trip when I get the chance to go out there!
What are your plans for 2011? Competing in the water? More travelling?
I’m not 100% certain yet but I am keen to be competing on the water again and I would love to compete in the European Landboard Championship again in Germany because it was one of the weirdest, best experiences I’ve had since I started kiting! I definitely want to concentrate on filming some new land films be it in the UK or abroad! I have a few trips plan but there all a bit secret right now.
Who are your current sponsors for the coming 11 season? How do you find sponsorship has come about for you over the last couple of years?
My sponsors are still Flexifoil, MBS and PowerKiteShop! I’m lucky that I have always had a good relationship with the guys who run these companies and they are always show amazing support year on year!
I have always associated Flexifoil and Lewis Wilby together, how long have you been sponsored by Flexifoil and why did you first choose Flexifoil kites?
Well from day one, my brother got a stacker kite which initially got my interested in power kiting and because they had a range of kites naturally taking you from a beginner powerkiter to an advanced kitesurfer it seemed a natural step to follow the Flexifoil route! First I got a Blade, then a Sabre, then an Atom, then Ion and now I am finally on the Hadlows 8 years later!
I remember when the first MBS pro kite board came out, are we likely to ever see a â€œLewis Wilby Proâ€ board?
Hmm, personally I’m more interested in working with MBS to get a better board out than getting my name on it! Who knows in the future but as long as we keep producing better boards, I’m happy!
What’s your current favourite kiting setup. kite/harness/board/surface?
I like to ride different things as much as I can, in the last year I’ve been riding the Hadlows and Ions, or using the MBS Pro 95 instead of the Pro 90, just to try something different and have recently swapped from a Pro Limit Hadlow Harness to the New Mystic Warrior 3 Harness! My preferred set up is definitely the Hadlows with the Pro 90 board right now!! But who knows, I may go back to the Ions later in the year!
Anything you would like to add or shout out to our readers?
Just good luck with your new website and if anyone has appreciated this interview then check out www.lewiswilby.com for more details
Lewis Wilby at the KLB Masters 2010 in Germany
Lewis Wilby winter kitesurf training in Norfolk