Interview with vice-world champion in kite-racing Adam Koch
We took the chance to interview last year’s kitesurfing course racing world champion and this year’s vice world champion Adam Koch. Adam is one of the pioneers of early kitesurfing. In 1998 a lot of Germans will remember his 13-second flight during the world cup at Fehmarn, and some years later he jumped of a aircraft carrier. In the last few years he concentrated on pushing the course racing discipline in kitesurfing. Adam rides Ozone Kites, Mike’s Lab boards and Rista fins.
First of all congratulations for becoming vice-world champion in Sylt one week ago! What was your impression about the contest in general?
Thank you… I’ve worked very hard to get top 5 this year. That was my goal going into the worlds anyways… I knew the competition would be up several notches from the year before in Texas.
The conditions on Sylt were pretty gnarly with winds from 25+ knots and 3m+ waves.. Did you expect that? Did you train specifically for these conditions?
The first few days of training pre event in Sylt it was light 15 and 17 meter… The conditions we had all expected. Sloppy seas and moderate. Seems mother nature saw it differently because we ended up getting straight off shore conditions the first day. The Ozone team all group together and decide to rig the same size. Off shore and light… Hot! In fact I went out with just board shorts! We chose 13’s and regretted it all around the race course. Lit up like roman candals we completed two races and rushed in to switch down to 11’s. We had a comfy next two races. The condition turned the following days.. The wind switched to straight onshore and the seas just began to change from smooth to angry and confused. With the wind never backing down we only watched the swell increase by the day. With breaking waves at often times shoulder high… The committee boat could not stay anchored… Sometimes you would see it jump completely out of the water… Crazy stuff. Some of the craziest racing conditions I’ve ever experienced. For sure sail boats couldn’t handle these conditions. When approaching the starting line often times breakers would wipe out the guy next to you. Up wind it was common to jump on accident and free fall hoping you don’t buckle into the face of the next wave. Down wind was pretty interesting… I almost snapped my neck on one Downloop windward mark rounding. I’ve never crashed so hard before in kite boarding or felt the water feel like concrete just from going so fast. I somehow managed to break the nose of my board with my harness buckles- with both feet still in the straps. The worst part of a crash like that is you have do the bare away all over again right after and continue the race…
Speaking of training: the whole American team showed a great performance during the championships. How did you become so fast? How often you train together?
Team America is really just a group of old sailing buddies… we all grew up racing at very young ages and we simply apply all we have learned in training and tuning to the kite racing program. Share everything… always tune with someone. If someone is slow and someone is fast… the faster guy shares his secrete to success. We are open books… the days of covering your board up and hiding your fins are over. We also play fun games on the water like one guy has to duck the other if he’s faster… or do 360’s if you’re faster… reverse the order of finishing during training… we always use marks here in the bay area… even at the river there are channel marks everywhere. I guess you could say if you want to be the best… you have to train and sail with the best. I would even go so far as you need to hang out with the best. The entire world of kiteracers are invited to come play with us here in The Bay and The River (Sherman Island). In fact most of our training sessions (unless there is an official regatta) are on The River. In fact I have been living at Sherman Lake Marina since last February. I love it there. A trailer park/marina with a bunch of kiteboarders, A true paradise!
I remember you from the early days of kiting using mutant-style boards and going high and big. How did you get into racing? Do you still ride freestyle and/or wave boards or do you focus on racing only?
Back in my jumping days and wave riding days I did some really stupid stuff… like the aircraft carrier huck and cliff hucks… jumping higher than the equipment is safe to. After a while it got a bit old I guess you could say. I still jump on a small strapped Doyle surfboard and crank out some skate style board off stuff and some interesting grabs… but there is nothing like the adrenaline of a race board. In fact most pro kiteboarders make fun of what we do… that’s easy if you have never tried one. I challenge those who think racing is stupid to run the race course on my gear! I know you will be humbled. I am every time I load up my fins…. That’s why I do it. Oh and thats just riding the board around the course… now try to compete on one. To become a great racer is a lifetime achievement. We will never be finished. All and all after the North Americans in Puerto Rico this week. I see myself getting back into jumping…. I’ve tried a ton of different kites out there and I know I will still use the Ozone Edge for jumping. It has the smooth personality that I need to jump the way I see jumping should be.
In the last years in racing we have seen big changes in board design. Now that we have a box rule limiting the board specs, how do you think the racing gear will evolve during the next years? Do you think the boards will change as fast as during the last few years?
I think racing technology has come to a cross roads… we are all on 70 cm boards and 42cm fins.. Kites could for sure improve, boards are pretty much there with thanks to Mike Zajicek. Fins are going to constantly evolve, in fact fins will be the one thing that will never stop evolving. I am very fortunate that Paolo Rista picked me up and has supported my every effort in progression. Without him making thousands of fins I would not be in the comfort zone i am today.. With everything I have experienced… don’t buy an old board, buy a new dialed in one with the proper fins… You wont regret it. It’s the difference between having fun and getting your butt kicked. And I’m not talking about the race… just riding the equipment.
What are your thoughts on kiteboarding getting to the Olympics? Would you like to join?
It has always been my dream to represent my country in the Olympics for sailing… but I’m just not sure our sport is mature enough yet to go there. I’m for sure not against it. Although if it means do anything it takes to get kiteboarding in. I think that is the wrong route. We need to build our fleets and sport up first… I do see raceboarding as a completely different sport than kiteboarding. It’s high performance sailing in it’s purest form. No rudders, masts or anything complicated. You can travel the globe without loading a container or towing a trailer. I guess you could say that I’m all for course racing going into the Olympics, but I’m not a fan of Boarder X or slalom. There isn’t the chess factor that course racing has. Course racing you can choose to go left or right both upwind and downwind. Johnny Heineken and I often go the same speed around the course. Most of the time he beats me in tactics. There is just not the same tactics in slalom and Boarder X as course racing. Besides Boarder X is old school. We tried that many years ago and it failed. Why go down that road again. Course Racing has amazing momentum right now…. why not throw more fuel on the fire that’s blazing… why start more small fires and spread our tiny sport thin? Besides I can’t afford to train for all those different catagories and then travel with 4 boards around the world. I can barley afford to travel with one board. This industry isn’t the strongest. Lets focus on one thing instead of skipping to the next song before the first one has finished…. so to speak.
I heard you focused a lot on photography recently. Where do you spend more time, in front of the lens or behind the lens?
I picked up photography when I had my first boy, I have two now… Cruz and Carter (Carr). 6 and 2 years old. It was the same time I retired from being a pro athlete…. now I’m back only for the course racing scene…. I hardly ever shoot anymore, only for work and when I’m feeling artistic. I’m not the type of photographer that is always shooting everything. I do love it, but It’s really just a job that supports my raceboard training.
What are your plans for the next year?
I’m forming a plan to begin a tour of Raceboard clinics globally. First one could be next month at Sherman Island with Johnny Heineken. It would be limited to 20 participants and we will give all our secrets away. It will be advertised through my facebook page so stay tuned and let me know if you think you have enough interest in your area. I know the Spanish team is interested…. hit me up and we will go from there…
Thanks Adam for the interview - if you want to see him in action, just have a look at this video: