In 2024 Formula Kite will become Olympic and every country is allowed to send one male and female. Appletree team rider Roderick Pijls is part of the Dutch selection and is in the race for an Olympic ticket. In the coming months, he is keen to take you along his road to Paris 2024. Let’s start with how he got into foil racing as a strapless wave kitesurfer.

Written by Roderick Pijls

A nightmare: warm summer with little wind

Summer 2021 was remarked as a summer in The Netherlands with warm temperatures, many bbq’s and little wind. For most of the people this sounds fantastic and nothing to complain about. For people who practice kitesurfing the ‘little-wind’ part sounds like a nightmare.

I’ve found myself many days on the beach waiting for the wind to fill in. Several times I drove back home with a dry wetsuit, but once in a while I managed to get up on a foil and ride up and down for a little bit. 

Photo: Rein Rijke

Though, often I saw some guys far out on the ocean with big lumps of kites, racing up and down with a boat behind them. One day I decided to stay on the beach and wait until they were back on shore. I could hear their enthusiastic voice about their session…I decided to get a little sneak closer to their gear and if I would recognise one or two guys from the pack. Unfortunately I didn’t see any familiar faces so I decided to get in my car and head back home again (with a dry wetsuit haha).

Olympic windsurfing legend

Just before I wanted to pull out there was a 2m tall friendly face who introduced himself as Casper Bouman (for the unknown people – just like me – an absolute Olympic windsurfing legend). He initiated the conversation and said that he saw me looking curious to the guys. Apparently, he was the guy on the boat chasing the guys and he is the coach of the Dutch federation. He invited me to join their training tomorrow morning, just to ride along and see how it feels like and if I would like it. Of course, after 12 consecutive days with no wind I was more than keen to get back on the water. He promised me to bring some light-wind gear and the next day I was out on the water with the guys. 

Paris 2024 Formula kite
Photo: Kyle Cabano

Meeting the team

The next morning, before training, the team had their briefing and they talked about things that I would never take into consideration (e.g., cavitation on the foil/ shifts in the wind/ the tilt and rake of their boards/ algae’s in the water/ etc..). Casper also introduced me to the team and if they could give me some tips and tricks with getting on the water. At first I was just so stoked to be on the water with so little wind. I decided to keep riding this gear whenever the conditions are so light and just to enjoy the ride. But after several weeks I got a bit more confident and wanted to keep up with the big boys from the team who are training for Paris 2024 Formula Kite.

The goal: an Olympic ticket

Now, 2 years later the racing discipline has become one of my main disciplines and together with the Dutch federation we are competing in the European and Worlds to get the best possible ranking. In 2024 this discipline, Formula Kite, will become Olympic and every country is allowed to send one male and female (if the criteria are met). Obviously this has become one big goal!! 

Paris 2024 Formula kite
Photo: Kyle Cabano

I think, compared to the average fleet, I have a different background. Most of the competitors have a sailing background, which has a big benefit for your tactic skills. However, as a freestyle- and wave rider you benefit with your body coordination/mobility and strength. 

Registered gear

Normally, when we have competitions in freestyle or wave you do your heat, pack your gear and put it in the tent. It doesn’t matter if the kites get a bit wet or if there’s sand on your board. During a race competition we have to pack our kite’s properly, which means folding the kite’s, making sure that there’s no sand on the foil (because sand can scratch the foil, which creates cavitation), then you also want everything packed together, as everybody has exactly the same gear. As this discipline will become Olympic you can only use registered gear. 

This means that only a certain type of kites/ foils/ helmets/ etc.. are authorised. The only thing that is still open is the board. Well.. how lucky is that for me being an Appletree rider :). Appletree has been able to create a big name for themselves in the wave, wing/surf foil and freeride kite foil world with creating spectacular strong and well developed boards. Now, we have joined forces to step into the racing world to make sure I am able to ride the best gear possible and Appletree can put their foot in that world too.

Developing the best board possible

The board is incredibly important for a racer to feel the foil as good as possible and to translate the force of the kite into that piece of carbon underwater. The challenge to design the most refined and strongest racing board was immediately taken up by Appletree. Many months were spent working on it in their R&D lab and the board is still being tweaked. No half-measures are taken. 

Probably in the next Olympic cycle (2024-2028) the board will also be limited on certain sizes/ weights and other restrictions that the committee will set. But before that, we will push the limits and try to reach that Olympic ticket together!

Next update

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