Kiteboarding: Flying freestyle to world No 1

By Peter White


New Zealand's best kiteboarder, Marc Jacobs, is back home in Mount Maunganui after another tilt at the professional world tour.

The 23-year-old is the only fulltime New Zealander on the circuit and continues to perform consistently, despite the fact he is on his own travelling the world and without enough sponsors to pay for it all.

But money aside, he loves the opportunity to compete internationally in the spectacular freestyle version of the sport, which comes with all the high-flying tricks and adrenalin rushes.

It was the more staid and unremarkable course racing discipline that was given the nod instead of windsurfing for the 2016 Rio Olympics, rather than what Jacobs is into, before the decision was reversed this year.

Jacobs would have liked kite surfing in any form at the Olympics to help the sport's profile.

"I was kind of excited when they announced it was going to be in the Olympics because it would have pushed kiteboarding, which would have helped getting sponsorship in the future," said Jacobs.

"It's a different discipline to what I'm doing and I don't even know if I would be good at it.

"It's what the older guys do and is boring, whereas the younger guys like me are into freestyle. I love doing something different. I love flying and going big, stuff that people can go wild about."

Jacobs has won the NZ Open title five times and is ranked fifth in the world after eight events in 2012. His last event in New Caledonia was his best with a third placing to close out the year.

He says a move to Europe would help him out financially, as that's where the money is available in the sport, but the born-and-bred Mount boy is not keen on a permanent move away.

"It is possible to make a living on tour, but nothing like as much as surfing. The top European guys I compete with have done well enough to own houses, but I'm just scraping along being a professional.

"I have thought about moving to Europe but it isn't any better for training than it is here. Everyone goes to Cape Town, Brazil and Perth to train.

"I love New Zealand. I wouldn't want to leave it but I'll see what happens."

This year the judging format of freestyle kiteboarding changed which meant Jacobs had to learn new routines and change how he approached events.

"I did struggle a bit this year. It used to be five judges who would watch you do the trick and work it out on an overall impression. I was always good at that because I was always the powerful rider so I was the one going bigger.

"But this year it's on points, with every trick getting one point. If you landed bad you got deducted and it's harder now as well because it's in categories. Our spin tricks, passing tricks, flat tricks and others are all in categories and we could only pick two from each category.

"I had to learn a few new tricks and not do what I was doing last year because I would have been repeating tricks and categories, so it was a challenge.

"I struggled to get used to the change at the start of this year but I figured out a routine when I had three months off, and in the last two in China and New Caledonia I got right back up there.

"Next year it's going from seven tricks to five tricks, because they want to push the hard tricks, so we have more time in the water and concentrate on doing big tricks properly rather than rushing them."

It's a few years since the 12-year-old Jacobs went for a walk down to Tay St beach on a windy day and saw legendary rider Dave Edwards burning it up.

From that moment, he was hooked on kiteboarding and he plans to keep chasing his dream of being world number one - no matter how long it takes.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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