“I’m really happy that I have the fire burning again, because the thing is, when you are at the top, the other riders are working really hard to get to your level. Now I am feeling fresh. I feel that I am the one who has to come back.”
Kiri Thode is back in business. The PWA freestyle World champion from 2013 announced his comeback at international competitions, got new sponsors and feels excited again. We had a talk with the 29 year-old Caribbean windsurfer, to find out more about his comeback plans.
Interview with Kiri Thode
Continentseven: Hi Kiri, what’s up. How are you doing?
Kiri Thode: Hi Chris, yeah, in Bonaire everything is fine, we got really good windy days right now. I am really happy to get back on the water. So everything is just fine here. I have my family, my car. Everything is fine.
You announced a comeback. The last time you announced your comeback it didn’t really happen in the end. How serious are you about it now?
Actually the thing is I wasn’t that motivated during the last three years. Hence I took time off and really got back to where I started, enjoying the island more with my friends, fishermen friends and stuff. Now I got the fire going again and of course I take it serious. Also the thing is with the new sponsor and new gear I get more motivation. Last time I didn’t sign with anybody. And in the last two years I didn’t want to get a contract.
Do you have any expectations for your comeback event? It will happen at your home spot.
What to expect… yeah it’s at my home spot and of course I know the place really well. Of course I expect some good riders and I know my abilities. I just need some time on the water. I’m pretty confident here on Bonaire. This time the stress is not on me, it’s on them. It’s gonna be exciting to kick some ass, hahaha…
That’s an announcement! Are you happy about the positive feedback you received after you had announced your comeback?
Yeah, actually I’m really really surprised because I didn’t really go on social media last year. I was more laid back and more private with everything. The thing is a lot of riders, a lot of windsurfers were the ones who thought that I need to come back. They were really pushing me to make that step. Some pro-riders and even some of the biggest names in the freestyle scene told me that they miss me. They motivated me actually. So I’m really really happy. It’s crazy how many people react and still believe in me and know what I am and what my abilities are with the windsurfing freestyle gear. So I’m really really surprised. I am blown away…
Why did you suddenly stop your career? You already said it was a kind of a motivational thing but were there any other reasons, too? Did you feel you can’t keep up anymore or did you have any physical problems? Was it about the lack of sponsors? What was the real reason for the sudden break?
The real reason, why I stopped was like following: in the wintertime you train so hard and then you go to a competition and you know before who is going to win even when you have sailed the best heat in your life. I think the judging was a bit of the reason why I stopped. We all train so hard you know but then the competition needs to be fair. If someone has the best heat he/she has to win. I’m not criticizing. Some personal things happened, too. My really good friend passed away. And then I said to myself I gonna take a year off. I need to go back to where I started. You know, you travel so much. So much competitions over the years and many of them I should have won. I was thinking why am I working really hard? Everyone said you’ve won, but the other guy won. This fact has confused me a bit. I took some time off and really did things, what I didn’t do when I was traveling. Competing keeps you really busy. Either you train or you travel. You never get time to spend time for yourself. I am happy I took some time off and I am really motivated to be able to show what I still can do, you know. So I’m really really happy and I still feel really fresh and fit. That’s the most important to stay free of injuries with hard trying. That’s the main goal!
Do you like the actual judging a bit more?
The thing is if there are rules you have to compete under them. So no matter what the system is you have to get used to it, but the thing is I wished (Kiri laughs) they got 6 minutes and you do whatever you want. I wish they would allow at least two moves per tack. It’s good for any riders. Because most of the time you get the fire going, when you start with a big move and then you want the next one. But now you have to tack and change to the other tack. I like the new system. It’s good to get higher quality and it’s better for online judging with the new system, but they should put two moves per tack and then I am really really happy with that.
Did you follow your colleagues and friends on tour last year through the livestream?
Yeah, I followed a bit, not deep deep, but of course they are popping up everywhere here and there. And I followed some live streaming also. But I was excited to see the girls, you know. We get a time to focus at different disciplines like Slalom or Wave and also the girls. The girls are really ripping and I am really proud on that. I really hope we gonna get more competitions, for both, men and women. But I am really happy they already have 4 events this season (editors note: only 3 PWA freestyle events, because Portugal got cancelled). Maybe I am going to compete in the EFPT or PWA. But according the rules I can’t compete on the PWA because I don’t have a ranking from last year. I will see what’s gonna happen. I just wanna compete, that’s it!
Which moves are you practicing right now and can you do all the latest moves?
Of course the Shifty and the double Air Culo are the main moves. I need to get them done 100%, but the rest is just getting used to the new gear. Of course I’ve never lost the moves. I do everything like the double moves, triple moves, popping. Day by day I am getting used to the Severne board. Actually the thing is it’ s the sail, because the 5 batten sail is a different feeling. But the board feels like a Starboard, but with a different taste, but I feel good with the board already. But the sail I need to get tuned a bit and I’m ready to go.
How much equipment do you have at the moment?
At the moment I have the 4.8m and the 5.2m, which I need the most for Bonaire and by next week I will get the rest. I am gonna be staked with a lot of gear and I am really happy with that and I am thankful to Jibe City and Severne Caribbean for supporting me with gear. So I am not gonna be lacking on gear this time. I will have enough equipment and I am really happy with that!
Is windsurfing a hobby for you at the moment, a fun thing?
The thing what most of the riders also miss is to enjoy. Before it was more like enjoying and training hard. Now the level got so high, you have to go for it. You don’t have time to play or having fun on the water without doing serious moves. But I’m really happy that I have the fire burning again, because the thing is, when you are at the top, the other riders are working really hard to get to your level. Now I am feeling fresh. I feel that I am the one who has to come back. So I am more motivated. I am hungry and I am also enjoying, because I am happy to see everybody again. And day by day some pro riders are arriving and I am really happy and motivated to train with them and having fun. That’s the main thing but I’m also focused to keep going!!
So, playing around, having fun, taking it not too serious is your recipe to have success in the future?
No, no, of course I’m taking it serious, but the difference is when you are training serious you only focus on yourself. You get a kind of tunnel vision. Of course I am training hard. Everybody is training hard, but beside that you have to really have fun also. When somebody crashes we cheer to each other. We motivate each other and then everybody’s level is getting higher and higher. And the way we sail here in Bonaire is if someone does a Culo, I am gonna try to do a double Culo. Like this you get better and better. I always have trained like that. I never changed my training. In this sport you have to have fun and you need to keep yourself motivated to go for years and years. You get to a tunnel vision and you focus only on yourself to get better and better while you are not focused on the rest. I am really happy to have this feeling again! And of course I am training serious!!
Would you recommend other young riders to go for a professional freestyle windsurfing career?
For the young riders my advise will be „do what your heart is saying“. If you wanna compete, do it, if you don’t wanna compete, don’t do it. If you are young use your talent and travel and compete, because one day you might be world champion also. And never ever give up, never!!! Keep pushing hard. There are a lot of young riders. I am happy to see so many young rippers coming. I just want to see more kids. So this freestyle sport can go higher and higher. And also from different countries. Now you can see the Caribbean kids have the power to be on top like Amado, Gollito, Ricardo or me were there. And Steven of course from Europe and Dieter also. But I want to see young riders from everywhere around the world, who keep pushing the limits to the max!
And what’s the top tip of Kiri for everyone who wants to improve in freestyle windsurfing?
The most important is to go 100% for it, when you do a move, especially with the high technical moves. Be fast, have one of the newest equipment – it always helps you to improve your skills and if you have a buddy, who is good to train with, try to do the move he does even better. This is helping you to get better and better each day!
Thanks Kiri for your honest interview. We are happy to see you back on the water enjoying your windsurfing sessions again…
©continentseven 2019, Photos by Kuma Movie & Ayupic