INTRO: In his column this issue, Aaron Hadlow talks about health, wealth and happiness. Well, health and happiness, anyway...
I'm typing this sat in the back of a T5 on the way home from the RedBull Ring (Austria's previous F1 track) along with eight other RedBull athletes. We've been on an air awareness course, all about learning to control and visualise our body's movements to help improve our riding in all our sports.
I've been on trampolines with some of the world's top coaches and picked up tips and tricks that I would just never have thought of by myself. It's also so beneficial to be around such talented individuals who push their level beyond what they thought they could achieve.
You probably wonder why we were at a racing circuit? Well, it's pretty typical of being a RedBull rider, dividing sessions up with other activities such as racing the shit out of KTM expos, mountain biking, trials riding and more ? the idea being that these activities help to reset the mind for the next session. It also opens your mind to endless new avenues and ideas within your own sport. The more time I spend meeting other athletes from other sports, the more I find myself thinking how much further we can develop kiteboarding.
Although I've been injured most of this year I have still had many opportunities through RedBull, such as meeting more of the team and have had an insight into more sports than ever before. Some new friends will be hitting up the winter Olympics and it's amazing to see the amount of coaching staff they put behind a single individual, not to mention the additional physios, psychologists and nutritionists. It would be so good to see kiting heading in this direction as it's not only the Olympic athletes that get this treatment; many others at the top of their game are kitted out and get all the help they need. I realise how important this is for the top guys.
As most people know, Ruben Lenten is one of my closest friends. We were once the young generation of kiteboarders and never knew anything different other than just getting on with what we had to deal with ourselves; from web design to contract negotiations to competitions or video editing - you name it, there was rarely much help in anything. I was luckier than most of course, having such a supportive family and close friends, but I still had to learn these trades while most athletes in other sports have teams of people around them, specifically for PR, travel and fitness, etc. All they have to do is concentrate on what they do best!
I know this is still a little way off in kiting, but I also know what it's like to be a young grom growing up and trying to make your way in a sport, so these days I'm more than happy to help new talent wherever I can. The RedBull 'Under My Wing' Project is something I plan to expand. Based around a short but intense training camp giving young guns a platform to learn from and the opportunity to ask questions. That's only a small part though and we need to make sure they are guided in the direction where they are left to focus on their riding, as that's how kiteboarding will get to the next level and make the sport even more eye catching.
Hopefully it's just a matter of time. I hope I can contribute to steering sponsorship packages and management services in the direction of providing support in areas other than just travel budgeting. Right now I'm sure there are few kiteboarders that are actually making much of a living. Everybody argues, 'Yeah, but look at the life they lead!'. Well, for sure they don't have much to complain about, but if you live for kiteboarding, everything goes back into it and our budgets are far down on the list of priorities, even though we all put our bodies on the line through stress, day in, day out.
It's crazy to think that at most times throughout the year about 50% of our UK RedBull team are in rehab. When I picked up my injury back in February I saw it as such a big deal and so many negative thoughts ran through my head. To be fair, facing nine months off the water and lots of uncertainty with your first real injury is pretty nerve wracking, but I've recently started feeling as though I've actually been quite lucky. After seeing what gets thrown down in some sports, I'm inspired to keep kiteboarding heading that way and pushing myself further.
We still sit a little further down the extreme sports list in terms of consequences than I once thought, but I've no doubt kiteboarding will become more extreme, even in the near future. Then there are still the waves of new generations to come through and inject their talent into the sport. In order for them to achieve as much as possible, we need to start promoting the benefits of healthy living, training and more vital support off the water. As the years go by, this will get more and more important.