You’re currently in the middle of filming your Cold Water Project documentary with Volvo. Can you tell us about it?

The Cold Water Project is something that’s been in my head for years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to realise it. The opportunity came off the back of the world record I got last year, it created a lot of interest for me.

What was the record?

I kitesurfed across the English channel last year – I managed to secure the fastest solo crossing from Dungeness over to Wissant in France. I was going for the double actually, trying to become the first person to go there and back, but we had all sorts of things against us, the conditions weren’t ideal, at the French coast the wind dropped off, and on top of that I had a big tanker to contend with – I had to give way to that. That said, I beat the speed record going over!

As I say, off the back of that, I managed to get quite a big following on Facebook, and a lot of interest in the stuff I was doing. As soon as I touched down on the beach in Wissant, the media were asking “well, what’s next?” and I thought “crikey, I’m not even dry yet!”

So what’s the main aim of the documentary?

The whole idea with this project was to finally showcase what amazing and beautiful spots we have around the British Isles and really put them on the map. There are a lot of surf movies out there and some top surfers have done some great stuff here in the UK, but nobody’s ever tackled it from a kitesurfing perspective, so my idea was to really showcase just how great our conditions are in the winter.

Why choose the winter months?

The winter months throw out the biggest and best conditions, and I like the sense of space when there’s not many people about. You get some amazing light levels, you get the strongest, most consistent winds; for me it’s perfect. It’s one of the best times of the year for kitesurfing. Yes, it’s cold, but if you wrap up and man up then you’re ok.

The Cold Water project is actually over three locations: we started in Cornwall, then we moved up to North Wales, and near the end of May we’re going up to Scotland. We’re planning to film in the Hebrides and then move up to Inverness where I’ll be going for a second world record to conclude the project. So that’s the plan: to set a new world speed record for kiting Loch Ness.

What kind of training did you have to undertake to prepare for the project?

I attended a ‘Big Wave Ocean Confidence’ course before starting this project. I’m good on the water but when you get into situations where things do go wrong, as they have, you’ve got to know what your options are.

The course was run by another very well respected UK waterman and kitesurfer, Dom Moore, who I’ve known for years now. We really hit it off on the course and I invited him along on the Cornwall and Wales sections of the trip. Cornwall is where he’s based, so he was pretty influential in deciding on some of the spots and breaks that we would kite there – he knew of a couple that had never been kited before, that you could only access by taking the goat track down the cliff. We even had to lower some of the kit down the cliff on ropes.

Did you have much difficulty filming in such remote areas?

I don’t think it was as much a challenge for us windsurfers because we’re sort of hardened to the conditions and we know what to expect. But it was certainly a challenge for the camera guy who’d just flown back in from a shoot in India where it was 40 degrees to then be scrabbling down a cliff face in 30 knot winds and pouring rain at about 6 degrees – he wasn’t best pleased! The one thing you can’t script is the weather that’s going to be thrown at you, and we had everything, absolutely everything, thrown at us for the corner strip.

That’ll make for a gripping documentary!

It will, it really will because it does exactly what I hoped it would do: it showcases the absolute power and beauty of the British Isles, but also it’s a bit of a Boy’s Own adventure in that we’ve really pushed it to try and access some tricky spots.

How did you start out kitesurfing?

I’d always surfed as a kid, and always had a massive attraction to the sea. All my life I’ve been down on the south coast, so the only time I’ve ever moved away from the water was when I was in my late teens and moved up to London for work, but I soon got itchy and had to move back to the water.

Whenever the wind’s blowing and the trees are twitching, I start twitching – so whilst I’m talking to you now I can see it’s good out, I’ll be heading out this afternoon! As well as surfing I’d also flown powerkites as a kid and always been fascinated by kites, and then I guess it was about 12 or 13 years ago I was in Brighton and I saw this guy off the coast on a surfboard flying a powerkite, and saw it and just thought “wow, that’s the ideal combination”.

It’s a real mish-mash of sports in that fact that it encompasses sailing, wakeboarding, kite flying – there’s a lot of stuff in there. I think the big attraction for kitesurfing is that it’s such a three-dimensional sport.

How did you get involved with Volvo?

Well that was really off the back of the cold water project, and Volvo’s sponsorship of me. When we did the contract and they agreed to support the film project they asked me to act as an ambassador for the sport, and to represent powerkiting at some events they were going to be doing, because they wanted to introduce kitesurfing into the sailing academy. So again for me that’s just wonderful because it showcases the sport, which is what I really want to do.

This is their first taster at getting involved with the sport. It has been around for about ten years here in the UK but it’s gaining rapidly in popularity. I guess it gives them an edge, from their perspective, to showcase more of an extreme sport than the other disciplines of sailing that they tend to focus on.

You drive an XC60 both in your daily life and off-road when kitesurfing – how has it fit in with your lifestyle?

When I first set about planning the cold water project, I knew I’d need a vehicle to shift kit about and shift people as in the film crew, and for some reason I always had a van in my mind. It was always going to be one of the standard sort of surf wagons, but then when I started talking to Volvo and they expressed interest, they said “well actually you know we’re having a big push on the Volvo XC60 in 2013, as a sort of exploration vehicle, and a vehicle that can fit very well into this lifestyle”, and that really appealed to me because it’s so true. As a vehicle, it’s incredibly smart, it’s incredibly quick, and it looks enough like a business vehicle in the sense that if you’re a professional adult, you’d use it during the week and then you’d use it for hitting the beach at the weekend. But I mean the vehicle itself has loads of space, loads of capacity, it’s been amazing for this project, it’s been truly amazing, because we’ve taken it off-road in Wales as well as to access some pretty remote breaks. That was really where it came into its own.

How has it handled going off-road?

Completely. If you imagine driving up to North Wales, you’re hitching the motorways you want something that’s going to be quick, something that’s equally comfortable carrying your kit, but when you get to those remote locations you want to be able to truck down some farmers’ tracks and access rocky bits of the beach and it has no issues doing that whatsoever. Some of the locations we went to in wales you wouldn’t be able to access with a van.

I’ve got great admiration for the brand actually because I think historically Volvo has a reputation for being a very safe, reliable brand and I’m really hoping that the likes of guys like Ben Ainslie and Nick Dempsey and myself can really put the Volvo brand back on the map as a very cool brand. Not just safe but also a really powerful exploration vehicle as well that you can use for projects such as mine. I think the vehicle really does fit in as a part of your life whether that’s towing a boat, or as I do, loading it up with boards and kites, but it’s equally at home with loading it up with the kids, it’s just an incredibly flexible vehicle that ticks so many boxes.

What was your biggest fear when setting out on the project?

I think if I was to have a biggest fear it probably isn’t a fear factor of the elements, it’d be a fear of not delivering on this project, I was so passionate about delivering this project for Volvo and the other sponsors and for own peace of mind that I wanted to ensure that all three locations completely delivered. We’re now two thirds into the project and I can hand on heart say that Cornwall’s delivered, Wales has delivered, and I think the short film we’re going to result in will be pretty powerful. I’m really pleased with the way it’s going at the moment, it’s not so much fear as absolute excitement, because this film project has given me the opportunities to not only kite with a great buddy of mine but also experience some great locations here in the British Isles.


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