Current VKWC freestyle number one Liam Whaley seems to be the one to watch this season. Aged 18, the Spanish-English-Dutch boy – born in Ibiza from a Dutch mom and an English dad – arrived in Tarifa when he was 13. Whaley has been kiteboarding for 7 years so far and has definitely planted his feet at the top of the international ranking. After gaining back-to-back victories in Dakhla (Morocco) and Isla de Coche (Venezuela), he is determined to hunt for the world title. The next VKWC stop will be at his home spot – Tarifa, Spain. Will he be able to go for a third win?
Name: Liam Whaley
Date of birth: 11/4/1996
Disciplines: freestyle, big air
Location: Tarifa (Spain)
Facebook page: Liam Whaley athlete
Sponsors: Cabrinha, NP
Do you think you can be the world champion?
Yeah, for sure (laugh).
What is your strategy during a heat?
I don’t know. In the first events, everyone was starting off with a double Handle Pass and I think that was not so good because it can lower all your scores. If you start with a Blind Judge 7 for example, it can’t give you a 9 directly because then it leaves no room for higher scores. I was starting off with a Front Blind Mobe, Back Mobe 5, KGB grab and S Mobe 5. Then I was going for doubles because all of my tricks were around 7-8 and judges would give 9 or high 8, so I left my best tricks to the end.
Do you feel nervous before a competition?
Sometimes just before a comp, my stomach feels a bit weird but normally I’m pretty relaxed.
„I think I put more pressure on myself than other people put on me.“
Do you have any rituals?
Not really, no. I don’t really like to speak to people, I kind of stay in my own zone. One hour before I compete I’m setting up my kite, checking that the lines are good and checking the wind. I prefer to be on my own so I can focus.
High expectations are placed on you this season. Do you feel under pressure?
I think I put more pressure on myself than other people put on me. But if I don’t win, I don’t mind because there are eight stops a year so if you’re bad at one you are not going to ruin the year for yourself. Of course I want to win and I put a certain pressure on myself, but I’m not going to die if I don’t win (laugh).
Now that you have nailed a Double Half Cab Mobe, are you going to try it in a heat?
Woah! It is pretty risky to try that. I think that if I have an easy heat and I know that I’m going to win already, I will try it towards the end just to test it out and see if I can land it again. And maybe if there is a really close heat and I have done all of my tricks already, I’ll give it a go at the end.
„When it’s choppy and gusty, then I go for my tricks much more.“
Do you ride better during a competition or in a free session?
I think I don’t miss my tricks as much when I’m in a competition, I land them more often especially if the conditions are really hard. When it’s choppy and gusty, then I go for my tricks much more. In competition, I just go for it whereas in a free session sometimes I don’t want to do my tricks because I might hurt my knee or rip my shoulder out.
Do you do any other training besides kiteboarding?
Yeah, at home I train like three times a week with a trainer. I do a lot of gym work to reenforce all the muscles around the places where I can get injured, and I have a physio that knows a lot about my body. He tells me everything I have to eat and do to stay healthy and avoid injuries.
Who would you like to beat the most?
Everyone! (Laugh) It feels just as good if I beat Youri (Zoon), Aaron (Hadlow), Alex (Pastor), Christophe (Tack), Marc (Jacobs). I think it depends more on the heat. If it’s really close then it’s a much better feeling.
Do you think that the image you spread on social networks is important?
Yeah, of course. I haven’t really paid much attention to that until now but I’ve realized that I don’t have many sponsors yet. So now I have a manager, who is Carmen Campamar, and I also try to concentrate more on my social media as well as on the new website I’m creating. I just try to get more famous (laugh)!
If you would not be a kitesurfer, what would you be?
A surfer, but I probably wouldn’t be number one (laugh)!