An interview with up and coming Freestyle Kitesurfer Tom Butler, discussing his journey, the UK’s hot spots, the launch of Mutiny Kites and much more!
|Honours:||2006 4th Overall Junior British Championships Freestyle
2007 3rd Overall Junior British Championships Freestyle
2007 1st British Junior Wave Masters
2008 2nd Overall Amateur British Championships Freestyle
2009 2nd overall amateur British Championships Freestyle
2009 Oxfordshire ‘Extreme Sports-Person of The Year’
Hi Tom, Thanks for talking to us today. So, how long have you been Kitesurfing and how did you get into the sport?
Hi, no worries – it’s a pleasure!
I have been kite surfing for six years now. I first got into it through Powerkiting on land and it went on from there.
I was doing a bit of fishing one day in South Wales and saw some local guys ripping up and down the beach on these huge kites, jumping in the air and doing some crazy stuff and my dad knew straight away it was going to be an expensive new hobby! From there it went very quickly, I hooked up with a local shop when I was 13 and my dad would drive me 2 hours to the beach every weekend, and it went from a hobby to a lifestyle in no time.
What have you been up to this year? Have you been in many competitions?
After finishing my A levels before the summer I hooked up with my new sponsor; Mutiny Kites and saw potential for a gap year, learning about the industry outside of the competition scene. I have been mostly training in Egypt improving my riding and working with Mutiny recently. After 5 years on the British tour it’s now more exciting for me to see other sides of the industry. As a new company with well known guys from the industry, it has been a great few months learning about the design process of the kites, photo shoots, marketing the kites, testing and building my profile as a rider.
What equipment do you use? What has been your favourite bit of kit?
I am using Mutiny Kites, I ride any kite they need testing right now as the development is never ending on any kite. I ride footstraps or bindings on my kiteboard, I can go out on both and have really good fun as I love to mix my riding up as much as I can. Both disciplines have something to bring to the progression of Kitesurfing as a sport.
For me my favourite kite and board were my first and I think everyone would say the same. Although the kites we ride now are 100 times better, it’s that first feeling of raw power you get from a kite that you never forget and gets you hooked.
What is next, do you have anything coming up this and next year?
Well like I said I’m learning about the marketing side and I’m in the process of meeting loads of new people which is really cool. Mutiny Kites’ first kite is being released in December so it’s a bit hectic travelling around to events and retailers showing them the ‘ins and outs’ of the kit.
What do the competitions that you compete in normally involve?
The competitions I have been involved in over the years have been a very similar format as I have always competed in freestyle events. You have heats of 3 or 4 people in a competition zone and each rider is marked on the technical difficulty in each trick, as well as the power and style they ride with. Depending on the conditions, every rider gets a second chance if they don’t do their best in their first heat, which is cool because you can clear your head and get out there to prove yourself.
The competitions are a great way to open your horizons of the sport and the people that you can meet, every year I have met countless numbers of new people and every single one has been helpful and really down to Earth.
Have you always been a Kitesurfer, or have you tried other forms of board sport?
Before Kitesurfing I never even thought of Extreme Sports as my kind of thing, I always pushed myself to do what everyone else was doing at school so I did county rugby and fishing competitions. Once I started Kitesurfing it was a really easy decision to drop everything else because there were no politics and I could push my own thing on the water, plus I could show off to every one on the beach – and as a 13 year old it was great!
Have you ever been injured?
I have never had a major injury and I count myself very lucky because I know people that have been out for months. Every one gets winded and pulls a muscle now and then, but the major injuries seem to happen when going onto or coming off the water because sand is much harder than water!
What has been your best memory in Kitesurfing?
My best memories come from the sessions with mates when we are all pushing it but having a great laugh at the same time. One memory that will always stay with me was in Egypt this year when me and an Egyptian guy Kitesurfed up wind whilst watching the sun set over main land Egypt, we got to the beach as it became pitch black and we were handed a beer… a fantastic ending to a long day of Kitesurfing!
How would you recommend somebody get into Kitesurfing?
With the growing number of people learning to Kitesurf it is vital to get a few days of lessons. There are schools all around the country that are accessible and super friendly. There are many ways to get into it, for instance – if you see someone on the beach involved in the sport just go ask, every one is friendly so don’t be shy!
Where in the UK would you recommend somebody try Kitesurfing?
There’s not one place in the UK that is better than another, each spot has a different characteristic that makes it different to another, its just where ever you feel comfortable doing it.
Where are the best places in the UK for the professionals and for people to watch?
There are some great places to Kitesurf in the UK as we have some of the most varied conditions around. Cornwall and South Wales are great places for big swell and to watch some great Kitesurfers ride some monster waves.
Every spot has a rider that is known for jumping huuuge… so if you turn up to a beach and see some guys on the water you won’t have to wait long to see some hang time on a windy day!
Have there been any big developments in the sport during your time, and do you see any coming in the future?
Yes. When I first started the kites would pull you whether you liked it or not – and as a 6 stone weedy kid it was terrifying at times. Because of a change in kite design in 2006 it meant the kites could be de-powered to a point where they were manageable for every average Joe that wanted a go. We now have 4 kinds of inflatable kites for the water and countless variants for every level of rider, which has made the sport accessible and hugely aiding it’s popularity.
I believe that in the next few years the kites will stay very similar in design, but there are definitely areas of the kit that can be improved with little alterations.
The biggest developments happening at the moment are the ‘alternative’ styles of riding. There has been a huge push of riders hitting sliders and kickers in bindings just like Wakeboarding over the last 6 months, including a lot of the top British and international competition riders. It is yet another dimension to the sport and this is what we need to keep the sport alive.
Thanks for talking to us today Tom, was great to hear about what you’re up to – best of luck for the next year and with the launch of Mutiny Kites.