All around Kiteboarder, Videographer, Photographer, Surfer, and Skater. Kiteboarding connoisseur, authority, and expert. Former PKRA Judge turned Kite Park League head judge. Rides waves unhooked on a surfboard, a skate, and a foil board. Flatwater and parks all over the world. As well as Knot Future co-founder but who is Rowdy aka Tranq aka Alexander James Lewis-Hughes?
Rowdy turned 20 years kiteboarding in 2020 and is celebrating it with a video part. Throwing back to his roots at home with a more wave/kicker-focused vibe we're sure this one has a bit of something for everyone (plus a few surprises).
Oi Rowdy what’s going on. Where are you at?
I’m in Poland right now man. I’m just taking some time to work on a few projects I hope to set free soon. I’ve been traveling the world chasing Kiteboarding conditions for the last 10years straight with little time out, so it’s been cool to have this time to shift my focus a bit and give my body a break.
I heard you got a little doggy what’s that all about? Are you going to get a passport for it? Yeah, we adopted a dog from the countryside. It’s a girl, its name is Sunny. It’s a pretty funny little dog, already too smart, I’m sure it will be trouble. It looks like a Jack Russel but it isn’t, we had a Jack Russel when I was a kid too. Yeah, we are waiting on a passport and final vaccinations so we can take it on some trips.
So cool the first traveling kite dog. Well, twenty years Kitting!! How does that feel?
As you’d imagine, quick and slow at the same time. Honestly, I hadn’t put much thought into it until last year, just reflecting back on things that have happened and how things have changed. The last Line Club episode with Ewan Jaspan brought up a lot of things I hadn’t considered for a while and hearing his thoughts and how his view based on how long he’s been around is even different from my own given in general we both have similar experiences also made me think. You kind of forget how long you’ve been doing things after a while and it becomes harder to relate to other people or have people understand where your opinion is coming from or why your opinion even makes sense (or matters)… Kiteboarding lacks culture, which only amplifies this disconnect many older riders feel in the sport, I think it’s a big reason people “quit” and never come back. That said I also feel I have a connection with a lot of interested and motivated people, even if that’s a niche avenue those people motivate me enough to keep progressing and pushing things forward as an individual, sport, and culture.
Fuck yeah. What do you think the biggest steps in progression have been? Gear wise and riding. I say it all the time but the 2004 Slingshot Fuel was massive in its era. That was such a leap above everything else that basically every pro and every team rider wanted to be on Slingshot or copy it, add to that Slingshot had a raw boardsport style image and promoted riding as the forefront it was basically unmatched in its heyday. Although some people may credit SLE (supported leading edge) or “bridal” kites as a huge development, I don’t see it much that way, I think it was perhaps a needed revision at the time in the search for more depower to engage more beginners, but with better panel layouts and overall design kites don’t actually need bridals to achieve a big depower range and I think a 5th line does a much better job, especially if we are to take overall handling and performance into the equation. Obviously, I’m talking strictly from a progressive riding standpoint, I believe the current trend towards sloppy SLE designs has done more to lower the overall level of everyday kiteboarders than it has to progress it. Once they learn and are locked into an SLE they almost never consider upgrading to a better performing option and many people just have no clue that it even makes a difference, also the added issue that with such stigma of non-SLEs becomes exponentially harder resale. It’s a combination of things that has lead to the “dumbing down” of the average kiters level, but it’s apparent to me that it’s happened. I think the progression of riding has been pretty linear for the most part, each generation has taken from the previous and built upon it as with most boardsports. Obviously, there are the standouts along the way, Lou, Dre, Hadlow but for the most part, it’s developed with hindsight and the progression in ease of use of equipment. I do think there is far less chance now that you have a standout rider like before just based on the amount of people kiting and how the overall pro level has risen substantially. I mean imagine taking people like Brandon, Ewan, Alex, Noe and throwing them in the Autofocus era, even with slightly lower level people would be tripping out on them I’m sure. I guess the same could also be said for a lot of riders. Comparing generations with hindsight doesn’t really work. What I think makes sense is performance over time, that’s the only constant you can reliably judge an overall level off, what has that rider done over what period of time, how do they adapt? can they stay relevant? I think maintaining some level of relevance over a long period is underrated in our sport.
In gear therms what do you think is next/ the future? I guess for the mainstream it’s bigger boards (it’s hard to believe given other boardsports) but Kiting still isn’t even in that timeline yet. In general though I don’t think the gear needs to change much. I think we’ve reached a 2000’s era of the Skateboarding timeline where we have stuff that works well (at least I do) and it would be fine to stay constant. In all honesty, I think the level would probably only increase if riders were to get the same gear year in year out… obviously, that’s not good for Kite brands sales who are always just trying to push another gimmick.
Kitting for twenty years gives you a lot of time to play around with all the disciplines is that why you’re still hooked? Which one is your favorite? It’s definitely a big reason I’m still here. If I wasn’t so versatile I would have stopped a long time ago I’m sure. It’s definitely a big part of why I love the sport, I don’t think there’s any sport in the world that comes close to offering what Kiting can. Things change all the time, I don’t think I really have a favorite, it’s why I’m fine with switching it up so often.
In the video, I see you riding multiple boards, if you had to pick one to stick with forever and a spot what would it be? Hahahaha, what a question. I’d probably not be that interested in kiting if that were the case, really it’s as I said above. I guess if I could only have one for forever I’d take a twin tip and a park location, because I believe that’s the most versatile discipline kiting offers and thus would take the longest to get bored with. If I’m not mistaken the video is shot during 2020. Even with the god damn pandemic you still managed to get around. How was that? Yep, it’s all 2020. I dunno man, it wasn’t that much different to normal too be honest. The wave parts were at home, which was the start of the pandemic and the reason I actually got to film around home for a bit (as I was stuck there) then the rest was just traveling around like normal. I wasn’t exactly planning on making a part, as you might see from the fact I’m riding a 100cm foil board on flat water… it just happened I had those clips and thought it would be cool to put them all together. I guess in some ways I also just liked the fact that it showed you don’t need the perfect equipment or the right spots to have fun or learn something new, even if it wasn’t all the gnarliest footage.
There is a cheeky logo I haven’t seen before in the video what is it? A little project I’m releasing soon, pretty hyped for the direction it’s going and I’m sure the people connecting the dots can figure it out, the rest will have to wait! You’re an Advocate for the board sport culture and in kitting (if there is any) what is it. Besides the budget, the only other thing keeping us so far away I think is the ignorance and preconceived idea that kitting is so dangerous and “you’ll fly away”. In your opinion what is lacking that keeps us so far away from the other skate, snow, and surfboard cultures? I guess boardsport mentality boiled down to its simplest form is the attitude that everything you do is for the sport and its progression. The thing that’s lacking in Kiting is focus and ownership. Kiting is hugely diverse, thus having people run things or in charge of things who actually have a decent level of knowledge to make progressive and boardsportesque decisions across a variety of disciplines is fairly hard. It’s one reason as kiting has become more diverse I think it’s only further moved away from boardsport virtues. The second thing we lack is companies owned by passionate people. The reality is a big chunk of the industry is owned by people that don’t share our boardsport values, thus the way they run or operate a company doesn’t reflect that. This is something riders who are interested in progressing the sport really need to understand, if there’s someone actually pushing things how you want, support that as much as you can as that’s the only way things will ever change or at least form a viable niche.
Why do you think Big Air has turned into such a movement the last few years. Why now and not before? This goes well with my 20years question. Big Air was big before. In the early years, you had dudes in comps doing a dangle double back roll hooked in beating Lour Wainman doing a KGB… that’s pretty hard to believe but it’s because no one much understood or respected what Lou was doing. As the overall level grew and more youth got into the sport and started doing handle passes that whole perception changed. Kiteboarding just moves in waves, things move in and out of prominence all the time, Big Air had been pretty low in exposure for a long time so it was due for a come up. I think it’s fine, whatever you want to do is cool, what I think isn’t cool is when you just pretend like just because Big Air is popular right now nothing else matters and that there are no other riders out there who are super talented at different things and need support. Unfortunately, the industry is so rooted in toxic social media land nowadays that it’s hard for anyone to understand why you’d support something that isn’t going “viral”… but it all goes back to the answer to my last question. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What about the sport, what do you want to see from kitting in 10 years? I have no idea, to be honest. I’d like to hope I’ve made a difference somehow by then, I’d love to have a company or be part of a meaningful company. I can’t predict the future, but I’d like to see the next generation stepping up and moving things along, I’d love to be there alongside it all filming and feeling that vibe. What are your plans for the next few months? Right now I’m working on a few plans here in EU so likely not going anywhere, but when I do go somewhere it will be back to Sardinia again to try and get another park vibe happening.
I love to hear it. Let's do more kiteboarding and of course Knot Future. Anything else you'd like to say before we tune off? Holy fuck, that turned out to be quite lengthy.
If you made it this far you deserve a bonus section. Tom Bridge came in with some questions for Rowdy and then we asked Tom a few as well.
Alright, I’m just watching it one sec. Firstly, banging video. Where was it filmed and over how many months? Cheers Bro! It was filmed mostly at home in Australia, at least that’s where the wave footage is from, I filmed that at the beginning of CoVid, maybe 8-10 different days including the twin-tip stuff. The weird flat water foil board stuff was in the Maldives one day, it was too shallow to foil and I just wanted to mess around, I had no idea I’d use it for an edit. Out of all the boards that two tone board is probably the hardest to ride, it’s super small and has really soft rails, it’s hard to go fast and it doesn’t do any skate tricks easily hahaha. What was the inspiration behind the song? I chose the song because I’ve always liked Pink Floyd (as I’m sure lots of people do), but in general, I usually like to choose songs for my parts that people have never heard before. Lately, I was listening to that album again and it just seemed fitting and not such an obvious PF choice. My mum actually used to play guitar and sing a lot of Pink Floyd songs when I was a kid, so there’s also that pulling me to it all I guess. And who filmed? I’m guessing you edited? Karolina Filmed the whole thing, besides the Super8mm stuff (unless it’s a clip of me). Yeah, I edited it all. hahaha. Why do you ride a surfboard on hooked but then when you go on a twintip your Hooked in?Such a valid question. That spot is super hard to judge conditions, it always looks pretty similar because it’s kinda cross off mostly. But if you check out the back in those twin tip clips you will see it’s crazy windy, I was on a 7m super lit with 18m lines… I really wanted to film a lot on the twin tip but that was the only session I ended up getting… To be fair it’s not great twin tip wave footage but I felt like including it just to show people you can ride whatever you want and I think there’s still a ton of cool stuff to be done along the wave face on a Twin-Tip. Next video… always next video haha. And why do you go better on that wake skate weird rectangle thing better than a surf board in the surf? The answer to that I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think I ride better on that 100cm Foil Board than a surfboard but I guess that’s also subjective. That Foil Board is also super difficult to ride, I was pretty happy with how those clips turned out because I remember the start of the first session just wondering if I could even make it work, it feels like you will just tweak an ACL at any moment. I’d love a few more people to have a go on it just to see what I’m on about hahaha. It rides way worse than a wakeskate because the rear is flat for a foil so you have almost no grip in a bottom turn, it’s basically like trying to ride a tiny skimboard with a square tail hahaha. I guess I need to throw away my surfboard and just ride bad foil boards.
Tom Bridge mini bonus Interview. Why do you think Big Air has turned into such a movement the last few years. Why now and not before? Yeah true it’s bullshit. I think it’s mainly because of the views and big air isn’t hard. To become a top level freestyle/park/wave rider takes a long time where as big air you can do 2 seasons in Capetown and be “world class”. And kids all they want to do is get views and don’t care about the culture of the sport because they’ve grown up on tiktok so quick views are very attractive to them.
What do you think keeps you frothed on kitting after so many years? Man, I dunno it’s such a hard question to ask I guess to create a name for myself in a sport. The question to ask is even if you won the lottery and you had all the cash you could ever need would you still be as motivated to go out kiting? For me, that’s an obvious yes because I grew up before views or money was important it was all about just going out. Do you think it applies to older people as well? Like the people running the companies aren't kids but views are just as valuable for them as anything else it's an easy way to rank people? Yeah exactly for sure you are valued at the number of views you get for sure, one person who gets 10k views is valued a lot lower than someone that gets 100k views and there is logic behind that but it doesn’t push the sport. If I was a kid coming into the sport now I wouldn’t have a fucking clue what to do.