The start of the 2018 Hydrofoil race season has well and truly begun. Last week we saw Nico Parlier smash his way through his first event to claim his first notch of the season at the Abu Dhabi Open Kitesurfing. With extremely lightwind conditions he had the advantage with his 21m R1V2 kite that allowed him to soar across the track as others struggled to maintain their speed. Riders never know what to expect with regards to the wind conditions, with many races encountering light winds, our riders take confidence in the newly released 18m and 21m sizes, giving them the edge required to stand their ground in the pesky light winds.
If ever there has been a man worthy of the title ‘Bulletman’ it would be Nico Parlier, he’s on fire - winning pretty much every foilboarding event he participates in. Last year he successfully defended his champion title at the Hydrofoil Pro Tour as well as the IKA World Kitefoil Events, winning a vast majority of the heats. He also ended the year proudly crowned as the fastest kitefoiler on water. We caught up with him in his home country France to find out more about what motivates this unstoppable force.
What drives you to do what you do?
I really enjoy the technical side to racing, I love being involved in the making of a kite and testing it so it can be the best.
How you prepare before a race?
With so many races it is difficult to find the time to do the physical training, I go biking but I mainly kite, each competition prepares me for the next.
- Mentally I prepare by making sure I know my gear is 100% and that I am confident with my equipment. I also try to think what could go wrong and how I would counteract it. I focus more on myself and my equipment rather than the actual competition.
What's your training schedule like?
When I’m away I’m out kiting almost everyday for a minimum of 2 hours but when I’m home it’s a bit difficult as I also have to study for university. When I have a competition I make sure I arrive a couple of days before it starts to test out the conditions.
Favourite location from the tour & why?
Definitely San Francisco, because the conditions were really challenging and we had a very strong fleet which pushed my level. Although my best event has to be the Defi Kite in France as I know the spot well and it’s a really intense race, forcing you to ride to your limit. It’s the biggest foil event in France with over 350 riders competing in long distance races, this is always a tight battle for me with Axel Mazella (FR) normally we have strong winds 38 to 40 knots so you can go really fast
What do you in your downtime?
I enjoy flying gliders and planes, I like the freedom they give you. I also go mountain biking when I can.
Where did the nickname 'Bullet Man' come from?
I actually have no idea, maybe one of the magazines!
How did you get into foiling?
Through a friend, in 2010 I saw him riding a foil and was in awe, I asked to try it straight away. But it took me a year to get my own as there were not many good ones on the market back then and I tested out lots! My first foil was a Spotz Version 1.
What makes the perfect equipment setup?
Using equipment that you like and that you know. You can tell a good foil by the feeling you get when riding or by looking at gps data readings; if you're going fast it’s usually because the foil is fast!! In general an good foil is fast.
I always measure a kite when I get it brand new, it's important to have the factory setting in mind and when the kite is loosing performance I adjust it back to the factory setting. The factory setting for me is the length between AB, AC and AD bridles when the Ozone kite pigtails are attached together on a fixed point. What's good with Ozone is that you're never surprised with the factory settings; they are always the best set up.
Are the races just about speed?
It's more about strategy, especially during the start but also you have to observe the conditions and the others competitors. It's important to have speed, but you can't win all the races with it, the most important is to have the right tracking.
How you rate the level of the competition in 2017, how has it progressed?
Definitely the level was really high, even if I won all the events, all the races were really tight and challenging.
What was your highlight of the year?
I have good memories from all the competitions, I like to meet different riders from around the world. All the races are different, never the same sea state nor the same wind, the conditions are always changing, it keeps it very interesting.
How do you handle pressure & stress?
I don't pressure myself, I just try to stay focused on what I need to do, prepare my equipment, do some fine-tuning.
What was the low point of the year - how you learnt from it?
Mexico, I was testing new gear for the first time and I learnt that I really need to know my gear for at least 1 month before an event.
What does the future holds for you and the sport?
You never know, the sport is definitely growing, and if tomorrow we enter the Olympics, the sport is going to change completely.
Interesting fact about kite foiling that most people don’t know
It's a completely different sport, kite foiling opens new horizons, you can kite further faster and safer. It's fast because of less friction, it's less physical, less impact, so you can kite for a long time! The range is also lot wider so if the wind drops or builds up it's fine, especially with a foil kite.
Who in the sporting world do you admire and why?
I always liked to follow open ocean racing, and specially François Gabart (world fastest man around the world) and Alex Thomson. In the kiting world, I admire Rob Douglas who is an amazing athlete and taught me a lot.
Not all kite foilers have coaches, how does having one differ, what do they help you with and how?
It’s nice to have support on the beach, the preparation on the beach is crucial and they make sure everything is properly organized. I think the best way to coach a kite foiler is by reviewing drone footage.
Tips for people wanting to:
a) Start foiling
Find a good foil and a good kite and you're already more than half way there!
b) Start competing
It's lot easier than what people think, there’s a competition for every level. What’s good about the format is that no matter your riding ability you will be allowed to ride the whole event, there is no elimination like they have in freestyle events.
Tell us about your home spot & growing up in France
I grew up close to the ocean, I started kite bugging at age 10. I began kiting on water when I was 13, then I tried to spend as much time as possible on the water. In 2010/11 I tried foiling, I couldn't stop it was like an addiction!
We hear you also like to snowkite, is that just for fun or do you compete too?
Snowkiting fascinates me, I always like go cross country and I love the idea of climbing mountain with a kite. Though I’m still a beginner at it!
The reigning racing machine, the R1V2
2017 saw a huge increase of riders on the R1 V2, the shear dominance of the kite shines through from the rider’s performance. Kite racing is at the core of Ozone, for over 10 years we’ve been dedicated to advancing this sport. Our very own head designer Rob Whittall is a racing veteran, having had double success winning the World Championships in Paragliding and Hang-gliding. Not just in our design team, in 2016 Ozone co-founder Matt Taggart astonished us all by annihilating his components to win the Hydrofoil Pro Tour Grandmaster title. It is this valuable input and competitive drive, which helps us to make the best, most powerful racing machines.
Where can you expect to see Nico race this year?
First up is the Hydrofoil Pro Tour with the commencing event taking place in La Ventana, Mexico in a couple of weeks time on the 13th March. In Nico’s opinion this is a great tour as they always choose good spots with great conditions incorporating 12 races over 4 days. He says it is good training as you have the freedom to use whatever equipment you want, there are no restrictions on the number, size or type of kite/foil, so you can take all your gear with you in preparation for any wind/sea condition. Check out the video of Nico Cruising around Australia for last year’s final: https://www.facebook.com/hydrofoilprotour/videos/552455218429015/
NICO'S 2017 RESULTS:
1. Hydrofoil Pro Tour Champion
2. French Kitefoil Champion
3. Formula Kite European Champion
4. Sailing World Cup Series Champion
5. KiteFoil World Champion
6. Formula Kite World Champion
Not to mention he is currently the World’s fastest Kitefoiler at a mighty speed of 44.44 knots
Can he do it all over again in 2018? We sure thing so and we're rooting for him all the way!
(Nico's Abu Dhabi images: Anas Alkharbootly)