Jalou Langeree is only 19 years old, but the kite surfer from the Netherlands has already bagged four Dutch National Titles and made various memorable appearances at PKRA world cup events. Intrigued by the fascinating combination of one of our favourite sports, surfing, and flying weightlessly through the sky, we caught up with Jalou to learn more…
Interview: Anna Langer
You’ve been kitesurfing for 7 years now, how did it all start? I start kitesurfing when I was 12, spring 2002. My brother Kevin used to kite on the beach and most of the time I went with him. Kevin was into surfing before and instantly loved the combination of kiting and surfing. He didn’t really have someone to teach him back then, so he basically just learned it all by himself. A few years later he started to teach me, it was a lot of fun but I also knew that I had to practise hard.
When did you decide to commit yourself to the sport full time? I never really thought about becoming a pro, I was always just playing around on the water. But I got better and better and so after high school I started to do kitesurfing full time. My parents have always supported me, which is very important if you want to be successful as a young athlete. I started with a couple of national competitions and it just went from there. In the beginning I was competing with the boys because the sport was so new in Holland that there weren’t many girls.
I imagine that was pretty hard, no? Not really, I never finished in last place, haha. And the boys were more impressed than making fun of me. But kitesurfing really is a man’s world and you need to get yourself in there. On the other hand the vibe is very good and positive. Everyone helps each other out in the water.
You’re coaching at the Girlie Kite Surf Camp in September, how did you get into coaching? It's actually the first coaching event I'm going to do! I did a few kids clinics, but I haven’t coached a big group of girls like this before. I just really want to get more girls into kitesurfing, so I'm really stoked!
Why do you think girls’ camps are important? Because the girls can see what the sport is all about and realise that girls can be good in extreme sports as well. They are often scared or don't have enough self-confidence to do a sport like kitesurfing. But I'm going to help them out. Whatever boys can do, girls can do for sure!!!
How can you get over the fear? You just have to experience the feeling, that’s the only way to find out what it’s like and get over feeling scared. When you know what you're doing, you’ll be fine. But the girls in this camp already have some kiting experience and I hope I can teach them even more.
Do you ever get scared? Hm, not really. When I started kiting I was super scared of the waves, I wouldn’t even go on the water when it there were waves. You just need go for it, experience what it’s like and you will see that it's not as bad as you thought. You need to face your fears to get better.
Normally you only have to deal with one element, but kiting you have to deal with waves and wind. Which is more difficult? Well you need the wind to kite, so there’s no way around it. But as a beginner you can’t just ride in any condition. Also waves are much more difficult when you've just started.
You didn’t compete in many PKRA events this year, what were you up to instead? I wanted to do have more of a mix between competing, coaching, training, travelling, doing nice stories and getting some great pictures. I’m going to China next week to do a nice travel story for example.
So you also write for magazines? Yeah sometimes… When I did a sick trip it’s cool to write a nice article about it. And sponsors also really like it when you're everywhere in the magazines…
Is that something you could imagine doing after your sports career? No I don't think so, I’d rather work for a company, like O'Neill for example.
You have already won four national titles, what other goals in kitesurfing do you have? I want to win 10 national titles, and I want to do well again on the PKRA. So this winter I'll be training my ass off!
You already mentioned your brother Kevin. What’s it like to have such a successful older brother doing the same sport? He is the most professional guy I know in kitesurfing and seeing that encourages me to be more professional as well. But I really want to create my own thing, until now we have always done the same PKRA events and travelled with same sponsors. That was also a reason I did less competitions this year, I want people to know me for myself and not just as Kevin’s little sister. Sometimes it can also be a bit de-motivating that he rides so well, is always going on great trips and does super good in competitions. I do my best but he's always doing it better. But that's probably why he's such a good pro, haha.
Does your full time kiting career affect your personal life? No, not really. I have friends everywhere who kite as well, so that's really nice. And my friends who don't kite understand what I'm doing. Even if I'm gone for the whole winter and don't hear much from them, they always know when I'm back and are the first people waiting for me in front of my house.
But I guess you miss them? Of course I do, but when I'm on tour I also meet knew people and I see a lot of old friends, which is fun as well.
What would you say have your greatest career achievements been so far?
There’s so much already! My Dutch champion ship titles, going to the Red Bull King of the Air in Maui when I was only 15 and bagging the second place at the PKRA in Belgium after a winter of training in South Africa. But I also had a lot of great experiences doing photo shoots in Maui for my sponsor Naish Kiteboarding.
On the other hand, what was the worst thing that has happened to you so far? Actually nothing, I never got injured and it’s all been good so far!
What’s you inspiration? To see girls being really good in a sport. That makes me want to do really good as well.
What essential tip can you give girls who want to start or become better at kite surfing? First of all, take a lesson, that’s important for your own safety. And then just have fun on the water and keep on pushing yourself to higher levels.
Thanks very much! Jalou is sponsored by O'Neill, Naish, USA Vision Eyewear and Ben & Jerry's.