Oswald Smith, the hell man from South Africa, drops in for a chat this issue, this talented rider is an all-round nice guy too. Find out what makes him tick right here!

In the midst of all this craziness, we got the chance to catch up with adrenaline junkie, Oswald (Ozzy) Smith. Ozzy shares his love for Cape Town, his passion for kiteboarding, what makes him tick, and some wise words for all the groms out there! 

Ozzy, we're stoked to have you featured in 'The Interview', to kick things off, could you tell us a little about what it was like growing up in South Africa; your childhood, family and ultimately how you got into kiteboarding?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity! I had a different childhood to what most people expect when they meet me. I grew up in a family of five, on a little farm on the outskirts of Cape Town. I have two sisters; an older one and a younger one, and even though it wasn't easy being the only son, my sisters did teach me compassion and patience. 

Our life on the farm was incredible. We used to run the gauntlet to go catch the chickens, scout the riverbeds for frogs and play in the mud, just because we could! Eventually, we had to leave the farm behind and move inland, closer to where we went to school. I went to a conservative South African school, where it was the norm to play rugby and wear a tie. Needless to say, I didn't fit in. 

Luckily, I had my dad; the avid waterman. He is addicted to the ocean, and when I say addicted, I mean he logs every session he has ever had; love him! He is the biggest influence in my life, and the main reason I am who I am today. Back in the day, he used to be a windsurfer, but once kiteboarding came along, and I was old enough, he got me into it, and I was hooked. 

At what moment did you decide you wanted to become a professional kiteboarder?

It was apparent to me from the beginning; all I just wanted to kiteboard! When you love something so dearly, it's not about making money. I simply wanted to ride as often and as long as possible. Once I started competing and winning, I thought that maybe this dream wasn't as far-fetched as I thought, and I knew I could turn that dream into a reality. 

You always seem to be stoked on life, what is it that makes you tick!

To be honest, it's neither the conditions nor the people I am with, but the presence of the present; it's true! I mean, you're never going get today back, right? So, let's make the most of it and try to appreciate the beauty around us. Once you can understand gratitude for every little thing, you'll be smiling for days. 

Wave riding or Big Air, and why?

Ah, that’s is a tricky one! I honestly wouldn't be able to choose as they stimulate completely different sensations for me. There is a time and place for everything. Big Air is the most scared yet alive you will ever feel. Hanging on for dear life in 40+ knots, doing kite loops you probably shouldn't be doing. Its adrenaline, freedom, and insanity, all broiling up to your neck - quite the rush, that's for sure! Wave riding, on the other hand, is more relaxed and the repercussions aren't as bad either. The feeling of riding the wave and slapping that lip turns me on, it feels like I'm in a dance-off with the ocean seeing what step she'll take next; I absolutely love it!

You recently got back from a snowboarding trip in Switzerland, how was that? Was it your first time to try snowboarding?

This trip was insane! I was in Europe on a photoshoot and decided to meet up with my friends Joss De Pfyffer and Gianni Aragno in Verbier, Switzerland. Bear in mind, I had never seen or even touched snow before! The second I arrived, I jumped into the snow and made my first snow angel. I mean, how is it possible for something to be so fluffy?!

I couldn't stop smiling. Then, of course, it was time to have a couple of beers in the tavern below to celebrate my arrival. After the beers, they put me on the highest slope of the highest mountain and gave me a push. I am not even exaggerating when I say, I was rolling down this mountain for at least 10 minutes! I still have a couple of bruises from that day.

The progression for me was rapid, and by the end of the trip, I was landing 360's and heading off-piste. There are so many stories that I would love to share with you about this trip, but quite a few people will read this, so I’m just going to leave it at this; Verbier, I'll be back!

There are many changes happening around us now, seems like Mother Earth has had enough! What changes have you made in your day-to-day life to live a more sustainable and eco-friendlier lifestyle?

I believe that sustainability is one of the most essential gifts that we can give to this world. We drain our earth and take without giving. It's sad to see our world's resources crumble around us and have nobody else to blame, other than our own impertinence. My family and I have taken major steps into a sustainable lifestyle by making our house entirely off the grid. We get water from the air system; which is basically one big condenser and creates filtered water out of the moisture in the air.

We have our own vegetable garden; not only are you nourishing something to grow, but it's therapeutic at the same time. We then also created a “greywater” system and this system reuses the shower and sink water and uses it to water the plants. We have big rain tanks and solar panels, all adding to a sustainable symbiotic world in which we can all thrive together.

We all know that South Africa offers wild kiteboarding conditions, and you've unquestionably encountered and witnessed your fair share of accidents. Could you share some safety tips on how one could potentially prevent these accidents from happening? 

South Africa is considered one of the meccas of the sport, and we see hundreds of people flock here, yearly. It's perfect for Big Air, waves and all around mowing the lawn. With all these kiteboarders swamping around one little kite spot, there is bound to be a couple of accidents, and yes, I have seen my fair share of them. 

We all want to show off and get creative, but it is essential to use common sense and follow the rules, especially when it comes to Big Air. 

When you are going for a big loop, remember to look downwind of you first, and make sure that people tacking from the beachside won't collide with you. I have seen one terrible accident of someone looping into another's lines, you can seriously get hurt. When you are tacking out for a loop, just signal that you're going to send it, not only are you making people aware of your next move but you're also getting everyone excited! When you are downwind of someone jumping, don't speed up, slow down and turn around. Any altercation that you can avoid is a good one. The moral of the story: Be aware of your surroundings.

You've been riding for Airush and Mystic for years; what is your quiver of choice, and how have they supported you throughout your career as a professional kiteboarder?

I am beyond stoked to call Airush and Mystic 'mi familia'. They value my input, help me achieve my dreams, and we all share the same mindset. I owe a great deal of my success to these brands. 

Airush provides me with the goody goods, and Mystic helps me make that feeling last! I love my Airush Razors and Livewire board for extreme Big Air and my Airush Wave kites and Comp for slapping the lip. The Mystic Majestic wetsuit and hard-shell is just incomparable, I've always had a bit of a back problem, and I finally feel good again.

Airush has been my family for nearly 10 years now, with the help of Clinton Filen they help craft me to who I am today. I am also involved in the R&D side of things, this is a great bonus, seeing as you can fine tweak things to your specifications, and together we help each other. I have also been getting more involved in the creative direction towards some campaigns. When you have been part of a company for so long, it slowly depicts itself within you effortlessly, which makes the possibilities seem endless. I couldn't be happier to call them friends and most importantly, family.

What kiteboarding destination ticks all the boxes for you in terms of weather, wind, waves and vibe?

I don't mean to be biased here, but South Africa will have to take the win for me! We have the wind, waves, flat water, skydiving centres, surf, rock climbing, motocross tracks, and all within a 30-minute drive radius. Sure, it might not be the perfect country, and yes, we have corruption, but the scenery, people, and conditions are what sets it aside from the rest. 

In your opinion, how has social media affected the kiteboarding scene, both negatively and positively? Go Wild!

Social media, in my opinion, can both be a blessing and a curse. It has given kiteboarding plenty of recognition and helps spread the word while allowing people to make a living. It all sounds glamorous and enjoyable, but the biggest problem I find on social media is that it strips us of our individuality. Instead of doing your own thing, expressing your own thoughts and depicting who you are, people are starting to follow the norm of what is acceptable by the media; following trends and just doing something in the hopes of becoming viral. 

In the kiteboarding world, sure it's okay because let's be honest, it helps people achieve their dream. It just saddens me when I see young groms trying to depict something they're not, when in fact, it's your perfect imperfections that make you stand out.

I'm not trying to preach here but trust me when I say: just do you! You will be surprised how much better life will be. We all have our colour, go and add yours: be weird, be abstract, be arbitrary, be YOU!

What advice would you give young groms looking for sponsors?

Time and time on the water! The kiteboarding level is so high now that you have to make a strong impression. Nothing can help catalyse that than time on the water. Sponsors are looking for young, upcoming kids with goals and aspirations, who can apply themselves accordingly. So be active on the social networks, get involved at demo days and help out at your local kite shop. You will be surprised at how much they appreciate it. You will bear the fruits of the labour, so get involved.

Winds on, who is the first person you call for a session?

The first person I would call for a session would definitely be "loco hombre" short for Kyle Cabano, also known as "as the dodo do" on Instagram. Yes, he has many names, but only one in my eyes, brother! He was the in-house media man for Airush, and we've travelled around the world together, seen some crazy things, and made unforgettable memories. It's always a jam with him plus he sends it, the right way!

What motivates you, who inspires you, and how do you stay ahead of the game?

In kiteboarding aspects, I would have to say that it is the initiative in wakeboarding grabs that help me stay ahead of the game. There is so much for us to learn, just have a look at some wakeboarding videos. Apart from that, I am always surrounded by people who inspire me and excel in what they do. Jop Heemskerk is one of my good friends and camera guru, together we craft some wild videos that make people think a bit. Also, having Ydwer as my older brother helps me keep the content flowing. I would say just being surrounded by people that are innovative, that can inspire you.

You're going on a surprise trip - no questions asked. You're only allowed to take three items, what are they?

My Bose speaker; I can't go anywhere without music, a surfboard; because I have a feeling there will be waves, and my sunblock; I hate being burnt!

Are there any movie projects you are working on?

Yes, I am currently working on an ART project with Ydwer, Airush and Mystic. In a nutshell, it’s basically an abstract project that shows how ART is depicting in our everyday lives and how ART can help inspire the world. I know that nothing makes sense now, but that's because it's all a surprise; you'll have to wait and see!

What's next? Any exciting plans for 2020 you want to share with us?

2020 is going to be the year! There are so many things I would like to do, see and experience. The whole world is currently facing a pandemic – COVID-19, so nothing is set in stone yet, but the vision is clear, and as soon as it all passes, I would love to broaden the horizon. 

At the moment, I am busy creating a campaign for a big hotel chain in Mauritius with Jop Heemskerk, I started an alcohol company (just need to legalise it!), I have started copywriting for a few companies, and I am slowly migrating towards film directing. There's so much I would like to do, I can't wait!

Thanks, Ozzy, we look forward to catching up with you again soon once all this is over! Stay safe. 

Cheers, Jen!

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By Jen Tyler
Jen Tyler grew up in the chaos of Cairo, Egypt. It was on the beaches of the Red Sea where her love for the ocean, water sports and adventure grew.

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