Kevin Langeree is easily one of the biggest names in kiteboarding. With his career as a pro athlete spanning 20 years, he has risen to the top of the sport. Kevvlog star and 3x Red Bull King of the Air champion, Kevin hasn’t slowed down one bit. With the launch of his own brand in 2020, and the recently announced collaboration between Reedin Kites and O’Neill, a catch up with Kevin is well overdue. Find out what he’s been up to in this interview!
Kevin, first of all, thank you for joining us for this interview! Congratulations on the launch of Reedin Collection #2 and the just-announced O’Neill x Reedin collaboration. How hectic have the past two months been for you?!
The last couple of months have been pretty awesome! It’s the second year with Reedin, and it’s been really cool. The first year is just like a complete rollercoaster of fear; going from a full-time professional kiter to still being a professional kiter and running an international business simultaneously! Everything is new and pretty overwhelming. But in the second year, we gained quite a lot of knowledge, and we grew a lot. So, we’re still on that rollercoaster, which is super awesome. But at least now, I feel like I know what the process takes and how it all works.
You’d just launched Reedin when COVID started blowing up. How did that affect your business?
When COVID started, I was like, “Oh, shit!” We had literally the first batch arrive in our warehouse, and exactly that same day, the whole world went on lockdown. And I was like, “Are you kidding me? Like, how is this even possible?” The entire team was stressing out big time. We had batch one of our gear pre-sold, and we thought we just have to send it out of the warehouse, and then we can pay for batch number two. But then, the first call came in, and they wanted to put their order on hold. Then the next one calls… order on hold. I was like, “Holy shit, what’s happening here?!” And then it was sort of quiet for two weeks. And then everyone was like, “Okay, cool. We cannot travel anywhere, but we can still kite.” So pretty much, the kite industry exploded, which was, for us, perfect.
We launched our brand at a very difficult time. The sales are going fantastic, but there are many other things that are affected by COVID, like shipments and supply of raw materials and all sorts of things. So it’s very challenging, but it’s very exciting as well because there’s never a dull moment.
Now, more than a year later, you’ve launched Collection #2 and are expanding your team of riders. Has 2021 been an improvement over 2020 so far?
It’s the nature of our DNA. We don’t want to sit still. We just want to keep evolving and keep growing and keep doing new and exciting things. With Collection #2, I think we stepped up, and we also stepped into the wing market, which is already very big.
We’re also making our team bigger. We use a different approach than other companies who just throw crazy, crazy amounts of money to riders and hope for the best. We are self-funded, so we cannot do that. We grow more in an organic way. It might go a little bit slower, but at least then we have a solid foundation, and we have a solid everything in the long run. I’m hoping we’re going to have a very healthy company.
It was big news in 2020 when you announced that you and Damien announced that you’d be leaving Naish and starting up Reedin. What made you want to leave the safety of being a pro kiter to becoming a pro kiting business owner?
Damien and I are very creative, and we want to keep pushing ourselves in multiple directions. And as an athlete, I wanted to push myself to the highest level on the world tour and everything else, and Damien wanted to do that with design. Being with Naish, we, at some point, wanted to keep growing but weren’t able to. Eventually, we’re like, there to have are two things you can do. You can either sit back and be bummed that you can’t keep growing, or you can take control of the decision and start your own brand. It’s a huge, nerve-wracking step because now you have to do everything yourself and invest your own money in it. Damien and I teamed up, and we started talking and, before we knew it, we had built a company. Now we’re selling kites in more than 40 countries already! It’s pretty crazy!
Crazy and incredible! The latest big news is the Reedin x O’Neill collaboration… You’ve been with O’Neill for 20 years. What did they say when you told them you’d be launching your own kite brand?
They were super stoked about it. They have always been super supportive. Even when I was injured and out for a couple of months, they were still supporting me. So it was cool to see that they were very supportive when I decided to go my own way. And now, being able to do that collaboration is even cooler. It gives me a huge boost and a lot of confidence that a big company like O’Neill trusts a fairly young company like ours. And, you know, it’s only the beginning. And I feel like there’s a lot of cool stuff to come!
Can you tell us a bit more about what this partnership is? What does it mean for you and for them?
They saw my big step, going my own way with Reedin, and I think I inspire some people there, so they were like, “Maybe we should do something together.” Both for O’Neill and me, this is a really cool step. For O’Neill to get more into the kite market because they see the kite industry is really, really taking off, and more people are getting involved. So they’re like, “Okay, we have Kevin on the team, and it’s the perfect match. So let’s start talking!” Then we started talking about what the possibilities are, and we thought the best way to do it is a collaboration, so we started brainstorming.
It happened pretty quickly, and before we knew it, we had made limited edition Reedin Kites and wings. We’re working on wetsuits together too. With O’Neill, I don’t think you have to develop a brand new wetsuit because they are already so good. But we did make a couple of adjustments. They’ve built a 3/4 over-the-knee wetsuit that has a couple of features that are really awesome for kiting. With over-the-knee, the water doesn’t shoot up your legs. The fit and the flexibility is great. I feel like in O’Neill wetsuits, it feels like you’re walking around naked, and that’s exactly what you want. It’s very, very comfortable. It’s easy to get in and out of, and it still protects your knees if you get dragged on the beach or something like that. Again, it’s not a huge feature, but for kiting, it’s my go-to wetsuit. I was wearing it in South Africa pretty much every session, three or four sessions a day. It’s a 4/3 and still super comfortable. So, yeah, that’s what we did on the wetsuit side, and we’re still working on a couple different features that will be launching very soon.
It’s pretty impressive that you’ve played this role in helping a surf brand take a big step in the kitesurf industry since we’re still a relatively small market!
Yeah, but it’s cool to see that it’s growing. I feel like in the beginning phase of kiteboarding, it blew up and then sort of flattened out a little bit. But I feel like, in the last 2-3 years, it went into 2nd gear with a lot more people getting involved. When Corona hit, I think we went into 3rd gear, and the bigger companies like O’Neill saw that.
I feel like you’ve got to do the sport that’s best for the conditions you have. Surfing is a big sport, but in the northern part of Europe, kiting is even bigger. Where I live, it’s not a great surf spot, but it’s great for kiting. So why not get involved? You know, it doesn’t matter what kind of sport you do, as long as you’re in the water. If you have the right products already, it’s not that big a step to get into a sport like kiting. I think it’s a very smart move from O’Neill.
Business has been such a major focus for you lately. Do you still find the time to be the Kevin that everyone’s known for the last 20 years?
I’ve tried to balance it out as much as I can, which is not always easy. I have a family now, and having a family, running a business, and having my professional kiting career next to it is a lot of juggling. The main focus for me the last year is just to build a team around me to help me keep growing. You can only get to a certain height by yourself, and then eventually, if you want to keep growing, you have to have other people around you to help out.
That’s why I got Ryan Osmond on board last year to take care of the Kevvlog and do all of the production for us for Reedin. Guys like that are super, super helpful. To know that okay, he’s responsible for that part now. Then I can focus on other things and grow, and we can all keep growing together. We’re gonna have a bunch of other people around here to help me with certain things. I feel like that’s, for me, definitely the next step to keep growing and progressing and keep doing cool stuff.
Ryan has been doing a lot of work on the Kevvlog, which is, of course, the most-watched kitesurfing vlog, without a doubt! Why do you think your vlog has been so successful?
Good question! I think it’s the simplicity that was key. In the past, I’ve done all sorts of big photoshoots, worked on Chapter One and did some stuff for TV, and worked on some very, very big productions. I saw how much time, money, and effort it takes to get stuff done. And, I thought, I want to build something where I don’t rely on a crazy amount of people or massive budgets or hectic schedules.
That’s why I decided to start the Kevvlog and try to make it as simple as possible. First, for me to feel myself, and second for me to edit and upload. I think that simplicity really helped me to make them quite often and start to build an audience. I’m not really showing the newest, craziest trick. I’m just out there having fun in some vlogs and just doing some jumps and maybe one or two rotations. So I think because of that people can really relate to the fun aspect of it.
I do have some ideas that we are working on now, but I want to keep it fairly simple like it’s been from the beginning. I always say, keep it super simple. But if you’re going to grow, it’s gonna get more complicated. Luckily, I have a guy like Ryan helping me out. He’s super on it. He knows me really well. He knows exactly what I want to show and what I don’t want to show. It’s getting a little bit more complicated, but in the end, the final result is more high end, which is rewarding as well.
I first discovered Kevin Langeree through the epic miniseries, Hidden Lines. Do you ever look back at that time and think how much your life has changed since then?
I haven’t done it. If I look back now, I think a lot has changed, but not a lot has changed at the same time. Back then, I was fully into the tour and fully focused. The only thing I was thinking about was to become World Champion. That was my entire life. Wake up, go to bed with that mindset. I’ve always been trying to achieve certain goals. That part is still the same, just the goals have changed.
Now, if I do a competition, of course, I still want to win. I still want to focus and be the best. But there are also different goals that I have now in life, like running a business and being a badass dad. The focus and the dedication I had when I was doing competitions and the things I’ve learned over the years, I’ve applied to running a business. And not holding back and just going for it! Whatever it takes, you got to achieve your goals. That seems to be the sort of mindset that works, for being an athlete and for running a business. So I’m very happy about that.
Speaking of competitions, let’s talk King of the Air. Were you surprised by the postponement? Do you think the event will go on as planned later this year?
I would have been more surprised if it had happened. You know, the whole pandemic, we were in it with the entire world. It was very unfortunate, but it was not a surprise to me. So that’s all good, we just push it back, and I’m sure that the next event will be even better by taking the extra time.
You’re still the only 3x champion of the event, but Jesse Richman and Aaron Hadlow are nipping at your heels with 2x wins each. Do you think they’ll give you a run for your money this year? Are you expecting any threats from some of the younger riders new to the event?
Hopefully, I can keep them away. I’m not worried. I’m more stoked for the young riders. When I see those 18-year-old guys going for it and focusing and really taking it seriously, that really inspires me. That’s how I was when I was 18. Seeing guys like Clement Hout, one of our team riders, he’s so dedicated. The young guys push on the water, like 6-7 hours a day, just riding, riding, riding, riding, putting hours in. I can really see myself when I was 18 doing that exactly.
At some point, it’s going to be time for us old fuckers to make space for the young ones. We’re not going to make it easy for them! You know, they’ve got to work for it! I see the guys like Nick, myself, and maybe Jessie a little bit like the old fucks. We’re still so experienced that we can still win, we are still capable of winning, but there are many guys that are pushing so hard and have no fear. And I think once they have that competition understanding, they can win as well.
Summer is kicking off in the Netherlands. What do you have planned for the rest of this summer?
Yeah, loads of stuff, but now with the COVID, you never really know, right? There’s a whole bunch of travel planned. I’m going to Cabarete again. I’m going to the US and also to Tarifa with the RV. I’m not going to sit still, and I’m going to do some travelling for Reedin. It will be very exciting!
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Kevin! We can’t wait to see what projects you’re working on and what’s coming up next. We’ll be watching closely!
By Crystal VenessFeatures Editor at IKSURFMAG, Crystal Veness hails from Canada but is based in South Africa. When she isn't busy kitesurfing or editing the latest feature article for the mag, she is kicking back somewhere at a windy kite beach or working on creative media projects.