There’s a whole team of people that put in the work to help athletes achieve their goals, and 23.-year-old Hayden Jones, aka ‘The Golden Caddy’, didn’t earn his nickname by just sitting around. From running around pumping and swapping kites, we couldn’t wait to get to know more about how Hayden ended up being a caddy for the last two King of the Air Champions! In this interview, AK Durable Supply Co. chatted with him and gave us the lowdown – Check it out!

Hayden, what’s your story so far for those who don’t know?

I am a born and bred Capetonian and Blouberg local. I used to race superbikes up until 2019, where I claimed my 7th Western Province Championship, after which I hung up my race suit and closed that chapter of my life. However, I grew up with an attitude of always trying to be better every day, which showed in my sportsman results. From playing rugby in school to racing bikes, I was always willing to put in 110% to be the very best that I could be.

Watersports have always been a part of my life. My family is big into swimming; my mom has SA colours in synchronized swimming, my uncles all played SA Waterpolo, and my dad grew up surfing in Milnerton. So from a young age, I would spend my day’s wakeboarding and water-skiing over the Summer holidays. Since then, I knew that my life was going to go wherever the water took me, whether it was going to be wakeboarding or kiteboarding.

Cape Town is a watersports mecca; what a place to grow up! How did you first get into kiting?

I flew a kite for the first time in March 2015, but it wasn’t until the Red Bull King of the Air in 2016 that I was truly inspired and decided that this is what I want to do. I already had my kites and was teaching myself how to kite the wind decided to blow every day.

But kiting was more of an escape for me before it became a lifestyle. As the days went on, my life changed, and once I retired from racing bikes and invested my time into kiting, it changed the game for me.

Your race days looked particularly epic, and although in a controlled environment, potentially high risk too. That being said, you’ve had some serious downtime kiting…

So far, the biggest adjustment in my life was breaking my leg in November 2020. After signing with Airush two months prior, I was on cloud 9. However, riding for my dream team and performing the best I ever have in my life was flipped upside down when I tried to clear a sandbank, landed short, and snapped my right tibia and fibula.

Though it felt like my life came crashing down, I felt like it was bound to happen. I was getting ahead of myself and wasn’t thinking about anything. Breaking my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me, as it opened my eyes and changed the way I see the world. It gave me a new perspective and put me on a new path to be happier and more focused on my personal and kiteboarding goals and dreams.

Nothing like some broken bones for perspective. We can only hope that you keep on pushing the limits while keeping yourself in one piece from now on.

Having just wrapped up another successful KOTA as a caddy to the winner, Marc, tell us about the experience?

I’ll get to my experience with Marc in a bit, but there’s a back story here too.

Being involved in KOTA is always something special. It’s an event that I hold very near and dear to my heart, and it is a dream of mine to compete in KOTA one day. I submitted two video entries back in 2019 and 2020, but I haven’t been able to train correctly due to injuries, and my dream of being in the event is on hold.

However, helping out at this event is always a great experience, and the first time I caddied and helped out was in 2019 when I teamed up with my kiting hero, Jesse Richman. It was an eye-opener for sure, and I got to see the event from a different perspective, which helped me see what I need to do if I want to be in the event in the future. I helped Jesse both in 2019, where he podiumed, and 2020 when he took the win. Man, it felt so great knowing I helped someone achieve their dream, and to be a part of that process was special.

Assuming Jesse didn’t just fire you as a caddy, how did you get on Marc’s team?

Leading up to KOTA 2021, I was ready to help Jesse defend his title and go for the all-important 3rd title to match Kevin Langaree. Being a caddy takes a lot of stress off the rider to conserve their energy. Coming from racing bikes, I understand that having a well-structured team around you and being perfectly prepared is half the battle won. That being said, Jesse pulled out of the 2021 event as he had his son on the way and wanted to be there for his family. So, after chatting to Adrian Kerr from Kitesurf365, I hit up New Zealand powerhouse Marc Jacobs and offered him my services.

So, tell us about KOTA 2021, then?

This year was very different. Working with a new rider meant a different way of doing things and a new development synergy, although there was the same relentless hunger to win.

After chatting to Marc and connecting with him more personally, I noticed something about him that you don’t necessarily see; he’s a very dialled in and confident person. He has a rock-solid belief in himself, and he visualized everything into reality. He woke up every day for the past two years with the hunger to win and the fighting spirit to be the best. When the moment arrived, he performed a flawless performance and was crowned the undisputed King of the Air 2021. Again, it was a magical feeling to be a part of someone’s journey and to see their hard work and dedication pay off. It was an emotional moment seeing him go quiet behind the podium, waiting for the prize giving and watching him trying to fathom what he had just done and shedding a tear of pride and relief. It was truly a beautiful moment and one I can appreciate a lot more as an athlete myself.

Personally, it was a very proud moment, as my 2nd KOTA title as a caddy. It is proving that being a dedicated team member can play a massive role in helping someone achieve their dream! I believe I will be there one day, but if it doesn’t happen, I will know I played a vital role in helping two amazing athletes become legends in our sport. It feels like a win, and I am proud of that. They call me The Golden Caddy, and I will own that title! Even though most people think it’s an easy job, it is far from that. A lot of hard work and coordination goes into this, and most importantly, the rider has to trust you. It is a lot of responsibility, but it is an amazing job, and to be involved is a dream come true.

Amazing, well done to you and the team. Now that you’re back on the water, what’s your training schedule or routine like?

When I’m not nursing an injury, I love to spend my days on my mountain bike. I like to get out at least four times a week, especially in winter (I love a muddy cycle), or my trainer and I train Monday through to Friday, focusing on strength and mobility.

Weekends I reserve for big cycles or for time away at my holiday house, either wakeboarding or foiling behind the boat.

When it’s windy, I’m on the water!

If you could jump on a plane right now, where would you go and why?

Mauritius. I feel homesick for that place. The conditions, the island lifestyle, just everything is pure magic. I would give anything to go back.

Who are three people we should keep an eye out for?

Adriaan Louw, the little ripper from Melkbos! The kid is fearless and is learning how to send it big, for sure one to watch!

Luca Ceruti, this man is a machine! A short line specialist that knows how to put it low and look super stylish in the process!

Sera Mason, this little shredder is nine years old and is on course for great things! Her dad is a massive sender himself, and I believe she will take the kiteboarding scene by storm the more she progresses!

Duly noted. What are you most excited about moving forward?

Now that I’m riding again, I’ll be more involved with testing out exciting new products with my team, which is always a pleasure.

Plus, I’m excited to get back to where I was before my injuries slowly. After breaking my leg and then my finger in July of 2021, I have been through a tough time trying to progress. But this journey is wild and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way…

Good catching up; we need to shoot soon. See you on the water!

Sat 4th Dec, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

By Jen Tyler
Italian/Egyptian Jen Tyler grew up on the sandy beaches of the Red Sea and has been on the IKSURFMAG & Tonic Mag team since 2017.

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