Hailing all the way from New Zealand but making a serious impression with his speed and big air skills is Hugo Wigglesworth. This 14-year-old has been clocking some impressive race results on the FLYSURFER VMG, recently taking the win in the New Zealand Kitefoil Nationals in the U19 and 3rd overall against all of the adults. We’re excited to get to know this up and coming rider and what he’s up to on the water and off!
Hugo, thank you for joining us for this interview! We’ve seen your name making the rounds in the kite foil scene and some impressive kite loop videos from your home spot in New Zealand. What is your favourite style of kiting? Foil or big air?
Very hard to say, but I think the addicting sensation from sending big air is just unbeatable. The only problem is that it’s not always super windy, so that’s when the foil comes in handy.
You’re only 14 and your progress has been incredible! Congrats on your recent New Zealand U19 Youth Champion title and coming in 3rd in the Open Kite Foil competition. What is it like competing with people so much older than you?
I don’t mind having to race against older people, but it definitely is a disadvantage for me because everyone is so much stronger and heavier than me, which means it’s very hard for me to match their speed.
Do you think adult racers are surprised to see you passing them on the racecourse?!
Yes, I do. Most adults see a kid on the water and assume they can’t race as fast as they can.
How old were you when you first started kiting? Can you share your earliest kiting memories?
I was 7 years old when I first started learning but had been flying 2 line trainer kites on the beach from around 2 years old. My first kite memory was when I had a 1-meter trainer kite and a foam surfboard. My dad picked me up and put me on the board and I went about 400m downwind while my mum chased me down the beach.
Your dad is a competitive speed sailor who has competed in several kite speed events. Has he been a source of inspiration in kite foil racing?
Yes, he definitely has because when we were both learning he pushed me to go faster each day trying to get a personal best with our GPS trackers. My dad is very competitive every day. After sailing, he likes to look at the data and work out how he can go faster.
Do you think you could beat your dad in a race?!
I have always been able to beat him because he can’t tack yet!
Your little brother Toby is only 11 and also kiting. Do you think he’ll catch up with you soon?
Yes, that’s right he twin tips, kite foils, and is just starting to learn to tack. I think it’s great to have him on my heels pushing me harder, I’m sure one day he will give me a run for my money!
What’s your favourite beach in New Zealand?
My favourite beach to kite is at Glendowie Sandspit which is only a 10-minute drive from my house. It’s perfect flat water and at high tide, you can kite behind these trees that make the water butter smooth.
What is your favourite twin tip trick?
Kite loop late backroll.
What new trick are you having the most difficulty sticking?
Kite loop board off by the handle. I’m comfortable with board offs, but I definitely find with the added pull of the kiteloop, reduced air time, and the fear factor, it’s definitely one I’ve struggled with for the past 2 months.
Who are you currently sponsored by? How have your sponsors helped you throughout your kiteboarding career?
I’m currently sponsored by FLYSURFER. It’s like the perfect brand for me because the VMG is perfect for kitefoil racing and the STOKE is great for kite loops. They’ve definitely helped me progress in every discipline.
Tell us a bit about your gear choices. What equipment are you riding and why?
For twintipping, I’m riding the FLYSURFER STOE or the SOUL, both with 20m lines on the FORCE control bar. When it’s windy I use the STOKE because I find it loops very quickly, which I need for megaloops. When it is light wind I like to use the SOUL 9m or 12m for practising old school board offs because it gives you great airtime. For race foiling, I use the VMG in sizes from 9m-18m with the race control bar with 12m lines.
What are your long-term kiteboarding goals? Do you have any plans to compete in the Olympics or in big air events like King of the Air?
I’d like to go to the Youth Olympics in 2024 representing New Zealand or get into the KOTA in a couple of years time. I’d love to do both if I can.
Which professional kiter do you admire the most? Why?
I admire Marc Jacobs because he’s from New Zealand and has shown me how to push myself for big air. He kites at my local spot.
If you’d never discovered kitesurfing, where do you think you would be, and what do you think you would be doing right now?
I think I would still be in New Zealand and I would be more into surfing.
When you’re not kitesurfing, what are you usually doing for fun?
If I’m at my batch in the Coromandel and there’s no wind, I go surfing. I also love to skateboard and play tennis.
If you could go spend a season at any kite spot in the world, where would you choose?
Definitely Cape Town because it would be perfect for progressing my big air kiting and it’s also where all the professionals go.
What’s next for you? Any exciting plans for the next year?
I have a few more regattas in New Zealand in the next few months where I’d like to improve on my Nationals result. Due to Covid, I have no overseas travel planned so will just be focusing on getting on the water as much as possible.
By Crystal VenessEditor at IKSURFMAG, Crystal Veness hails from Canada but is based in South Africa. When she isn't busy kitesurfing or reporting on the latest industry news for the mag, she is kicking back somewhere at a windy kite beach or working on creative media projects.