2020 RISING STAR ANGELY BOUILLOT
No matter what happens at the Red Bull King of the Air 2020, Angely Bouillot has proved that women can do big air by qualifying through the video entry contest and, in late January, will line up in Cape Town to fight against the men for the famous warrior’s mask.
Intro and edit: Jim Gaunt
Interview: Caroline Morris
Red Bull may have been criticised for the predictability of familiar faces that have populated its field of competitors in the past, but that’s all about to change for 2020. The format has split so that just 12 riders (down from 18) will compete on the final day at Kite Beach (including the top six from last year). Prior to that, giving an expanded opportunity for fresh blood, four satellite event winners, 13 video entry winners and a wildcard will do battle in rounds one and two the week before, from which six will go forward to compete in the final rounds at Kite Beach.
Strapless freestyle phenomenon and four-time wave world champion, Airton Cozzolino, has earned a wildcard and will compete in rounds one and two, but so too will Angely. Susi Mai won the Queen of the Air three times when Red Bull first ran the ‘King of the Air’ on Maui in 2000 – 2002, but Bouillot will be the first woman to try to become… ‘King’. Airton and Angely stole the headlines when the line-up was announced in November.
A nomadic 31-year-old from Leucate in France, Angely is currently renovating a newly bought 1998 Mercedes truck that will become the home she’s dreamt about living in since she was a little girl. Through family she became a gifted young ski competitor, driven by a healthy competitiveness with her older brother. In summers she gained the odd week’s windsurfing and then, more latterly, kitesurfing experience, however eventually in her late teens she was drawn towards an artistic life in a circus collective, making clothes for the show and welding sets for the stage and lighting. Always very hands-on, Angely loved the community and lifestyle and may well go back to it, but when approaching her physical prime at 25, she decided to follow up on comments received about her natural ability to kitesurf whenever she hit the water.
Telling herself, “If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.” she loaded up her old van and set off in the direction of the beach for a new adventure. Since then she’s won a speed event at the Mondial du Vent, the 2019 Queen is Born women’s big air event in Cape Town and, alongside Hannah Whiteley, rode in a special women’s demo heat during last year’s King of the Air. She’s made the final 2020 KOTA pack. Having rightfully earned this huge opportunity, she’s hoping that a natural comfort and flow in strong winds will see her ride to the best of her ability in kiteboarding’s biggest single-event.
What do you love so much about big air?
I love to fly. As humans we spend so much time thinking, so it’s good to stop for a while and just flow, like meditation. In general I just love this sport because it’s so free; all you just need is the wind and water.
Are you nervous about the King of the Air?
I was really nervous when I knew I’d been selected, but not now. I’m really happy because my goal was to get into the event. Everyone wants to see me because I’m the first woman, so I need to prepare myself and train hard, but I’m not nervous; it’s more excitement.
Where were you when you heard the news that you had progressed through the video contest? How did you feel?
I was already here in Cape Town. I wasn’t sure if my video had enough tricks, so it was a good surprise!
How did they tell you?
I was sent a Whatsapp message and then an email with confirmation. I called everybody!
What do you think you need to prepare before the event?
If I can forget about the mental aspect and just get into my flow, that will be great. Sometimes I overly think and things can feel too hard. When I’m flowing, my mind just focuses-in and I’m okay.
Can you control that on your own?
I just like to ride close to my friends because, in the first year I came here to Cape Town, I crashed and hurt myself. No one saw it, I was just alone in the water, so now I ride a lot with Antonin Rangin and it’s a big help to know that someone is close by when I try something.
Has your riding or training changed since you found out about your entry into the event?
I’ve worked on my cardio fitness. I don’t have a problem just doing big air, but I don’t breathe very much when I jump and when I jump again and again I get tired quickly. When it’s windy I don’t do so much physical training because kiting wears me out, but when it hasn’t been windy recently then I’ve been running up stairs and I like to go to a climbing facility in CitiROCK to use different muscles. I don’t know the exact science for either climbing or working my legs on the stairs, I just do sport and training to feel better. I don’t need a big mass of muscle, I just need to be fit. Water time is really the most important thing for me now because I’m learning new tricks and I need to improve them. I’m also going to simulate riding in heats with my friends when the conditions are suitable in the coming weeks.
Most sports and also most disciplines in kitesurfing have a female category, but there just aren’t many women doing big air to a competition level. How do you feel about that and are you happy to compete with the men?
I’m not really sure what I feel because I still think that maybe it’s not real. I have to break the mental agenda down because I know when I arm wrestle with my male friends I lose because they are stronger than me, but in some cases it’s not all about strength; it can be technique. In French we call it ‘engagement’, but it’s also about the mentality. I’m competing with men who are the best in the world, which is exciting. There has been a lot of debate; some women really think that it’s wrong that there’s no Queen of the Air; that there’s no women’s division.
It could be cool to have a women’s division. We did an unofficial event with some friends last year, called The Queen is Born. I didn’t want to do it this year because I knew I was in KOTA, but if a girl really wants to do big air, they have to do a video entry like I did. I saw only one other female video entry, by Gabby Pioraitė. Last year only Hannah and I did the women’s demo during the KOTA event, so women have to do it for themselves, but yeah it would be cool if Red Bull could find a place for girls in this event. I think that would push the girls.
How do you think the men will feel to have you in the contest?
I don’t know exactly! Maybe they will want to have me in their heats because they’ll be confident that they can beat me? I don’t know! All I hope is that people are happy I’m in because I think it’s good for the girls. It’s good to change things a bit and this is something new, so let’s see where we can go. I’ve seen a lot of messages from guys saying it’s cool that I’m in and I deserve it, so I appreciate that.
In December Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to win not one but two matches at the PDC Darts World Championship. You may not have heard of Fallon, but her achievements were big news across the sporting community. How do you see your own opportunity at the King of the Air?
That’s cool about her! I have the opportunity to show that we can compete. Strength can be a difference, but for me the mental gender bias has to be broken down. I have to say, “I’m gonna go, I’m gonna win, I’m a hero!” I tell myself this in my mind on the water, because if I don’t then I ride badly. So it’s a fight and I like to ride like a warrior and to show that we can ride with the boys.
Your entry video was packed with great moves and mega loop combinations; one footers, late back rolls and double back rolls. Have you tried the boogy loop yet (mega loop with a front roll)?
I have it now…
Oh, do you?!
Ha ha. Yes, I didn’t have it in my video because I tried two different ways, crashed them both and decided that I didn’t like the boogie loop very much, it was too painful! So I didn’t do it again until the recent Big Air Kite League event here in Blouberg in December. Now I have it and did it when I was on fire in an event situation. I forgot the fear. So I’m happy with that and now I need to train the board-off kite loop, which I still haven’t landed because I’m too scared to put the board on my feet again. I don’t want to break my legs if my kite doesn’t catch me when I’m steering it with one hand. I want these tricks because they could help me qualify beyond round two and make it to the livestream. It’s not that I can’t do it, but committing to putting the board on at the end is a real challenge. My mind is still saying, ‘leave the board, leave the board!’ So I haven’t fully committed to trying to put it on yet.
You’re really pushing the way forward for women. Did that come because you’re so good at big air, or did you have that attitude first?
I think I had that attitude first. I’m a girl, but maybe a different girl? I don’t know. Since I was a child I fought to be the same as my brother. He’s two years older than me and has always been good at extreme skiing. I had to do everything the same. I think it’s really thanks to him that I grew up with my mentality as we pushed ourselves together. I thought it was just me, but two years ago when he saw me skiing well, he said it pushed him to stay ahead. It’s been a battle between us both!
What do you think your strengths and weaknesses will be in the event?
I need to not get stressed by all the spectators and just focus on what’s happening on the water. I also need to trust in me because sometimes I don’t do that. My strength… erm; I’m a girl! I’m joking. I would say maybe it’s that I’m crazy, but they are all crazy. My goal was just to get into the event one day. Now I have and I’m excited to see what I can do. I just have to train hard, forget my mind and send it.
Angely is sponsored by Aneo Conseil and Core Kiteboarding. She would like to thank all friends and family who have supported her since the beginning.
On behalf of everyone at Kiteworld and the whole kite community, we’re cheering for you, Angely!