Sophie Mathews, 22 years old, was in Portugal for the Portuguese Stage of the KPWT championship that took place in Santa Cruz.
We didn’t want to lose the chance to speak with on of the nicest girls on the tour.
So we had a little chat with her on the beach during one of the lazy afternoons and here we publish a little bit of our conversation.
Aloha Sophie, first time in Portugal?
No it’s my second time actually.
I was here for a New Years Eve 3 years ago. I came with some friends and first we went party and then the next day we went surfing, so I was entering in the New Year surfing.
So besides kite you also a surf girl?
Yes but I don’t surf very well, but originally I was a windsurfer
Oh really? And right now how is your relation to windsurf?
I live in Tarifa and sometimes it gets very very windy, so when its really windy we go windsurf, because kiting with a 5mterer kite and short lines it’s not always so much fun. I try to windsurf as much as I can, because its something different, if you kitesurf all the time you can end up losing your motivation, and doing something else can bring you back that motivation that you may have lost.
You live in Tarifa, right?
How is your KPWT going right now? Are you proud of yourself?
Someone else made me that question the other day, how is it all going.
This is fantastic. It’s my 1st year on the tour. I’m only 1 year and 3 months learning kitesurf. A lot had happened in the last year. KPWT is the world tour, but I’m frankly in the middle at the moment. I’m not the last, I think the aim for me was to finish in the top 5, but I’m around 6th and 7th at the moment and I’m very happy with it. It has been such a great experience to see a lot of other professionals.
Was it what you were expecting?
No, no. It’s not really what I was expecting. I think when you have something you know nothing about, or no one have ever told you about, you make up what you think might be in your head and actually when you get there its nothing like that.
How is KPWT socially? I think you guys are really friends.
Yeah, it’s amazing. Here we are the luckiest. People think that KPWT is a French tour and that it only has French riders on it. But now it’s getting more and more international. We have people from Australia, Maui, Poland, Dominican Republic… So we have people from everywhere. It is competitive but you don’t get bad vibes. Everybody is competitive on the water, during the heat but off the water there is such a good vibe between everybody, everybody goes and dinner, everybody goes party together, There is no little groups, it’s really good fun.
Dou you still enjoy kitesurf since your start doing it professionally? Is it still fun?
Yeah, for me it is still fun! I love it!
You are a professional. You just do kitesurf for living?
For the moment yes. What I’m doing takes lot of time. When you want to improve, you go to a competition, you see what other riders are doing and then between the competitions you need to work out. It is a full time job. And besides that I am starting. The sponsorships I’ve been given, Nobile, Greenish Dworf8, I really feel that these people took a great chance, risk on me, because I didn’t have any results, I didn’t have any past, I didn’t have anything to offer to them. So I work hard not to let them down.
How much do you train?
When I’m in Tarifa I train most days.
You live in Tarifa and you just out for the tour?
I’m originally from England, my parents are here at the moment, by the way which is nice. Tarifa is a great place to train. We have so many different conditions and there are a lot of pro-riders in there, Gisela, Angela Peral, Alex Pastor… it’s a good vibe, it’s a nice place to live and train.
When, how and where did you start to kitesurf?
I was in Venezuela, not this winter, but the winter before, teaching windsurfing. I received a kitesurfing course for Christmas present. So when I had time, in February I did the course with my best friend and I hated it
First time we had a water start lesson they picked us up and tried to teach us from a boat. I drop my kit and all I could think was it could be eaten by a shark.
I really hated it first! Being a windsurfer I thought it was very geeky to be a kitesurfer. I never wanted to be a kitesurfer. The only reason I wanted to learn it was to have something to do when it wasn’t very windy and there was no waves. And then I think that once I started it I stuck with it. I wasn’t planning to do that but the more I did it the more I liked it. But it took time to really like it. There are people that first time they do it they love it, it wasn’t me
What is your biggest achievement until now, in kitesurf?
The first time I made a kiteloop and the fact it was on camera. Also the first time in a magazine was pretty good. But the icing on the cake was getting a sponsorship. This is really something, because I did all the work myself. It’s obvious that I had people that helped me , that had good word for me but actually I think that when I got a sponsorship it meant that I have been taken professionally. It was something I worked hard for.
What is the trick that you’re working on at the moment?
I would love to have a blind judge in competition. That for me would be great. At the moment the main thing in KPWT is that there is a lot of variety, they try to incorporate the different aspects of kitesurfing, its not only pure wake manoeuvres, it’s no foot high jump, wake manoeuvres You have to get everything you can do in kitesurf and put it in a 7 minutes heat. Obviously it’s good to be consistent and blinded. Everything to blind. If you have these for sure you are in top 5.
What is your favorite discipline? Race, waves, freestyle…
Freestyle is what I am concentrating on the most. Racing I love, because I find it hilarious. I have so much fun.
Do you shout with other riders when the race starts?
No… Well we did at first, we were making the heat with boys and girls together and that was a lot of shouting. And then the boys started 2 minutes ahead of the girls and we did more gossiping in the start line “Hey…I love your bikini. I love your boardshorts”. But the moment the blue flag goes up then it’s the serious race going on.
You are pretty competitive…
I don’t like losing… if I wasn’t competitive I would not compete. I think that the same goes for other people.
You don’t like loosing but you don’t mind loosing…
It’s something that I had to come to terms with. I have to be honest about that. Before I used to play tennis, I played tennis since I was 14 to 18 in an academy, and I was good. I won. And I was trying to win …. I think when you come new to a sport and you think that you will gonna win, and you lose and it’s not nice but you have to be professional about it. As much as I would love to throw my board up the beach and down my kite into the judging tower, stick my finger up in the air and tell that I hate them, you can’t do that because you’re representing other people.
Yes I am competitive I think that’s the answer
But you know how to lose…
I am learning! I am learning!
You have to learn as well. There are lot of people sticking cameras into your face. Saying “Hey how was your heat…” And you can’t turn around and shout
You have to be polite and say “Yeah it was a good heat and I learned this…” Competing is a massive learning curve; people have been doing it for 4 years, 6 years, 8 years…
How long are you planning to be in kitesurf, to compete?
I took this year as 100%, all out, this is what I am doing. I’ll see how the results are and will see where it takes me in terms with sponsorship… it’s not the most affordable thing to do, it’s expensive and has a lot of costs going in to. I will definitely stick with it. I definitely am working as hard as I can to make it happen next year, and I would like to do it for the next 3 years. But I also try to keep myself involved in other things, so I don’t close all the doors around me.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? Have you ever think about it?
Well, something I realized is that I like the idea of competitions and athletes and things like that.
I studied personal sports massage and Nutrition and so I would eventually like to work with athletes or A-team. It’s such a shame that kitesurf has not refunding to have trainers and on hand masseuses and people to help you with your diet. It’s so not a hugely recognize sport.
At the end of the day we are athletes and not blond hair kids having a nice time.
I would like to be involved in kids development in sport as well, taking young riders or surfers and bring them up, in a way that they do have their school but also to show them what competition is. Kids that have talent and you have to put them on the right path, you don’t tell them what they have to do, but you can show them some guidance.
Who is your favorite rider? Professionally and socially…
I have to say that I was seriously impressed with the big boss Mark Shinn. It might sound ridiculous and I feel awful saying it but as I got sponsored so early on I didn’t know the names, I didn’t know the peoples track records. And I was sitting there when suddenly someone comes and says” Oh my god” Your boss is Mark Shinn” and I was like; “But who is Mark, who is he?”
He must be pretty important if everybody is speaking about this guy.
I have a lot of respect for him. Not only for his riding.
The way, that generally he manages himself, he has a lot of time for riders.
He was world champion on pkra and kpwt in 2002. For sure he could be still be there competing if he wanted. He is an all round professional rider.
You have people like Ania that is always ready for party, having fun, playing on the beach and go out. Antoine Auriol, he is a good friend we spend hours giggling. There are a lot of people…Back home as well; Angela Peral is one of my closest friends. I spend a lot of time riding with her.
Do you live alone in Tarifa?
I live in a flat with 2 boys.
That’s pretty good fun. I come and go, I shut my room and leave and when I come back I hope the house isn’t been burned down
When you travel on tour, you travel alone or you go with other riders?
When I went to France I drove up with Sofianne and Ania from Tarifa. We did it in one go. 22 hours in the car… that was good. Then Italy and turkey I traveled with Marine… and then Turkey to here I traveled with Antoine, we had a massive journey from Istanbul to Budapest to Madrid to Sevilla and then, pick up a car in Sevilla and we drove up here.
It’s better to travel with someone, not with too many people, but with one or two because we can share taxes and stuff like that and it’s better to have company
Who do you train with? With the guys?
Back home I train a lot with Angela, Ainhoa Garcia, she is also a good friend she lives in Tarifa. There is a lot of people around, there is a huge level. Alex Pastor and many other guys… people like this that have a lot of experience in the competition.
It’s very nice being surrounded by such a huge network of experienced riders. Its no what people think that you are going to get in to the water and people will slam cards into your face because you’re the new kid on the block and nobody wants to tell you things.
Girls are actually being encouraged into the sport, because the more they come into the sport the more competition. And the more chances we get equal prices on it. It’s such a male dominated sport.
Even for me, I would like more girls to come to competition, even if they didn’t make the all tour. In Italy there were a couple of girls that turned up and they wiped the floor clean. They came second and fifth. And this is competition. I think sometimes you hear people saying:
”I’m glad she screwed. That way I’m gonna pass easily”
But that’s not what competition is about. There’s nothing better then have a good level.
I don’t have one particular training partner, that’s for sure, and I think it’s good not to have only one training partner. When you train with only one person you only see one style, if you train with more people you can make your own path, looking at and get inspiration from all of them.
Favorite place and weather to kite?
Sunny and hot. Tarifa!
Tarifa is amazing. You have everything there. Cross on-shore, howling, gail. You can get all kind of conditions there, you have your friends. So it’s very nice to have what you call my home spot, my local spot. It is just great to go out of your front door, Go to your local café and then go kite on your local beach. That’s perfection.The place where I’m living will always be my favorite spot.
Beside that you got, Coche, Brazil. In Marrocos I had the best session I ever had on waves, but I wouldn’t want to live there
Why are you so much into sports?
I have older brother and sister and younger brother. We have always been very sporty. When I was 13 I went to tennis academy. All of us were swimmers on the national level when we were kids. Sports is something that is in my nature, I have to be active all the time otherwise you will see me climbing walls and 5 o´clock in the afternoon. It also has something to do with the way I have been brought up.
What other sports do you do besides windsurfing and kitesurfing?
I ski for a long time but right now I am really concentrated on my training. This year I am planning to go to South Africa and Maui to train on waves.
Thank you very much and we will see you soon!
[Photos: Sophie Mathews portfolio]