It’s a kite, it’s a board, it’s kiteboarding!

14 Oct 2019

Singaporean kiteboarder Maximilian Maeder may have just turned 13, but he is ready to challenge the big boys. The teenager, who won two titles last year, is Singapore’s sole representative at the inaugural ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) World Beach Games in Qatar.

By Ignatius Koh

A single surfer cuts through the calm waters, leaving a trail of ripples in his wake. But this is no ordinary surfer – he does not ride the waves, nor is he using his arms for balance.

Instead, he is holding onto handles attached to a large kite that harnesses the wind’s power, which pulls him across the sea at breathtaking speeds.

To onlookers, he seems to be at the mercy of the wind. However, he is in full control as he adjusts the kite to gain enough momentum to leap into the air, achieving significant hang time while executing an array of flips. He lands gracefully back into the water and continues.

This is kiteboarding, which is also commonly known as kitesurfing. And Singapore’s latest prospect is Maximilian Maeder, 13, a two-time champion of the Formula Kite and Twintip: Racing Asian Championships and the KTA Asia-Pacific Hydrofoil Series last year.

“The thrill and difficulty of riding through the winds keeps me coming back to the sport – there’s something new on the waters for me every day,” he said.

This month, he is eyeing another good performance at the inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games in Qatar that runs from Oct 12 to 16. The Games include water and beach sports such as beach handball, open water swimming and kiteboarding.

“It’s my first time representing Singapore at a major competition but I’m not pressuring myself too much. I’ll definitely give my opponents a run for their money,” added Maximilian, who is the nation’s only representative.

Staying disciplined

While other youths may be intimidated when going up against older competitors, he uses his age to his advantage.

“I got used to being the youngest quickly. And more importantly, I tell myself I still have a lot of potential,” he explained, having had two years of experience in nearly 20 competitions. “Technique is gained from experience. I’ve only been competing for two years so I still have a long way – the top riders have at least six to seven years of experience.”

Unlike many athletes, he does not have a permanent coach. Instead, he either trains alone or with fellow kiteboarders, and will only consider hiring a coach when he turns professional.

He also chooses to take a less intense approach to his training. While he trains five to six days a week, each session lasts only about an hour and he does not set a fixed time for practice.

This ethos was borne out of self-motivation, which was instilled into him by his father.

“If you want to achieve something, stick to it and don’t rely on anyone else pushing you,” he said, recalling his father’s words. “If you want to become a pro, you need to be disciplined.”

Max standing tall on the podium at the 2019 Formulate Kite Asian Championships in Beihai, China (Photo: Max Maeder)

Jetting across the world

When asked about his most memorable achievement, he said nothing stood out, insisting that the only target he sets is to beat the person in front of him.

He does, however, have favourite venues, singling out Mexico and China for their strong winds that are “made for kiting” as they help train his strength and control.

“While these places are quite far away, I never feel alone because there are good riders there to help me improve,” he noted.

There was still a lot to learn in his fledgling career, but he refused to let pressure get to him. “I don’t feel bad after a loss. I’ll just tell myself I was unlucky and can’t complain, then carry on to the next competition,” he said.

Due to his hectic schedule, he is home-schooled. With a Swiss father and Singaporean mother, his exposure to different languages has made him adept at English, Chinese, German, and conversational Indonesian.

While he does not reside in Singapore, he keeps the country close, with the country’s flag plastered on his kiteboard. For now, he is focused on performing well at the ANOC World Beach Games, and a medal would be a bonus.

“The Games will be a great stepping stone for me, and it’s okay if I don’t win a medal. I know it’s part of my journey to becoming a pro.”

Check out Max’s progress at the ANOC World Beach Games here.