The Fred Hope Interview | Kite Foiling, Wing Foiling and Traveling

The Fred Hope Interview | Kite Foiling, Wing Foiling and Traveling

Fred Hope is among the most talented kite foilers we've ever seen. He's also a Product Test Administrator for Slingshot Sports, in Hood River, Oregon. 

This offseason, he'll be traveling between Barbuda, in the Caribbean and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. Along with kite foiling, Fred is an amazing freeride kiteboarder, kitesurfer, and wing foiler.

The Fred Hope Interview - Kite Foiling, Wing Foiling and Traveling

Pat: This is Pat with, here with Fred Hope. What have you been up to lately?

Fred: I've been in The Gorge where it's 20 degrees and blowing 50. I went on the water on Monday and decided that it was a bit too cold. So I've got Thanksgiving and the week after that, and then I'm headed to a warm place, so I'm pretty excited about that. I'm getting all of the gear that we're testing in bags to head south.

Pat: Nice. So you're heading down to Baja or Hawaii or...?

Fred: First I'm going to the Caribbean- a little island called Barbuda near Antigua. I'll spend two weeks there, and then I'm flying straight from there to Baja, so I'm pretty excited to get out of the cold.

Pat: Will you spend the whole winter down there?

Fred: Yeah, my tentative plans are to go to Baja and then leave for two or three weeks and go back to the Caribbean, then back to Baja to get a good mix of different places.

Pat: Nice. So you're going to be doing some testing for Slingshot, I assume?

Fred: Yeah. My job with Slingshot is the Product Test Administrator, so I make sure that all the products get tested in both rain and shine. I test all the products and then get consumers to ride the product so that we can tell whether people will receive it well.

Pat: So you can see how it works for both the pro rider and the average Joe.

Fred: Yeah. It's been cool to retrain my brain to think like a consumer and see what they want, what they need, and ease-of-use.

Pat: It's nice to see Slingshot looking at both sides of it and not just focus on the pro. That's great for you guys to push your limits a little bit, but also to make sure it's accessible to your everyday rider. What foils are you riding these days?

Fred: We have the Phantasm line, which is our carbon line. My front wing for kiting is the 657, and then I use a short fuselage and the 325 tail wing. The other kite foil setups that most people get into are the 633, which is probably the best-selling foil, and then the 684, which is a step down from that one. It's a bit quicker and livelier, but still has the stability.

Pat: Okay, so is that the setup you'd recommend for an intermediate rider?

Fred: Yeah, the intermediate rider for sure could use a 684 starting out with the bigger stabilizer, and then jump down to the 325 stabilizer.

Pat: Would you pair that up with your Hope Craft board or one of the Dwarf Crafts?

Fred: Ideally my board, right? Basically, the idea behind my board was to make one size that works for everybody. You have that volume in the nose that allows for good touchdowns. It's a medium length at 103, so it's not too short that 80 percent of people can't ride it. So it's a good length, good volume, and a pretty stable footprint for your feet to stand on. I haven't really met anybody that hasn't been able to use it, other than the complete beginner. Then we'd recommend the Alien Air or something closer to 130 or 140cm.

Pat: I typically ride the 110 Dwarf Craft, but I never really liked the 100 since I'm on the taller side at 6'2". I was a little uncomfortable with how far forward my foot was on the 100, but on yours at 103cm, I didn't feel uncomfortable or unnatural at all.

Fred: That was definitely the main goal: not to make it completely specified for me, but to make it to the level that I wanted it to ride but still attainable for everybody else, and I'm pretty stoked about it.

Pat: Yeah, it turned out great, I think. Everyone who gets out likes it and is pretty stoked.

Fred: That's great to hear.

Pat: As far as your progression in the sport, it seems like you're always crashing a bunch. It's good to see you post that stuff, versus looking like everything's perfect. Are you more of the philosophy of, "If you're not crashing, you're not learning anything"?

Fred: Pretty much, yeah. I usually wear a wetsuit that's two millimeters thicker than everybody else's because I'm in the water sixty percent of the time. I get kind of bored if I'm not falling in the water and not trying new things. Connecting tricks on the foil is pretty difficult as well, so that causes me to crash a lot more, but it's fun.

Pat: The strapless airs with the foil is mental to me. I have a hard enough time doing a 10 foot jump on a surfboard strapless.

Fred: The wind doesn't really impact the board that much when you're on the foil. It's more about using the momentum of the board shooting out of the water and bending your knees at the same time, bringing it to the apex, and then straightening your legs again while you come back down to the water so that you basically time it perfectly where the board never stops moving. It takes a bit of practice for sure, but once you start to get it, it feels pretty good.

Pat: Maybe I'll have to try it. Jumping with a foil still kind of freaks me out a little bit, I'll be honest.

Fred: Well, you're basically jumping with a sword on the bottom.

Pat: Exactly. You've traveled a bunch of places because of Slingshot. Where are your top three places that you've been so far?

Fred: I would say Hood River and Baja are definitely in the top three. The best place I've been to kite foil has probably been Barbuda, which is the place that I'm going in a couple weeks, so I'm pretty excited about that. It's got flat water and swell, super warm water, no one there, and very consistent wind, which is all the things that I look for in the best place. It's not the best for twintipping because it's a little lighter wind, and there aren't really any waves for surfboard, but for kitefoiling it's pretty all-time.

Pat: So when you're not kitefoiling, are you riding a twintip most of the time, or surfboard?

Fred: I kind of do it all now.

Pat: What's your favorite if you weren't going to foil?

Fred: I'm gonna get in trouble if I say this, but twintipping, I think. It's pretty fun. I've been getting into jumping and doing kiteloops and things like that, and it's pretty neat.

Pat: It seems to be where the sport's apexing right now. So what's your go-to twintip setup, then?

Fred: The 136 Formula with the normal Duallys and the 20-inch Sentry bar and a 9m Code, I would say. If I had to choose one kite, it'd probably be the 9m Code to jump with. Have you tried the Code yet?

Pat: I haven't tried the smaller size yet, but I've ridden the 12 and 14 quite a bit. I've really been enjoying them.

Fred: Yeah, they're fun for sure. In Hood River and Baja, you don't really have the best waves, but you do have good wind. If I was in a wave spot, I'd ride the surfboard every day, but because you have to compromise a little bit, the twintip is that happy middle ground.

Pat: So whatever the day provides, that's what you're going to do.

Fred: Yeah. I look at how windy it is and how big the swell is, and that decides which sport I do.

Pat: Gotcha. And winging- have you gotten into that like everybody else has?

Fred: Yeah, I do a lot of testing with the wings. We're really pushing ahead with the R & D on that, so I would say I probably spend 60 to 70 percent of my time winging now, and testing products like stabilizers, front wings, and boards.

Pat: Do you see it ever replacing kiting for you?

Fred: No, I don't. I see it as a sport to do when it's super gusty. When I look at the water in the summer, if it's 10 to 20 I'll go kite foiling. 20 to 30, I'll try to decide between a twintip and a surfboard. But if the range of the wind is greater than 20 miles an hour where it's super gusty, winging makes a lot of sense. When it's gusty like that, your kite's kind of shaking in the air and it's not as fun to do airs and things like that, whereas my only goal with the wing is to use it as a source of power to get onto the swell and then immediately flag it out. So if it's super gusty, I'll tend to to grab the wing.

Pat: Yeah, that's kind of how I gravitate towards winging as well, depending on the day and how gusty it is. Most of the time I'd rather pick a kite over the wing.

Fred: I have winged in the waves, and that is pretty fun.

Pat: It is fun; once you get onto some swell you can actually drop the wing and just go down the line. We covered a little bit about how you're doing the R & D and testing for Slingshot. How did you get into that role? I know you grew up in Hood River.

Fred: Yeah, my parents were windsurfers and so they'd be here in the summer and go to Baja in the winter, and that meant that I also did that. They threw me in the van and drove me down. So I started windsurfing, and then in 2013 I learned to kite as my birthday present. Because I got to learn to kite, so did my whole family, so now we're all kiters. In 2015 I was in a little rowboat, and this guy comes foiling by in super light wind. I was not super stoked on the rowing and I looked at this guy and was like, "Oh, that's a way to have fun when it's light like this!"

So the next day I posted an ad looking to borrow a foil. I borrowed one that weighed 45 pounds and I could barely carry it down the beach, but I started on that. Then I bought a foil and got sponsored by a company called LP Foils from The Gorge. I met Tony Logosz on the beach and he handed me this 4m SST, one of the first prototypes. I went out on it and had a blast. I came back in and he told me to just keep using it. So I had one kite that I used for that whole summer. It was a 4m, which meant that I went foiling every single day.

As I got better, he gave me a couple more kites, and then I got involved with the team side. Alex Fox was giving me gear off his budget. In 2018 I went on a photo shoot in the Cartouche in the Caribbean. Then I went to college and sat back a little bit from kiting, but was still decently involved over the summers. Right before I graduated, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, and Slingshot said, "Hey, do you want to come work for us in the R & D side and help us make our products better for the consumer?" So I took that job and now I'm pretty psyched just kiting and winging all day, every day, as much as I want.

Pat: Hard to complain about, really.

Fred: Yeah, it's a pretty good job right out of college, I would say.

Pat: I kind of did a similar thing. I worked here in the shop during the summers as a kid. I ended up going to college for my four years, graduated, worked an engineering job for two years, got laid off, and then ended up back here. And honestly, it's been more fun being here.

Fred: Yeah, it's pretty fun when you get to go on the water for your job. It could be worse. It's not all amazing; sometimes you've got to go out in 30 degrees, you're freezing cold, there's no one else out there, and it's raining sideways, but other times it's pretty neat because you get to have this hands-on experience with the product before it comes out. It'll be my first year when 2024 comes out. I'm pretty excited to see the products come out and think about how I was involved, how Brandon was involved, and how all these guys in R & D were involved on these different aspects of each board, kite, wing, bar, and all that stuff.

Pat: The sneak peeks up on your Instagram and stuff are really cool. So you studied marine biology?

Fred: Yeah, growing up in Baja I would always be playing in the tide pools, lifting up rocks, finding octopus and shrimp and fish and things like that, and I always thought about being a marine biologist. When I went to college, I didn't really know what to do, so I thought, "Well, why don't I just do what I always wanted to do?" So I spent four years studying that and had a blast, learned a lot, and I was actually going to go find a job in that field until Jeff Logosz called me up and offered me a job. So yeah, I was fully down the marine biology path until I realized that I could still play, have fun, and be a crucial part of Slingshot.

Pat: That's awesome. And you always have marine biology to go back to if you ever need to.

Fred: Yeah, if all of a sudden it stops being windy around the world, then I could go be a marine biologist.

Pat: You have a foil academy, FFA, and you're doing that as well?

Fred: Yeah, I do foil lessons in the summer, mostly wing. The idea behind it is group learning. All these people are starting out basically at zero and they join, but all their friends are at level two or level three. When you join a class with six to eight people all at the same level, you all learn together. After that, the idea is that you get all their numbers, you start a group chat, and then you can all go together so you're all progressing at the same level. You meet new friends that are going to do the sport with you, with the goal of making it a little less intimidating when you go in the water.

Pat: So you can help each other.

Fred: Yeah, definitely. It's hard to go alone. You might not understand how to put your foil together or something like that, and it helps to have friends that are at the same level that will go with you. I just started that this summer and learned a lot. In the winters I do some kite foil camps down in the Caribbean with Uncharted Kitesurfing, so that's been fun.

Pat: That's super cool. So you just started that up last year?

Fred: I've been teaching kite foiling for a long time. I started teaching winging right at the start of Covid actually, so that was a good time to get into it. I was one of the only ones teaching in Hood River, so I kind of had a monopoly on that and it worked out pretty well. When I did the Uncharted thing in the Caribbean, I realized that people took away a lot in terms of the learning aspect, but they also took away six people that they now knew around the U.S. that did the same sport as them. Now they have these friends that they've made and these experiences, and that's what I brought into FFA.

Pat: That's awesome. And then you take that and apply it to what you're doing now with FFA. It's kind of cool how you can roll up to the kite beach without knowing a single person there, and it's like you have a ton of new friends.

Fred: And they're all looking out for you, too.

Pat: Exactly. That's one aspect of kiteboarding I really like. It's not nearly as standoffish a sport as surfing.

Fred: For sure. I've talked to some surfers that have started kiteboarding, and they say that it's a complete shock how nice people are.

Pat: All right, Jake had one question he wanted me to ask you. Since you grew up in Baja, what's the best sipping tequila?

Fred: I don't know. There's a lot, but at my age I can't really afford the best. Probably Centenario. It's pretty good; I would try it if I were you.

Pat: I'll have to look it up. Is there anything else you'd like to add, or do you have any questions for us?

Fred: I'm just wondering when the next King of the Great Lakes is gonna happen, because I had a blast last year.

Pat: That was so much fun. I think we're doing the same weekend in September. I'm trying to get the actual party going for it this year with The Deck to keep making it bigger and better every year, but it was so fun to have you this year.

Fred: Thank you for having me. I'm gonna have to buy a thicker coat for next year.

Pat: Yeah, it was funny. Literally the week after that the weather was like 80 degrees again. But it was a lot of fun and it was good to have you and Neil here to hang with.

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23rd Nov 2022 Pat Taylor

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