Interview

Rising Tide:
An interview with Leon Glatzer

Surfing was an Olympic discipline for the first time this year. Among the athletes competing in Tokyo was Leon Glatzer, a young surfing talent from Germany. He didn’t win any medals, but we’re still convinced that we’ll be hearing a lot about this twenty-four-year-old in the future.

  • Text
    Michael Köckritz
  • Photo
    Pablo Jimenez / ISA
Mr. Glatzer, they say that the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. But honestly, didn’t you want more? 

Of course, I wanted more. When you participate in the Olympic Games, you want to win a medal. But there are only three medals, and it didn’t work out for me this time. But I’ll still be able to compete the next two or three times. So the task for now is clear: train as hard as I can for 2024 in Paris.

You were just 0.10 points short of a medal. It was extremely close.Yes. Immediately after my run I was really mad. All I needed was a wave with a little more potential. Some space for another turn. The conditions were extremely difficult, though. But that’s how it is – you always need a little bit of luck in surfing competitions.

Where are you right now? 

I’m in Moliets-et-Maa in France. I always spend some months of the year here. Usually, I come here at the beginning of July and stay for three months for training. 

Have you already done your training for today?

Not yet. Yesterday was our long training day. Those days start at six a.m. We go surfing, come back to have breakfast, go back to the beach for a beach training. And in the afternoon we go surfing again or to the gym.That sounds rather monotonous. Maybe, but our coach is very good and often alternates between different types of training so that our brains always have new things to process. Sometimes we’re down at the beach, for example, and our coach suddenly tells us that we’ll be using footballs or tennis balls for our training. 

Why did you start surfing in the first place?

I was four years old when I first was on a board together with my mother. Then I started surfing myself and one day I told her that I wanted to become a professional surfer. 

And what did she say?

She said that I should follow my dreams. 

"She has always supported me. Whenever I feel down, she’s the one to tell me: 'Hey, it’s your dream, you gotta keep going.' She’s really super-cool."
Leon Glatzer
And what happened next?

My mother got an email from my present agent. He wrote that he wanted to work with me. Then he concluded some contracts. So, I was only fourteen years old and suddenly I had a sponsor, a team and took part in numerous competitions. At the beginning, it was a little difficult because I felt alone. Of course, there was the team, but my mother, my father, my brother – they weren’t around. I was on my own. But it was definitely all worth it, because ten years later I competed in the Olympic Games.

How would you describe yourself?

I was born on Hawaii and grew up in a small town in the south of Costa Rica. My parents are German. I really started from scratch and worked very hard. And when you work really hard, you can achieve anything.

What does surfing mean to you?

It’s my life. I wouldn’t be able to live without it. I always have to be close to the sea. It’s enough for me when I’m able to see some water – then my mind can go surfing.

Surf culture is often portrayed very romantically. Is it really such a perfect, beautiful world?

Yes and no. Hobby surfers are always looking for the perfect wave, they spend their time on the beach, in the sun. They see the good and beautiful things. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s romantic. It’s like paradise. The life of professional surfers is completely different, though. Of course, we also have a day off now and again, but usually we have to complete our training. When the waves are good, we go surfing – in the rain, during storms and winds. We have a goal, when we’re surfing. We talk to our coach afterwards. And then we go back in. That’s hard, but it’s totally worth it. Winning an important competition gives me the best feeling in the world. And that’s what makes all these hard days better than the perfect wave.

Do you sometimes push your luck?

When you’re surfing big and dangerous waves, you’re definitely pushing your luck a little. But it’s exactly in these situations that you’re most focused, most concentrated.

And what about fear?

Professional surfers also know fear, because they’re often on their own. You’re touring the world for eleven months in the year, your team is your family. Sometimes you’re sad and want to go home. You fear that you might fail at the Olympics or at another competition. I still think that it’s a good kind of pressure, because I chose it – and because I decided that I wanted to make it.

You also ride motocross, don’t you?

Yes and no. I’m a huge fan. It’s one of my favorite sports. My brother is a very successful motocross racer. During the pandemic, I spent half a year at home – for the first time ever since I was fifteen. Almost every day, I went to the motocross track with my brother and we had a lot of fun. Before the Olympics, I was not allowed to ride. And I don’t ride now, either. It just wouldn’t be very smart, the risk of getting injured is too high.

Should everybody try surfing?

Of course! The good thing about surfing is that you can start out with very small waves. It’s not dangerous. When you’ve improved, you can try bigger waves. Everybody can do it. If you fall, you fall into the water – and everything’s fine. 

Do you have three quick tips for achieving a better balance?

Good core stability, solid leg muscles and no alcohol. [laughs]

Once you said that Jordy Smith was your idol. Why?

I used to always watch his videos. I learned a lot from them. And I always wanted to be like him. We’re similarly built. He’s also very tall. And our styles are similar, too. He’s one of the best surfers in the world and just a cool guy. He’s always smiling. 

What’s the secret of coolness – is it the smile? You also smile a lot. 

Yes, absolutely. I think that smiling is so important. It makes you radiate good energy. I always want to pass that good energy on to others.  

If you had the power to do anything you wanted, what would you change?

I think a lot about sustainability. Our planet is suffering. It’s burning... 

Red Bull 2021
Red Bull 2021
"If I had the power to change anything, I’d wish for a world in which all people were treated as equals. A world in which there was a smile for everyone."
Leon Glatzer
rampstyle #23 Me. Again.
Michael Köckritz

Michael Köckritz

Editor in Chief
As a journalist, author, artist and media maker, Michael Köckritz succeeds time and again in creating both attention-grabbing and sustainably stimulating impulses in the context of contemporary and future topics as well as lifestyle and luxury worlds. As publisher and editor-in-chief, he has realised a whole series of book and lifestyle magazine formats that have regularly won numerous national and international awards over the years. The car culture magazine ramp, the men's lifestyle magazine rampstyle and the design magazine ramp.design are published internationally and are considered style-setting.
rampstyle #23 Me. Again.

rampstyle #23 Me. Again.

An issue we dedicate to ourselves. Us. Once again. Following on from our last rampstyle, which we called »Me for Myself«. Wonderful. How do we ideally approach this »me«? We recommend a combination of two strategies: Approach your identity hunt like Inspector Columbo, who always seems a bit off-track in the detective series of the same name, but nevertheless always solves the case.

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