Tweaking Out

Alexander Lewis-Hughes, better known as “Tweak” in the Kitescoop forums, is an outspoken member of our community. But, unlike a lot of armchair riders out there, he has the credentials to back up his bluster. Tweak, well known for his smooth riding style, is also a PKRA judge and now a board designer for Axis. We had a chance to talk with him and tap into the mind behind the beard.

KiteScoop:

So to start out with, word is you’re putting out a board with Axis. How did this happen? Is this the first board you’ve built up from scratch?

 

Alexander Lewis-Hughes:

Yeah dude Tranq out now! haha. Well basically Adrian from Axis just rang me up from across the ditch (NZ) and said, “Yo man you wanna ride for Axis?”… I said I wasn’t really sure if any boards they make would suit what I want to do, so he said “Hey, why don’t you make your own?”. I wasn’t really sure at first what to do because I was stoked with Tona and how that was all progressing, so basically I just emailed the boys at Tona and told them the score. Surprisingly, they were super cool with the idea and fully encouraged me to do whatever was best for me and make my own board, so that’s just what I did. I want to thank everyone there at Tona for that opportunity and I wish them all the best into the future! It’s not often you find a brand as realistic as that.

 

Actually it isn’t the first board, I used to ride for a small brand called Catapult and I made about 3 or so decks with my own graphics while I was there, so I guess that got me interested in it. I’ve always been interested in making my own stuff though and modifying anything else I’ve got, I’m pretty sure my sponsors hate me hahaha.

 

KS:

So what exactly were you looking for out of your board that their stuff didn’t really fill?

 

ALH:

I just wanted a board for riding boots in everything. They had a board for full on “wakestyle” and other good boards for Freestyle but I’ve always wanted something that’s an all round performer. I need something that gets speed easy in shit wind between kickers, lands soft and can still get great pop off the flat… It’s something I just don’t see anywhere, so I needed to make it myself.

 

KS:

Walk me through the design process, was there an existing board that you patterned it off of?

 

ALH:

Design process was actually pretty quick, we started at the beginning of the year on this board and I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted before we even began. I told Adrian the rough specs of what I wanted and we took it from there, about 10 or so prototypes later we had refined what is now the Tranq. We had the shaped sussed pretty early on in the design process and all the last prototypes were just trying different cores and stiffnesses to see what felt best. I’m really stoked with how it all came out and how smooth it went.

 

There wasn’t really one single board that I patterned it off but there were a few boards that definitely influenced my approach. I’ve had this idea and specs for a board for a long time but riding boards such as the LF Watson Hybrid, LF Deluxe Hybrid, Tona Pop, Airush Alex Pastor prototypes and a fair few of other decks gave me the extra input I needed to know that what I wanted was right.

 

KS:

Any weaknesses you see in this board? Any type of rider that you would say should stay away and just go with another board? Anything that you’d change for the next generation of the Tranq?

 

ALH:

I wouldn’t really say there is any weaknesses in this type of board, it’s designed primarily to be a good all-rounder and I think that is what it excels at, although I suppose it’s possible that smaller riders might not enjoy it much at 141 in length. I think even if you rode it around with straps it would still have that same smooth feeling so it’s not exactly a “boots only design” although that’s obviously what I designed it around.

Right now I’m really happy with the shape and how the Tranq performs so I’m not really looking at what to change or make better yet. Through this year though I want to test new ideas for shapes and channels and see how different things go, so if those work well then for sure there’s a chance you will see it incorporated into the next generation of Tranq.

 

KS:

So you got this twintip, can we look forward to any kite skates from you in the future?

 

ALH:

Yeah man haha, well now you mention it I was actually just thinking I needed to make a new skate. As you may or may not know the last one I was riding was shaped by Barracuda the guy who built the Gypsy skate and I would really like to get another one off him. Maybe he can help with building a new one with Axis or something?

You still out there man? I kind of lost contact with him, he’s like the magical board shaper that just disappears one day haha.

 

KS:

What made that Gypsy skate so much fun? Any other skates that you’ve tried that have really hit the spot for you?

 

ALH:

I didn’t actually like the Gypsy skate to be honest, hahaha. This was a custom Barracuda did up for me, it was almost perfect I just had a few little kinks to iron out. He made a second edition to my specs and it looked insane, rad concaves and a perfect size etc. I really wanna know how it went or where it is now! If you’re out there still Cudda let me know!

Pretty much no other skates I’ve tried really clicked with me, I was riding a 42 inch Integrity wakeskate for a while and it was really good but a bit slow, I was also riding the Tona Driftwood which was also a good skate but just too long for me. I guess the best skate on the market that I tried was for sure the Driftwood, everything else I tried was pretty rubbish, the Driftwood actually feels like a skate, which is kinda important haha.

 

KS:

So your  most recent edit showed a lot of cable action. How much benefit do you see in crosstraining on cable?

 

ALH:

Training is such a harsh word haha. I’m not out there trying to win anything or get super consistent at certain tricks for any reason, so in my mind I’m not really training, just out there having fun!

But, yes I do think there’s a great benefit for people crosstraining at the cable. It teaches you how to edge properly and also gives you a ton of time to practice hitting kickers and sliders. I would recommend everyone take a trip to one at some point, even if it’s just for fun haha.

 

KS:

What is the story behind the graphics on top of the Tranq? Can’t say I’ve ever seen a board like that.

 

ALH:

I thought you would ask about the name actually haha. But yeah I guess the graphics were just an idea I got I think from a Byerly board graphic originally, which was just a collage of motorbike photos in the middle of the deck.

The photos I chose were just dudes and things that got me inspired, so if I was at the beach or something and looked down I might get some motivation to do something haha. Really though I just wanted something clean and not so “in your face” so it would appeal to most people like myself. The more I look at it the less I like it actually but I guess that’s the same with anything you do yourself.

I’m stoked with how it came out though and I definitely would rather ride with that under my feet than with most other abortions of graphics I see on brand name boards. I’ve got some cool designs in the works for next year already and maybe even for a LTD graphic later on in this year if possible, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

KS:

I think I heard on The Scoop forums that it was short for Tranquility? But the more I think about it, the less likely that is. So what is up with the name?

 

ALH:

Well actually you’re kinda right, it’s short for Tranquil or Tranquilise, either or depending on the situation. Tranquil because that’s what I want my ride to be, I want to be one with the conditions and enjoy what I’m doing, you know “Tranq out” so to speak. “Tranquilise” because that’s what this board does to the competition! haha.

 

KS:

Alright, let’s switch gears a bit from talking about gear to talking about kiting organizations. So recently KSP came out and tried to fundraise to get a comp together. Now, some people have viewed this as indicative of a lack of interest in kitesurfing as a competitive sport in general. Anything you’d like to add with your perspective?

ALH:

There’s lots of things that go on behind the scenes like most organisations and companies that people don’t know about. I don’t think this is indicative of a lack of interest in kiting at all, although I have read articles saying otherwise and also claiming that PKRA is headed in a similar direction, which I know for sure it isn’t. PKRA has probably had one of it’s strongest years to date, with lots of new comps added to the schedule with solid prize money and sometimes free accommodation and transport for riders. I think running any sort of competition for a niche sport like kitesurfing will always be a hard task, it’s just a matter of doing it in the right way and not promising what is impossible to deliver. I hope for the sake of all the waveriders out there that PKRA can get the rights for the wave tour, so those guys have a chance to travel, compete and win real prize money in events once again.

 

KS:

So PKRA switched it up this year with some rule changes. Do you think overall it has made the freestyle events more fun to watch? Any surprises this year in terms of standings or trends?

 

ALH:

Well this year they didn’t change much really, but over the last couple of years it has changed massively. Basically the main difference being that the guys now have 12 attempts with only the best 5 tricks counting to a total. There are 5 judges and the highest and lowest judges scores are thrown out whilst the other 3 judges are averaged. This system has made the judging much fairer and it’s made it far harder for any one judge to be biased and effect a result.

As for how it’s affected the riding I think it’s great, finally we are seeing guys try and do tricks that are as sick as possible to score really well, instead of doing as many tricks as possible in a heat like it once was. The level is insane at most PKRA competitions now and even some of the best guys aren’t making it through the qualifiers to the main event. I think there were a few guys from around the place this year who turned up at events thinking PKRA would be pretty easy and soon realised the level is no joke, most of them failing to qualify.

You’ve got to be on your game if you want to get in the main event now, I doubt I would even make it in there to be honest haha, I just don’t have that level of consistency.

 

KS:

Tell me a bit about your journey from rider to judge. How did that happen?

 

ALH:

Well like everything in my life it was all just chance. I had no inspiration whatsoever to pursue being a world tour judge, it just so happened that one day my mate Toby Bromwich asked if I wanted to come judge the PKRA event they were having on the Gold Coast (AUS) as they needed another judge. So I did that event and after that the guys were pretty happy with how I went and that I knew all the names for tricks etc. so they got me on-board for the rest of the stops haha.

 

KS:

What’s the gnarliest thing you’ve seen at a PKRA stop?

 

ALH:

The coolest thing I probably ever saw was in Morocco at the start of this year. Youri Zoon was killing it in this heat against Louis Hutter like way out in front and then in the last minute Youri did a 317 (or something) and landed straight into Hutters kite, ripping and deflating it and subsequently losing the heat. That was probably the best thing I’ve seen for sure hahaha.

 

KS:

Oh man, I remember reading about that.

ALH:

Yeah it was classic haha.

KS:

So one of the big stories this year was Aaron Hadlow coming back and doing pretty well. What’d you think of him this year? Do you think he’s gotten better since the days where him and Kevin were battling it out, and maybe the level of competition has just gotten better?

 ALH:

Aaron… I’m gonna be totally honest here and say that back in the day I was never really a fan of anything he did, it probably wasn’t his fault though because he was just doing whatever it took to win at the time, but I just didn’t like his style. Recently though (last couple of years or so) I think he’s totally rad haha. On top of just being a real humble and nice guy he’s a rider that has really grown into what he’s doing, what was once a strange lanky style has turned into something tight and unmistakably “Hadlow”, he’s made a style for himself and I respect that probably more than anything else, it’s something that hard to do and isn’t necessarily going to work out. This year he’s been coming back from a big knee blow out and I can tell he’s not really at his peak, but there’s moments of brilliance there where you just know that if he sticks at it he’s going to be back up there on the podium every event for sure. Alongside Pastor and Jacobs he does some of the best Front Blind Mobes in the sport and what I believe is closest to a true wake representation of the trick.

Kids these days are somehow turning FBMs into something as shitty as what they made Back Mobes when this whole “Low Mobe” nonsense began… something that I thought would be impossible, so if you’re reading this kids, throw your tricks right!

Hadlow’s definitely gotten way better since the Kevin vs. him days, you can’t even compare that to what it is now, if they rode like that now, there’s a chance they wouldn’t even make the main event haha. The level now is pretty insane, I think Kevin is really feeling that and is trying hard to adapt, he’s doing a good job but there’s just so much talent coming up and it’s always hard to go against that, what really helps him out is his comp experience.

KS:

So you’re known as a pretty opinionated guy who really isn’t that scared of speaking his mind. Let’s talk about videos for a bit. In the recent years we’ve seen some high production value stuff that seems to focus more on storyline rather than actual riding. (Like the recent Youri Zoon stuff). Any thoughts on this?

 

ALH:

Well first up I’m gonna say that it’s not like Youri is the only one to do this, so I’m not talking just about him here. I think people talking for 2 minutes or whatever at the start of any vids are on the same page in my books. Some people enjoy it, I mean I can see the angle they are trying to go, they are trying to give it a story, make it into more of a movie style thing and give people something else to focus on. The idea is there, I mean for all intents and purposes it isn’t a bad idea, but I’m yet to view something like this that isn’t a total sack of shit. I mean it’s a hard thing to pull off, following a story or talking in a video and not making it sound like you’re a fucking moron is no easy feat.

Where I think all these people go wrong is they are all so serious… How the fuck can you be serious when you’re flying a toy kite around bobbing up and down in the ocean for a job??? There’s nothing remotely serious about that. I think if people focused more on having fun and told a story of mates on a trip or something similar with a minimal amount of narration it could work, but it’s still not going to be easy. I think if I ever wanted to do a story type vid it would for sure be something like that, just following me and a few mates on a road trip somewhere and focusing mainly on the stupid/ funny shit that happens, that’s the only stuff that really needs narrating.

 

KS:

What’s been a recent video that you feel has been done right?

 

ALH:

Dre’s DR mix was tight. That edit Shabs did was on the money. If Shabs did a longer travel type edit with Dre showing us around DR a bit and saying a word here and there I would probably back it haha.

 

KS:

Any parting shots, last thoughts, free Tranqs you want to give out?

 

ALH:

Haha, nice.

Well as cliché’ as it is I just want to say, stay true to yourself and keep it right! Too many people these days are acting like white sheep, speak your mind when you want to and let people know your thoughts. What a boring world this would be if everyone just agreed and said everything and everyone was amazing… you have a point of view, it’s as valid as anyone elses, express it!

Sadly I got no free Tranqs, but Tranq can be found free all around us, everyone should Tranq out on the regular where ever possible, it’s good for your health!

I just wanna say thanks to my parents really, they are the real people who made anything I do possible I guess haha. Also a Shout out to Tona, because those guys are doing some real shit out there, also Ozone, Axis, Hyperlite and Kitepower for having my back! Oh and Karolina as well just for being radical and putting up with my nonsense! Cheers guys.


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