Surfing the winds, feet on ground

Singaporean kiteboarder Maximilian Maeder, 12, competing at the KiteFoil GoldCup World Series held in Weifang, China from Aug 31 to Sept 5. Kiteboarding is slated to be included at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Singaporean kiteboarder Maximilian Maeder, 12, competing at the KiteFoil GoldCup World Series held in Weifang, China from Aug 31 to Sept 5. Kiteboarding is slated to be included at the 2024 Paris Olympics.PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX SCHWARZ

Kiteboarder Maximilian, 12, not fussed over medals, prefers to focus on improving skills

Maximilian Maeder is often the youngest at the kiteboarding competitions he participates in but, even after recently winning two of them, the 12-year-old does not see the results as achievements to dwell on.

Rather, the Singaporean feels "achievement is relative", and he prefers to focus simply on trying to get better at a sport he loves.

Asked which achievement he is proudest of and Maximilian, who won the Formula Kite and Twintip: Racing Asian Championships in Zhuhai, China last month and the KTA Asia-Pacific Hydrofoil Series at Desaru Coast last weekend, looked slightly uncomfortable.

"I don't like (thinking about) that because my motto is to stay humble and you're basically asking me to brag... I don't know (how to)," he told The Straits Times recently.

"I still have yet to master certain manoeuvres, I still crash and do them not the most efficiently... but it's all relative because you're always progressing in the sport - one day you beat this guy but the next two months you're happy you beat the guy you never thought you could beat.

"I don't keep track of achievements or things like that, I celebrate them and then I move on to the next event."

It is why Maximilian, who was introduced to the sport at age six by his Swiss father and Singaporean mother, does not set result-based targets during his competitions.

ALL ABOUT THE THRILL

It's the fun in kitesurfing and it's because I like it. There's no (other) reason or explanation.

MAXIMILIAN MAEDER, kiteboarder, on the motivation behind taking up the sport.

He is home-schooled because of his frequent travelling to overseas competitions.

"I don't go in thinking, 'I want to finish at this place', it's more like 'I want to get ahead of this guy' and that's how you go faster," he explained.

"A medal is a benchmark and a sign that you have the skill to compete and beat everyone else... but, other than that, I don't see it as a great achievement, I see it as a short-term certificate."

Also known as kitesurfing, kiteboarding has athletes riding on a surfboard, propelled above the water by a kite.

It featured at this year's Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires and is set to be included at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

On the possibility of representing Singapore at the Olympic Games one day, Maximilian said: "As a kid, I don't see too far in the future, I live more in the now.

"We'll see what happens - success means trying again."

His mother Sing Hwee Keng, who helps to run the Wakatobi resort in Sulawesi owned by his father's family, added: "We try not to give the children pressure by aiming for things like that. If he's good and he's interested, he will get there eventually.

"They're still very young and (it's important to) keep the fun and the passion. When they're passionate, they don't have to be forced to do anything; they will find their own force within them."

In Maximilian's own words, what motivates him to strive for improvement is this: "It's the fun in kitesurfing and it's because I like it.

"There's no (other) reason or explanation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'Surfing the winds, feet on ground'. Print Edition | Subscribe