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At My Place

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For Red Bull athlete Tom Bridge, there really is no place like home. The banks and shorelines that prop up Exmouth in East Devon have helped the 19-year-old to become one of the world’s best freestyle kitesurfers, shaping everything from his skillset to his capacity for dealing with whatever the elements throw at him.
Of course it also helps that he comes from good stock, a sporting dynasty that keeps on giving. Mum, Steph, is a five-time kite race World Champion, who was ranked as the number one female in the world; Dad, Eric, has worked in the water sports industry for two decades, while his older brothers, Olly and Guy, are both fellow pros.
Watch Tom give a guided tour of his hometown in the player below, and meet the family members who’ve inspired, and helped shape, Tom’s kitesurfing career
Now read on for a Q&A with Tom to find out more about why Exmouth is the perfect kitesurfing environment, how he pulls off such gravity-defying tricks and what some of his proudest moments have been in his career so far…
What makes Exmouth such a great place to kitesurf?
It’s so diverse. You can have flat water one day and wavy water the next, which makes you more of an all-round rider. There are two great spots in town – the estuary or the seafront – and a wide variety of conditions, too. There’s nowhere better anywhere.
Does this mix of the elements give you an edge in competition?
That’s it – you’re more ready for whatever’s thrown at you. Most of the world’s so-called ‘best places to kitesurf’ are normally all flat water and that’s all you get. But if I had that every day then I’d just get bored. You want conditions that challenge you and push you. Exmouth gives you that.
You brought Exmouth to the world’s attention earlier this year with a session during Storm Ciara. How was that?
It was next level, everything was off the scale. We were only out on the water for half an hour and then we were just blown off it. You could barely hold onto the kite. You could see the wind was going over the water so quickly that it would pick up chops [waves that don’t break cleanly] and pass them over the water, it was crazy, something I’d never seen before.
How does your brain process that? What are the signs you use to spot danger?
You’re looking upwind a lot to see when the next gust is coming in, and you’re looking for different textures on the water to know where it’s really windy. In Exmouth, we live next to the sea so we’re looking at the ocean every single minute of every day, so we learn to read it well.

Most of the world’s so-called ‘best places to kitesurf’ are normally flat water. But if I had that every day then I’d just get bored

Tom Bridge, kitesurfer
What have your scariest moments been as a kitesurfer?
I’ve had a couple of moments when I’ve misjudged it and landed on the beach at Exmouth, or been caught in the lines and pulled downwind for what seems like forever. The scariest experience I had actually came in Cape Town, aged 12, when I found myself pulled downwind toward these rocks and unable to stop it because I was in the line. My brother Olly had to come over and jump onto the kite, which really wrecked the kite but stopped it from pulling me to the rocks.



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