Rising Tide: Five questions for Leon Glatzer

For the first time ever, surfing was an Olympic discipline this year. Along for the ride was a young talent named Leon Glatzer. Here are five questions for the rising star, who wants to take two or three more Olympics with him after Tokyo - and surf casually into the new week with us.
Text Alfred Rzyski
Photo Red Bull

Born in Hawaii, raised in a small town in southern Costa Rica, on a surfboard since the age of four - with that certain smile on his face. That's Leon Glatzer.We meet the young German athlete in Moliets-et-Maa on the French Atlantic coast, where he trains and lives during the summer months. When he's not chasing medals at the Tokyo Olympics, as he did this year. Or riding motocross with his brother, as he did at the start of the COVID19 pandemic. In the interview, he tells us how the Tokyo Games went for him, what his plans are for the future - and what the image of surfers in pop culture has to do with reality.

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.

"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."

Leon Glatzer

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.

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.

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. 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.

→ Read the whole interview with Leon Glatzer in rampstyle #23. There he also talks about his early independence, the topic of fear on the surfboard and his role models.

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