Troon’s Youth Kitesurfer Is Riding High
By Gill Sherry
Pop along to Troon Beach on a windy day and chances are you’ll spot Fraser Bell wave riding. He
might be performing a back loop or a front roll or, perhaps, riding toeside.
Check me out with my kitesurfing jargon!
Truth is, I didn’t know anything about this particular water sport until I spoke to Fraser and his mum, Jane, both of whom, not unkindly, laughed at my kitesurfing ignorance.
Fact is, Fraser is a bit of a star when it comes to this wind powered sailing sport. Born in Troon and a student at Marr College, he began taking an interest when he saw other people riding the waves with their kites.
“I just seen it down at my local beach,” he explains when I enquire how he first got into it. “I really wanted to give it a shot. The guys in the kite school, Kitesurf Scotland, were really welcoming… and gave me some lessons.”
But what started as a hobby soon became something a bit more serious. He responds with a modest laugh when I ask at what point he realised he was actually really good at it.
“As soon as, like, I started posting a little bit on my Instagram and stuff like that. People were showing a lot of attention and that made me think, maybe I’m quite good at this.”
I think ‘quite good’ is something of an understatement. Particularly when you consider the approach from Airush, one of the sport’s leading and most recognisable brands.
“Literally… they were looking for a new international youth rider… and they spoke to me through social media. I posted quite a lot… videos and photographs… on Instagram and stuff like that. They messaged me and I was, like, yeah, let’s do it!”
Fraser insists it didn’t take him too long to learn the techniques and to reach the standard he’s at now.
“I started pushing the kites around quite a bit at the start of last year… really pushing, trying to see what I could learn.”
He’s aiming to enter some big competitions next year. In the meantime, I suppose it’s just a matter of training and clocking up the hours on the water?
“Yeah, exactly that,” he confirms. “Sometimes I go to the gym after a session, not all the time, though. It’s spending time on the water.”
Presumably in all weathers?
“Yeah. Most of the time it’s at Troon. Sometimes, if the wind direction is not right at Troon, then we’ll go elsewhere… like St Andrews.”
I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting him to say that. That’s some distance to travel in search of wind.
“Yeah, and I’m the taxi!” says Jane.
But she must take pleasure from watching Fraser perform his tricks?
“I’m always there. If he’s at Troon then I’ll keep popping down with food.” She laughs as she says this but it’s obvious he must work up an appetite – and burn a fair few calories too.
“If he’s away at St Andrews we’ll take the campervan,” she continues. “There was a competition a couple of weeks ago down at Sands of Luce near Stranraer. We spent the weekend down there with the campervan and met a lot of the local guys. It’s good, it’s a good wee community and it’s good that Fraser starts to be recognised.”
She’s obviously very proud of her son and clearly doesn’t mind driving him around the country. In fact, I think she quite enjoys it.
“People accept me as his old mum, the roadie. That’s quite good!”
The fact he’s beginning to make a name for himself must attract a bit of a crowd down at the beach?
“Yeah,” Fraser affirms. “And sometimes you see some other people… quite interested in the sport come to watch.”
No doubt some of them, as he himself had done, are toying with the idea of giving it a try. What would he say to those people?
“I’ve always tried to encourage my friends to give it a shot, even if they might not like it, still give it a shot. Try the kite school, see if you like it.”
Kitesurfing is considered one of the most convenient but less expensive sailing sports. A kite, Fraser tells me, would set you back about £1,000.
“And you need a nice thick wetsuit for the west coast… it gets quite cold here. And a harness, a kite bar and… that’s literally it.”
It sure beats sitting at home watching TV, something they both readily agree with. You certainly won’t find Fraser wasting a weekend in front of a screen. He heads to the beach as often as he can, pulling on his wetsuit after school and most weekends, wind permitting. In that respect, it’s not that different to other sports – if you want to take it up professionally, you need to put in the hours.
“Hopefully, as his name is starting to get out there,” Jane says, “and he enters more competitions… then he’ll enter the professional circuit which is a big thing. He’s only 15… and he’s the only international youth rider in the UK for Airush Kiteboarding.”
It’s quite an achievement, but Fraser is taking nothing for granted and remains determined to pursue his dream, honing his skills and mastering the techniques.
Listening to Fraser describe the different kitesurfing moves and looking at the videos he’s posted online, I gather you need to be pretty fit?
“A lot of folk think that,” says Fraser, “because they think we’re holding on to just the kite. But it goes through your harness which is wrapped around your waist.”
Even so, it must do the world of good for your core strength. At the very least I would expect a six-pack!
“I think it’s more of an eight-pack actually!” Jane says, resulting in another bashful laugh from Fraser.
“You can enter different… competitions,” he says, returning to the technicalities of the sport. “You’ve got big air which is, like, big massive jumps that catch a lot of folk’s eyes… lifting the kite in the air and doing, like, somersaults through the air. And then you’ve got the freestyle aspect which is literally… you’ve got your kite bar, you’re hooked into your harness, you unhook from your harness and just, like, you pass the bar around you.”
Understanding the moves on paper seems beyond my comprehension, let alone putting them into practice! I look again at the photographs of Fraser mid-air and marvel at the skill and athleticism involved.
“We’re lucky in Troon,” Jane says when I mention the photographs. “There’s a group of amateur photographers that come down most days when it’s windy. They’re good enough to take shots… they put them on the Kitesurf Sessions Troon – Who When Where Facebook page. We can get copies of them to use for our own publicity.”
The family is also full of gratitude for Kitesurf Scotland and, in particular, Grant Clayton.
“Really, without Grant, Fraser wouldn’t be where he is now,” concludes Jane. “He’s got a lot to thank Grant for and he’s become a very good friend of the family.”
I’m sure seeing Fraser riding high is all the thanks Grant and the team at Kitesurf Scotland need. Good luck in those competitions, Fraser!