Interview: Professional Kitesurfer Lily Young

With eyes on the 2024 Paris Olympics

Feature type Interview

Read time 12 min read

Published Apr 16, 2021

Base editorial team
BASE editorial team BASE writers and editors who live and breathe adventure every day. We love adventure storytelling as much as we love adventure itself.

Like all progression, innovation in outdoor clothing comes only by collaboration. British brand Musto have been engineering performance clothing for some of the world’s best ocean farers for over 50 years. With the help of Musto kit, Olympic sailors and kite-surfers alike have the support they need to go further, extra, harder, and reach the upper echelons of human capability. Musto kit has seen records broken and new realms of possibility reached but not without those individuals. Without them, no matter how technically advanced the apparel gets, it would never fulfil its potential. It’s a symbiotic partnership.

Outdoor consumers are not simply end-users but adventure partners, the ultimate collaborators. Musto’s latest campaign, We Make the Kit, You Make it Happen, speaks directly to this philosophy. As an up and coming part of the British Sailing Team, kitesurfer Lily Young is a Musto ambassador with her eyes on the 2024 Paris Olympics. We caught up with Lily to hear more.

How did you get into kitesurfing? 

I have always lived in Weymouth right next to the sea. Since I was little I’ve always had an interest in competitive sports and I always knew that I wanted to go to the Olympics. I got into windsurfing through my dad and uncle where I originally did it for fun and then in 2014 started to do it competitively while I was at school. I was windsurfing in the British Sailing Team and then in 2018 I was accepted onto a UK sport initiative called kite4gold, that was looking for females to train to compete in Kitefoiling, a new sport making its debut in the 2024 Olympic games.

What does the sport mean to you? 

Kitefoiling pushes the limits of individual sports. You fly across the water at top speeds while at the same time navigating all the other riders and their kites. It always pushes me to be the best because there are so many different factors that affect your racing and training. It pushes you hard physically and mentally, you have to consider the weather each day and while out on the water and how that’s going to affect your racing. You have to prepare and fuel your body for an unknown amount of hours on the water pushing super hard with your legs and keeping your mind alert and making fast decisions.

We can spend hours and hours out on the water without coming ashore so it’s important that our kit is ultra comfortable and keeps us at the right temperature

How do you marry this with your personal life?

Kitesurfing is my personal life! To perform at this level it requires full time dedication. We spend long periods of time abroad so you have to get used to living out of a suitcase and not seeing family and friends for long periods of time. Luckily I am great friends with the rest of my team who I travel with and we also have great friendships with our international friends in the kitesurfing fleet which makes being away super fun and training really productive. It’s incredible travelling to so many different places, we often seek out specific venues to help achieve our goals and then set up our lives out there wherever that may be to make it as close to training at home as possible with gym facilities, bikes, sources of good food. Even when we are not training we still go out with all our friends at home, kiting for fun and spending time outside and on the water in other ways.

You are part of the British Sailing Team – how does Kitefoiling fit in the sailing programme? 

Kitefoiling is the latest addition to the different sailing classes . This has required the whole team to look at the equipment and how we train to get the best performance outcomes. To ensure an equal participation of gender we are the first discipline to take on a mixed relay format. We race on hydrofoils and super efficient lightweight kites, similar to paragliders which allow us to generate really high speeds. This also requires slightly different race tactics than other disciplines due to the fast pace of the racing.

You mention your long term goal of the Olympics? What fuelled this goal? 

Ever since I was young I have always competed in sports. I used to watch the Olympics and all I could think about is how I wanted to compete there when I was older. The drive to always be working towards a goal constantly creates excitement, challenges and achievement.

Why is the right kit so important in your sport and to you in particular? 

We have to train and race whatever the weather. We can spend hours and hours out on the water without coming ashore so it’s important that our kit is ultra comfortable and keeps us at the right temperature. We can spend quite a while setting our kit up on the beaches, briefing and debriefing our sessions. Staying warm and dry is essential pre and post session. I switch between the Musto Corsica Primaloft jacket and a Musto Parka to stay warm while on land. On the water protection is just as important, when it’s cool I like to wear the Women’s Flexilite Alumin 2.5 mm Top and Pant . When it’s hot I look to Musto’s Sunblock Dynamic range to keep my skin safe from the sun with UPF 50 protection.

What part do you feel athletes play in perfecting kit so that brands can focus on quality not quantity? 

Being able to translate to our sponsors what we require from our kit is super important. Making sure it’s of the highest quality and provides the best performance with comfort. I am currently working with Musto, to develop new wetsuits that have the ultimate stretch and warmth for us on the water. Working closely with them means we can give direct feedback by going on the water and testing the products. Therefore altering the products as many times as needed to ensure that the end product is the best we can make it. It’s another marginal gain that adds up to big gains in campaigning.

How has covid affected your plans over the last year? 

As a result of the Coronavirus we have spent long periods of time training in the UK this year, which is not always the warmest. We have had to be super adaptable with plans, which has been tough when our campaign had been mapped out so differently.

Will it have a long term effect? How are you minimising this impact? 

I think it’s important to remember that everyone suffered from covid. We were hit hard from covid pretty bad here in the UK with tight restrictions almost since the pandemic started. From a competing perspective sadly all countries suffered financially and had their travel halted at some point so we were not alone. Personally we had to stay and train in the coldest times in the UK which can be tough on the body. However, I feel very lucky that we were able to practice our sport under such difficult times.

I’ve tried to see the silver lining in this experience, it was so much fun for parts because we very rarely have the entire sailing team of all the different boats and boards all training in Weymouth at the same time. We are like a massive family and there’s nothing more motivating than training on the water with all your friends around you.

How are you achieving your goals?

It’s very cold in the UK at the moment so we have taken a slight step back from the water and have been training hard socially distanced in our gym. We are grateful that we can still use our performance gym and make these gains under the elite sport guidelines.

What is up next for you?

I’ve got quite a bad ankle injury so I’m going to have a bit of time off to recover. In the meantime there’s always plenty of things in my campaign to be working on to achieve successes in the Paris 2024 games .

Which piece of Musto kit allows you to focus on these goals and is a must have in your kit bag? Why? 

All my kit bags are Musto ! But coming from England and its variable weather, I never leave home without a high performance jacket, whether it’s to protect me from the sun, wind, rain or cold. Right now as there still is a chill in the air it has to be the Corsica Primaloft Jacket. It’s super lightweight and windproof but it keeps me incredibly warm from the strong cold winds we get down here.

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