James Longmuir: Flying High!
How much do you know about renowned self-taught kite speed competitor James Longmuir? Becoming frustrated with windsurfing James turned to kitesurfing, little did he know that decision would unleash a speed demon and in time through sheer gritted perseverance and determination James would break that elusive holy grail of 50 knots! How does he manage the supersonic speeds on the water? In this interview James gives a very honest account of his journey.
Accidentally entering Weymouth Speed Week in 2010 lit a fire for James and would be the start of a chapter that would see him smash records, enthral the watersports community and there is still so much more to come! A quiet humble man James is in a happy place after a few bumps in the road on his watersports journey, he is very much focused on his speed sailing. Smashing records, building his own boards James has a deep rooted passion for his craft and a long-held respected connection to the industry, kiting runs through his blood, so strap in, hold on and let James raise the bar!
By Emma Nicholson
I started off asking James, when did you first try kitesurfing? He said: "I think it was back in 1998 or 1999 when I was working for Jon Popkiss the Naish importer for the UK, they came back with a two-line nine metre kite and said we needed to learn before we started selling it, that actually meant being self-taught as there were no schools set up at that point.
What interested you about kitesurfing?
"I was a windsurfer at the time and having done a lot of slalom sailing I switched to waves, when it became apparent that I couldn’t hold down the suddenly increasing board and rig sizes needed for racing. Consequently there was a lot of time when a 77l wave board and a five metre sail had me cursing light wind, so it was a way to get on the water that much earlier and learn something new.
"I have worked away pretty much only focussed on speed sailing and couldn’t be happier."
Can you talk me through your kitesurfing journey, right from the beginning, right up to today?
"I think I took two years of flying kites and messing around on the beach until I got my first set, I did the usual thing of going on the BKSA event circuit for some fun and to see if I was any good (I wasn’t) and then fell into becoming the brand rep for Naish, so lots of dealer visits kiting in new places and helping up and coming riders with a full team that for a number of years dominated the UK scene, Sam Light, Nicky Rudd, Helen Thompson, Ned Taylor and Sam Moore, apologies if I have missed anyone!
"I was there for about six years and had a great time ended up doing some of the old race board class kite race events (badly as it was heavily equipment dominated and I learned a lot of lessons), eventually though I moved over to a competitor brand (Slingshot) and helped grow that substantially.
"Before I left Slingshot I had been sent to Weymouth Speed Week to hand out the prizes 2010 I think? as we sponsored the event, it came with an entry so I thought I would give it ago, awkwardly I won the event overall at my first try. Despite going back a number of years later I was hammered each time, it turns out its much harder to win that event than it seemed at the time! But it had lit a fire.
"Unfortunately though there were issues with new staff at Slingshot in the UK that caused an end to that, the fall out was pretty unpleasant and I pretty much stopped all kiting for 3-4 years, I needed a break and had fallen out of love with the sport and some of the people. It had been a solid run of nearly 12 years in the industry.
"So around 2016 I had the itch to get back to it and the people that had caused me to fall out with the Slingshot importer had moved on, screwing him over in the process so there was a bit told you so, but it meant he was now with a new (and better) brand. Core kites, and that’s where I got back into the sport. With Greame Fuller helping on a bit of a deal for a kite.
"So from 2016 to now I have worked away pretty much only focussed on speed sailing and couldn’t be happier.
"The clock, it never lies and always keeps you honest."
What is one of your best kitesurfing memories?
"There are probably a few too many, but highlights are Kiting on Maui with Robby Naish and his team, hanging out on Necker (working my socks off) and kiting there, going the Kite Speed Worlds in Oman in 2018 and thinking for about an hour that I had decent shot and then learning the hard way (painful but formative is how I would describe it). Hitting 50 knots at Portland though will always stand out.
What is your biggest motivator?
"The clock, it never lies and always keeps you honest, doing your best and knowing that it can always be better.
What is your favourite type of gear?
"Temavento custom Speed board 169 x 64 with 26cm Z fins and an 8m Core XR6.
What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by kitesurfing?
"I can't speak for everyone, but the escapism and the absolute focus that you need, I have drifted out of the recreational side of the sport and really only kite on my race gear so you need to concentrate really hard and block out anything else. To be able to do a sport that pulls you away from the normal every day pressures is so appealing, you just shut out all the noise and go.
What is your biggest achievement with your kitesurfing?
"Selfishly the success I have had at Weymouth, three overall wins and five British championships, as well as the course record and the GPS record, as well as the 50 knots.
"Outside of that it is the friends I have made along the way and seeing other riders like Neil Thompson progress, in what is a pretty awkward niche section of the sport and get faster and faster and post up speeds that only a few years ago were miles away.
What is your favourite spot to kitesurf?
"For speed sailing Masirah Bay in Oman was pretty dam good, Portland on an un crowded 35 knot South West day or a spot near home at the entrance of the Solent with friends just having fun.
Why did you build your own boards?
"At the time there wasn’t an alternative (that was available in the UK) plus how hard could it be? Turns out very hard to get something that is decent! I made my asymmetric boards, but had Temavento build my big three fin board as I am clueless in where to start, I knew what I wanted him to build and could explain it and he did an amazing job to put that into reality.
"Dave White, watching him doing incredible things against the odds, to his current fight, the guy is a hero."
How did it feel to break the record held by Anders Bringdal?
"I broke it back in 2017 on my own on a grey rainy day, and it was utter elation, he had always been a hero of mine as a windsurfer so it felt special to do it at the same spot. But these things ‘don’t count’ until its done in a competition, from 2017-2019 both myself and Dave Williams broke it many times and pushed well over 40 knots for 500m , we knew that Pete Young, a windsurfer had a 40 knot run on GPS and that had been the next target.
"So from proving it possible in 2017 to finally doing in competition in 2019 felt a very long time indeed.
"Dave Williams actually got the record before me in the 2019 event, we both passed Anders mark but he was faster that day, he never got the recognition sadly as the next day we both went past 41 knots and I got the new event record. For a meter either side of the start gate Dave was the faster that day and had a faster GPS time but when the gates were accounted for I was declared the winner.
"So how did it feel? In those circumstances pretty awful if I am honest, yes you smile and wave and take the applause, but the way it happened was brutal and I took no enjoyment from that.
"Two weeks after I went back to Portland and set a 43.4kt run over 500m, that felt special.
"Just enjoy the sport in the way that works for you."
How important is Speed Week to you?
"Up until this year I would have said I didn’t know how to answer that. This years event plagued with light wind and left too much time to ponder, I was told I take the event too seriously that there was a kit advantage all sorts of stuff that made me question why I was competing at all if that was the thought on the beach.
"Where I ended up was, yes I do take it seriously and yes I am there to do the very best I can, if that means I get beaten so be it, but I was comfortable being there to do the best I could and if that meant winning my class or the overall then so be it.
"Its an open class event so you can arrive with whatever gear you want and use it how you see fit, everyone has that choice and opportunity where equipment is concerned, I happen to have put a stupid amount of hours into my Temavento board to the point where it works really rather well and my technique, while far from perfect is getting better, it’s a board that is built for Weymouth and set up to work well there. You could call up Enrico and ask him to make you the same board if you wanted? My point is there is no secret that I am keeping to myself.
"The event itself? It is so special, it's an open speed event, race what you want against whoever is there and the clock decides the winner. The emphasis has always been about laying on the fastest possible course to achieve the best result and I hope that never changes. Yes there will be new classes and new technologies but I hope they never loose the specialness of the overall title and that’s the one that has kept me coming back from that first year I entered.
"Winning back to back overall titles 2019 and 2021 means a huge amount, you look back at past winners and to be even on the same list as true greats of speed sailing is ridiculous for a 40+ slightly overweight kiter. I know damn well that I will never be in the same category as those winners but it’s a bloody good feeling to follow in their footsteps.
"You can always go faster try harder and do it better."
Who inspires you?
"Dave White, from when I was a kid growing up watching him doing incredible things against the odds, to his current fight, the guy is a hero.
"Weymouth was written off as being too slow or unsuitable for going fast, I can only hope with others to keep pushing back on that narrative."
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your kitesurfing career?
"You can always go faster try harder and do it better.
You aren’t as bad as you think you are.
Windsurfers look cooler going fast than kites.
There are no shortcuts.
And lastly good fins are a solid 90% of it.
What type of kitesurfing do you like to do in your spare time for fun?
"90% of the time I sail on my race gear, so come competition time its second nature, I do sail with non speed sailing mates a few times of the year on a twin tip if I feel I need a break to come back to it with a fresh perspective, but generally if I am kiting its only about going fast, I think that has helped over the last few years.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into kitesurfing?
"Go for it, take lessons and don’t believe the hype, just enjoy the sport in the way that works for you.
The future what does that hold for you?
"Probably more effort and hard work trying to find those little increments, getting 50 knots last year has shown it's possible and I want to get up there again, since 2019 I have been sure that there is a 45 knot average to be done at Portland and that will be the next goal, 20 years ago Weymouth was written off as being too slow or unsuitable for going fast, I can only hope with others to keep pushing back on that narrative."