Lilia Yelland: A Year in the Life!
Updated: Jan 11
2022 has been a year of breathtaking 'firsts' for Lilia, aged 16, she has become an OTC Team Rider, smashed Weymouth Speed Week Youth Weekend with her inaugural appearance and made her debut on the PWA circuit coming fourth in the youths! Hooked on slalom with big dreams Lilia proudly flies the flag for the sisters and in this honest interview talks candidly about the highs and lows of her journey, the future has no limits for this super-talented, super-motivated, super-star!
By Emma Nicholson
What has been the stand out highlight for you this year?
"It has to be becoming an OTC Team Rider. This opportunity has created so many more highlights throughout the year, as I’ve been able to push myself with great support from everyone down at the centre. With the help of other Team Riders I have been able to progress so much faster and reach goals I thought wouldn’t happen so quickly."
"Nobody has a straight path, we all just have one destination."
How do you get yourself ready for competitions?
"I take every opportunity I can to get practice with others, I make sure that I have packed everything that I would need for the competition, so I’m ready for all conditions. I like to chef up a cheeky bacon bap for me and my friends in the mornings of the competition, as it’s not only tradition it’s now a part of my routine. After breakfast I plug in, listen to some music and get hyped up for some good racing!"
When you started windsurfing, did you ever think you would achieve what you have achieved?
"Not a chance. I thought my route was going to be techno, then RSX, but I am forever happy that I got too heavy for techno and discovered slalom. In the beginning I just wanted to do it for fun, but after my first slalom competition, last year where I was leading that one start it just clicked. And I knew my goals, whether I could achieve them was a different question, but so far it turns out those goals have been met and I am now forced to push myself even more!"
"Windsurfing is 100% my escape."
Where is your favourite place to windsurf?
"This may be bias, but I absolutely love windsurfing from Portland. I love my local club as it always offers great conditions. But two places which I would love to sail from in the UK is Hayling Island and West Kirby."
What motivates you?
"The end goal is what motivates me. As it fulfils me with ambition and drive to train and improve. So far this year the thing that’s been motivating me was the opportunity to do an international. Luckily this goal has come true as I have competed in the PWA in Alacati, Turkey. The PWA was amazing such a great experience. I was so chuffed to have come fourth, the weather was better there aswell which I miss! Another thing that also motivates me is everyone’s attitude at The Official Test Centre as it’s always positive, which creates a good environment to windsurf and feel welcome in."
"If you can dream it, you can do it."
Who inspires you?
"I must say as part of the 'sisters' the two people that truly inspire and motivate me to go on the water are no other than Simon Pettifer and Jenna Gibson. Since day one of slalom I have seen them go out and absolutely kill it along the speed strip, hitting ridiculous speeds and just having fun."
What do you do to unwind?
"I like to have music on wherever I am, whether it’s rigging, kit maintenance or even just going for a walk. It helps to clear any thoughts and helps me get in a positive mindset."
"At the beginning of the year I hit a bump, I was sleep deprived, anxious and I just couldn’t get the motivation to windsurf."
What advice would you give to young people who have big dreams like you to become a part of the top of the UK Windsurfing scene?
"You can never dream too big. 'If you can dream it, you can do it'. That’s a quote I saw not too long ago and a quote that now sticks in my head."
When you hit a bump in the road, how do you find the strength to carry on and face the next challenge?
"At the beginning of the year I hit a bump, I was sleep deprived, anxious and I just couldn’t get the motivation to windsurf for a fair while. Whether it was foiling or perfect conditions for the fin it just wouldn’t tempt me. But to gather the strength back, I focused on myself and how I’m going to get back up. Nobody has a straight path, we all just have one destination."
"The end goal is what motivates me. As it fulfils me with ambition and drive to train and improve."
What goes through your mind as you approach the starting line of a competition?
"Fear and pure adrenaline, because the start is what’s going to help your race. It relies on your maths for the timings and the angle that you are approaching the line. If you’re over, you’re out; it’s that simple. If you go too late then you’ll have the whole fleet on top of you and if you go early you could be over."
"As a female in windsurfing I think it’s great as I’m able to use my platform to promote the sport that I absolutely love."
How do you balance the pressures of being a Team Rider?
"From the very start it was made clear to me by The OTC to purely enjoy what I was doing and to maximise having fun on the water. So at no point have I ever felt the pressure of being a Team Rider. The only time where I might feel pressured is when I set myself personal goals."
"As a female in windsurfing I think it’s great as I’m able to use my platform to promote the sport that I absolutely love. I don’t feel like I’m a role model yet, as I’m still looking up to other brilliant windsurfers. But if others see me on and off the water having fun then I guess I am promoting the sport in a good way."
What are the benefits to mental health of being on the water?
"From personal experience, being out on the water is my 'escape'. As it’s just you, your kit and the wind. There’s no problems like exams, homework etc. The only focus is to stay dry and how you're going to approach a gust. Your mind is clear. And I mean statistically sport releases endorphins (a chemical responsible for euphoria), so if you ask me windsurfing is 100% my escape."
You are really passionate about supporting other young people entering the sport?
"My whole goal this year has been to promote slalom to the community and it is something which I will continue to do. For example OTC Instructor Mia and I, have organised a girls windsurf clinic, to purely get girls windsurfing. Whether it’s slalom, freestyle or just freeride I think it’s vital we encourage plenty to just enjoy it. That’s the whole point with the sport is to just enjoy it!"
What does 2023 hold for Lilia? she said: "To be honest I don’t really know. This year I thought I would just be settling into slalom, then I found myself sponsored and at my first youth PWA. I hope that with 2023 I will have the opportunities to compete in more international competitions with hopefully a few more youths for Britain. But who knows what 2023 has waiting for me, I just hope that I will have as much fun as I have had this year, and especially to enjoy it with my friends."