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Is There a Doctor In The House?

Behind the scenes interview with GKA boss, Jörgen Vogt

Is it all about kiting hot-spots in boardshorts and high-fiving kite designers on the beach for the head of the Global Kitesports Association? It turns out there’s a bit more to it, according to the German Secretary General whose job it was to pull this tumultuous industry together into a forward thinking, collaborative organisation, as we found out: 

 

 

What is your role within the Global Kitesports Association (GKA)?

I am actually responsible for everything. I am the Secretary General of the GKA and the CEO of the GKA Kite World Tour. I manage the ISO standardization process of kite products, represent the kite-sport community in legislative processes, e.g. regarding laws that restrict kitesurfing at various beaches in different countries, composing overall statistics for the industry, negotiating contracts with organizers, building up the World Tour and making sure that everybody gets the money paid in time. It’s a lot of work, but I have a great team supporting me.

Why did the GKA come to life?

The tasks within kitesports have become more complex and important over the years. That’s why in 2014 the brands decided to create an association that could bring all forces together to work on those tasks. For instance, when dealing with the closing down of beaches by local and national governments, one brand alone would never be heard by a legislator, whereas an association that represents the whole industry would do.

So what are the differences between the Global Kitesports Association and GKA Kite World Tour?

The GKA Kite World Tour runs two disciplines: Freestyle and Wave / Strapless-freestyle – and at the end of the season crowns the most complete male and female riders on a twin-tip and on a surfboard. The GKA Kite World Tour is run by the GKA Event GmbH of which the GKA is one shareholder. The Global Kitesports Association (GKA) on the other side takes care of the development of kite-sport industry matters.

You have a doctors degree in law but you work in the kitesports industry. How did you combine those two things?

Well, I wouldn’t say, that I work IN the kitesport-industry, but I work very closely together with the GKA member brands and I represent their interests. I also take care of the professional and non-professional riders’ interests and the general development of the sport. My lawyer background helps me a lot in negotiations with legislators, but also with all the contractual partners of the GKA Kite World Tour.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced within your work for the GKA and still continue to face?

That is a difficult question. Generally, I would say that the good side is sometimes also the bad one. The high emotions that come along with some topics and a kind of ‘take it all easy-beach-attitude’ in various kite business matters are sometimes very difficult to handle. Fulfilling everyone’s interests, when some are very different, is certainly one of the biggest challenges. Running the GKA and the Tour cannot be considered as a job, though; it has to be a passion. If you don’t do it with passion you will definitely fail and give up. I very often get asked why I do all this when there are much easier ways to earn money with less work. The answer is always the same: it’s my passion.

Besides running the GKA and the Tour, do you do anything else?

No, not anymore. Before I started running the GKA I was the CEO of a medium sized production company, I also worked as a lecturer for labor law at a university and as voluntary judge at the Hamburg court for trade matters. The GKA and the World Tour actually needs the work force of ten people. So there’s no chance to do anything else, if you like it done well and reliably.

 

What does your ‘normal’ day look like?

I get up between 5 and 6am to do one hour of sport. Then I go to the office, work until the evening and, because sunset in the Hamburg summertime isn’t until 11pm I go kitesurfing for an after work party! Honestly, it’s difficult to say because the topics I work on are so different. Sometimes I am negotiating and composing contracts for the entire day. Another day I might be on the phone for 12 hours, or I’ll have to fly around the world in three days to get an event-contract signed, as just happened with the upcoming World Cup in Mauritius. Thank God I also managed to catch the biggest waves I’ve ever got at One Eye while I was there, too! A nice reward for the successful negotiations.

What is your dream scenario for a kitesurfing competition?

That everybody is happy! To make everybody happy we need perfect conditions, a perfect set up and a 5 Star event, which means good prize money, livestream and TV coverage. Plus, of course, a lot of excited spectators at the beach.

You’ve done watersports since you were a child. What kind of watersports do you do?

Actually everything. Kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, foiling, stand-up paddling and I always try new things, like now the surf-wing. I started with windsurfing when I turned 13 and went on to compete in race, slalom and waves for many years. Today I only go windsurfing when the waves are good. Mostly, however, I go kitesurfing in waves; the bigger the better. I still also do some freestyle, but after my complex shoulder operation, it’s challenging.

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