Life Through A Lenz
Levi Lenz discusses the challenges he's faced with on his path to becoming PWA world champion.
The first thing you'll notice whenever we write about Levi Lenz (DaKine) is the lack of brands following his name. Usually there would be at least two industry players - one sail, and one board brand - supporting a sailor of this calibre. However, despite Lenz finishing in the top 16 in freestyle last year, he's yet to find an equipment sponsor for the 2010 season.
This hasn't knocked him off his stride though, he's a dedicated sailor with a dream to follow, and a journey to see through to the end. With this in mind, we decided to find out what keeps the young freestyler ticking, and how he's going to fund another year on tour without much support from the industry…
PWA: As a young rider on tour, what difficulties are you faced with?
Lenz: "I believe that during your first few years on tour it's difficult to show your true potential value because you don't have the experience of the older guys, and you also don't have as much gear, so you're not prepared for all of the conditions. Alongside all of the actual competing, sailors also need to invest time and money into promoting themselves, which is far more difficult for those without the backing of a sponsor or their own personal resources. In my specific case, living in Brazil, it would seem I need to double such efforts to reach the media.
However, I believe that all new athletes face this, some with greater difficulty than others. We are aware that the global windsurfing market is not at its best, and that here in Brazil this is no different, despite the economic growth within this country, which will certainly be reflected positively in the years to come. My expectation for the near future is that the world media will be focusing on sports in Brazil even more in the run up to the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016."
PWA: Do you enjoy competing on the World Tour?
Lenz: "Yeah! Of course I do. I like it very much. It's only because of competing on the World Tour that I've had the opportunity to learn other languages, such as English and Spanish. And that I've been able to travel to several places which I'd previously only ever dreamed about going to. On top of that, I've made friends all around the whole world. And of course, I could live the windsurfing lifestyle, improve my own sailing, and make it to an elite level of the sport I love."
PWA: Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
Lenz: "At this moment, I have the sponsorship from a resort which was the headquarters of the PWA Tour, here in Fortaleza, Beach Park, and the support from Dakine, who help me out with accessories."
PWA: Have you ever had full sponsorship?
Lenz: "No, never."
PWA: Being such a talented sailor, why do you think you're struggling to find sponsorship for this season?
Lenz: "As I've already said, I think the brands do not see Brazil as such a good market. But, I hope this will change and they will invest in top athletes that will help the market to grow. There is huge potential here, we have very favourable climatic conditions for windsurfing throughout Brazil. And, we'll have top athletes representing the country on the World stage in every discipline. Brazil is an emerging country in which other companies are strongly investing in."
PWA: Will you compete on the world tour despite your lack of sponsorship?
Lenz: "Yeah. Sure! This year will be pretty special for me because I'll start the year amongst the top 16, and I'll finally be graduating in June, with a degree in advertising. I will then be able to dedicate more time to my athletic career, and will be 100% focussed on windsurfing."
PWA: How will you fund this?
Lenz: "The sponsorship I have from Beach Park will go some way to helping me with my costs. Occasionally I also get some help from the State Government to pay for travel tickets to competitions. I'll also work during my spare time, so that I can save up some more money to go on trips."
PWA: Have you ever thought about competing in more than one discipline? Perhaps this would make you more attractive to sponsors?
Lenz: "Yeah, sure! My dream has always been to compete in wave as well. Here in Brazil, I compete in both wave and slalom, alongside freestyle, with good national results in every discipline. On the World Tour I'm focusing my efforts on freestyle because I believe it is the first step for young athletes to carve out their career."
PWA: Are you actively trying to gain exposure?
Lenz: "Yes, normally I try to keep myself in the media in some way. Here in Brazil I'm constantly doing interviews for newspapers, TV channels, and magazines, both local and national. I'm constantly uploading new photos on my facebook page and talking about my sailing via twitter. And, whenever I have a new video of me sailing somewhere, I'll send it out to the online magazines and websites. Plus, whenever I have an opportunity with international magazines, I'll try my hardest to get them everything they need."
PWA: How have you been preparing for the 2010 season?
Lenz: "I've been training extremely hard. At the end of last year I spent a few months in Jericoacara and Icaraizinho, both of which are located only three hours from my home. I've also invested in new equipment, which gave me the opportunity to progress a lot during those few months of training, and I'm practicing every windy day here. I've also started training in the gym, in order to prepare my body for the effort required by competitions, and alongside that, I've changed my diet. I also surf and SUP when there's now wind."
PWA: Where are you aiming to finish this year?
Lenz: "I'm aiming for a top ten finish. I have a few limitations, such as the amount of equipment I have, but if we get the right wind I should be OK. Despite this, I now feel capable, both in technique and experience to reach the top 10."
PWA: Is your overall aim still to become World Champion?
Lenz: "Yes, without a doubt. This has been my dream since I was a child! The steps i'm taking to achieve this include being disciplined and conscious about what I want, to be persistent, and never give up. After that I'll try to find a sponsor that will allow me to train more, and with the right equipment for every possible conditions I could face. If I can achieve this, then I believe that one day I will reach my dream."
Let the bidding commence...