Leon Glatzer discusses how he moved with his Mum to Pavones, Costa Rica when he was young. He talks about getting sponsored by Volcom and traveling with them to surf in France, Portugal and Hawaii, coaching, joining the German Surfing Team and training for surfing’s Inaugural Olympics Games and how the Games has impacted his life.
Oli Russell-Cowan: When did you start looking into getting sponsored to surf?
Leon Glatzer: When I started surfing I had homeschool three to four hours a day and then an hour of homework. I was surfing without looking for any sponsors. At that time, I just wanted to surf. I wasn’t like, wow, it would be so cool to get sponsor. I was just so in love with the sport and so passionate about it that I just wanted to spend hours and hours in the ocean. My mom would get super mad because I wouldn’t eat or drink water. Usually after two weeks of surfing I’d get completely sick of dehydration or something.
One time somebody filmed me on a wave. It was my first video clip that went online on YouTube. I did a little air, then an air reverse and then into a kerrupt flip straight away. That video went on YouTube and the word was getting around, like look at this German surfer. He’s the new Gabrielle Medina just doing airs or whatever they were saying.
Then Thomas Lange a really good German surfer and the first German surfer to be on Red Bull a long, long time ago. He put me in contact with Quirin Rohleder, which is my team manager at the moment and has been my team manager since the age of 14. So that’s where it all kind of started. He came up to my mom, and Thomas and was like, ‘Hey, I heard your kid is German and I think I could work with him and get him some sponsors.’ And I was just like, what sponsors? Really? Okay.
Oli Russell-Cowan: Did he visit you guys over in Pavones?
Leon Glatzer: He came a couple of years later, I think two years later. We chatted through email and phone calls. Then he was like in two weeks, I got five offers. He told my mum I’ve got 5 offers for your kid. There’s Billabong, Quiksilver, Volcom, Nike and they all kind of want to sponsor you or start something.
He was like, choose one. I was freaking out, I couldn’t believe it. We came to a final decision that Volcom would be the best fit for me, because of the Volcom House they have in Hawaii. They also had a Volcom House in France. I really loved the brand. I was a big fan of Volcom since I was a little kid, and still am. So, that’s where it all started.
Russell-Cowan: Was it just from that one video? Or were you then doing more clips and sending them off to all the different brands?
Leon Glatzer: It all started with that video. Then obviously, I got a couple clips and sent them to Quirin after that we got a filmer. Then after that he contacted the German Surf Federation, to go to the ISA Worlds, which was right around the corner after that video got uploaded a couple of weeks later.
They’re like, hey, look at this German surfer. Do you want to take him to the ISA Juniors? and they’re like, what, of course. Suddenly a couple weeks later I was going to Peru for my first ISA World Junior Championships.
I couldn’t believe what was going on. I just wanted to surf and it all happened so fast. Slowly that’s where it all kind of started and I was already on the scene and spending time in France. It escalated really fast after that video.
Russell-Cowan: Were you doing local competitions in Costa Rica as well before that all started?
Leon Glatzer: Yeah, totally. I was doing the national contest. Even when I was in the city I was going to national contests. I was obviously really bad. I couldn’t surf. I’d go a month or two months without surfing and then there was a national contest on the weekend. We would go straight there and try and surf a heat. I loved it. I always checked when the dates where I was like, Mom, please take me to this competition.
I remember I was always really embarrassed because I didn’t know how to do a duck dive and everybody could. I was like, ‘do you think they’re gonna take points off if I can’t do a duck dive?’ At the end it was all good.
Russell-Cowan: Where did the fascination with airs come from? You’re known as a bit of an aerial surfer. Were there surfers that you were looking up to back then?
Leon Glatzer: I always had this thrive just to be in the air.
I watched mostly Taj Burrow or Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds a lot. The turns always looked amazing. But when I saw an air, I was always freaking out.
I always wanted to learn how to do an air. I remember before surfing, or after surfing, or after school, or whenever I had time, all I would do was watch videos over and over and over again.
There’s YouTube video series called trick tips. It was a long, long time ago, I was 14. I don’t think they do it anymore. They would show you how to do an air reverse or they would show you how to do a kerrupt flip. I’d watch Eric Geiselman do the kerrupt flip. I would just watch it over and over again. All I had in my mind was airs. In Pavones I would pump down the line for 500 or 700 meters just to do one air. Everybody’s like, ‘what are you doing, you’re wasting the whole wave!’
I didn’t care. I just wanted to fly. It was always in my blood to do airs.