Hi Léo! Can you tell us a little bit more about you?

My name is Léo Labadens, I am 32 years old and I come from Toulouse. Since I was 11 years, I have been wakeskating.
I started young, and I wanted to male a career out of it, and that for years.
After, I also was a carpenter and I started my own business in Toulouse for 5 years.

Today, I am the creator of wakeskate weekends (to discover more about these weekends: discover the article).

Leo Labadens

How did you discover wakeskate?

I discovered it under the practice of the water skiing in ski lift in Toulouse. I was doing jumps, slaloms, figures.
The structure where I was, has evolved in the years 2000. Indeed it became a structure more access to wakeboard and wakeskate.
At that time, I was about 12 years old and the owner of the cable park showed me a wooden board with grip. He told me “this is a wakeskate, try it, it is great”. Since that day, I never let it go.

Why did you choose wakeskate and not another sport? You wanted to try something new?

Because of my geographical location. I wasn’t living by the ocean, so I didn’t have surfing waves. And I wasn’t close to the sea, so I didn’t have wind.
I was living in Toulouse, in the town center. So, I was practicing classic sports such as skateboarding, BMX.
Then, when I was 6 years old, I went to a cable park. At that moment, I tried wakeboarding for fun. At that time, I was doing a lot of skateboarding. It was at this moment I knew it, it was for me.

Leo Labadens

Why did you stop wakeboarding?

Physically, wakeboarding is hard. And after a wakeboarding injury, I made the decision to focus on wakeskating. I like it more because I was getting hurt a lot less. At the end of the day, it was a win for me.

Have you ever received wakeskating prizes?

When I was competing, I had very good results. However, I didn’t really like it. There was a time I really liked it. Everyone was coming to the competitions. It was really a bonding time, meeting up with wakeskaters from all over the world.

Do you have sponsors in wakeskate?

I had the chances to be followed by really good sponsors. They followed me from the age of 18 to 25.

Why only until you were 25?

The enthusiasm for the sport from the brands, has decreased. For all that, wakeskate is not a sport.
So, the budgets have disappeared and I had to leave it, to do something else, because it wasn’t profitable to do wakeskating all year.
Therefore, I stopped the professional side of the sport. And at the same time I stopped the number of sessions per year. I was hardly riding anymore.

How did you find the love of wakeskating again?

I fell back into it when I went on a trip on the other side of the world.
I went back to Brazil to work on a small cable park 2.0. And by chance, I started wakeskating again. I had my board with me, and I started riding every day.

So I did a whole season in South America. After my injury, I had to go back to France in December 2019 to have an operation. And during my rehab, the Covid appeared and suddenly everything changed.

Leo Labadens

What do you mean by “everything changed”?

At first, I was going to rebuild everything abroad and work on cables in Brazil and in Argentina. However, I had to rethink my plans.
It was at this moment that I thought about the concept of wakeskate weekends.

Why did you say that wakeskate is not a sport?

Because, for me, there is a huge creative side. It is different from sport like athletics or soccer.
In soccer, they are looking for pure performance, and scoring points. In athletics, they are looking for a minimum time.
Whereas in wakeskate, there are no real rules given. This is the case for all freestyle sports.
You could say that it is more a lifestyle than a sport.

Leo Labadens

So is it your choice? Or the choice of the sport?

It is our choice. The choice of all those who practice it. But there are other reasons too.
In general, any sportsman who does snowboarding, skateboarding or even wakeboarding practices this sport in order to share his creative side with others.
However, it is a sport activity.

Why surfing is better known than wakeskating?

There are surfing federations.
However, we all know that the advancement of the sport is not thanks to the federation, but thanks to the videos. So, by the communication, the sharing, … In wakeskate we don’t communicate much.

Are they wakeskating competitions?

Yes there are. But today, there are not enough practitioners to develop the sport.
Few young people participate because there are not many opportunities. However, it is the 15 and 20 year olds people who are the future of wakeskate.

Leo Labadens

Why aren’t there a lot of young people?

Very few people can travel because it costs a lot.
There are two or three international competitions in the United States. But the ticket to go to the other side of the world is very expensive, even if there is prize money in the end.
So, it is not reliable for young people because they don’t have the same level as the competitors in the United States.
Therefore, a young person in Europe will have to ride all year long to have the chance to compete with the Americans. But in order to do so, they need money and a lot of time. So, he won’t have enough time to go to school and study.

Are there other brakes?

Yes. There are moments where this young person will be stuck, like during the winter period.
He will have to travel to train and to be at the same level as the others at the beginning of the season. The problem is that he won’t be able to do it all winter. It takes a lot of resources.

The other fact is that there are even fewer brands that follow young people today. The marketing directions have completely changed.
Ten years ago, a brand would spend a budget on someone all year round, so that they could travel, compete, shoot videos, etc.
But today, that is not the case anymore. Indeed, brands are begging for the slightest publication, video, or product placement on social networks. And in the end, the riders don’t have much in exchange, except for material.
So it is very difficult and it shows.

At the time, I could live from wakeskating. Wakeboarders used to make a living from wakeboarding. However, today it is not possible anymore.

Are there any current French champions? Like in football?

Like in football? No, never! It won’t happen. We don’t have the media to follow. At the same time it is understandable.

As I said, it is more a lifestyle than a sport in itself.
There will never be the enthusiasm like in a mainstream sport. Even if today, thanks to the cable park, wakeboarding (I include wakeskate in it) has become a practice for the general public.
There are a lot of people who have tried wakeboarding or wakeskating on a cable. Indeed, in France there are a lot of cable cars and structures.

After all, I’m not in favor of making content constantly to show the practice of the sport. It’s not something very attractive. In my opinion, it doesn’t help the sport. For me, it’s the people who have fun on the water who do it!

Why don’t you see the point of having this sport recognized worldwide by the media?

I won’t put all my energy into the media. I would rather spend my time on my wakeskate weekends.

Leo Labadens

This is the end of Leo Labadens’ interview! You can find him on his social account @leolabadens or also during his wakeskate weekends! Do not hesitate to book your weekend!