Strength and Determination: The Inspiring Journey of Sophie Loubet

Zoom in on Sophie Loubet, the Rising Star of Para-Wakeboarding in Occitania

Sophie Loubet embodies an inexhaustible source of inspiration, a woman who pushes the limits of what is possible with extraordinary grace and determination. Muse of PROTEOR, godmother of the “Génération Avant-Garde” association and renowned para-snowboard athlete, Sophie has just distinguished herself by finishing 2nd in the Occitanie wakeboard league championship, thus adding a new brilliant page to its already impressive list of achievements.

Her journey is that of a fighter, a pioneer who knew how to transform challenges into opportunities, thus leaving her indelible mark on the world of adapted sport. In this portrait, we dive into the world of Sophie Loubet, where passion for sport is combined with a deep commitment to inclusion and empowerment.

Could you tell us a little about your background and how you became a para-snowboard athlete and now a para-wakeboarder?

I grew up in the Alps, on the Semnoz mountain, 15 minutes from a ski resort. So I’ve been doing snowboarding since I was very young. Unfortunately, at the age of 23 I had bone cancer which recurred several times, hence the amputation of my right leg in 2019. I had always kept my snowboard gear in the hope of ‘do them again one day, but once the leg was cut off, I resigned myself to putting them for sale on the internet, because for me it was impossible for a disabled person to be able to practice this sport. But I was wrong… On the internet, with my stuff for sale, a para-snowboard athlete found me and explained to me that he had made a prosthesis and that he had even gone to the Paralympic Games in a Snowboardcross Race. Amazing for me! In June 2021, 2 months later, I found myself at the Deux Alpes glacier making my first descents with a bicycle shock absorber prosthesis.

Sophie loubet -parawakeboard

What were the biggest difficulties you had to face in your sporting career?

The biggest difficulty was accessibility to prostheses, because unfortunately, in France, they cost €15,000. So I started with prostheses that associations or manufacturers lent me, which had to be returned, often difficult to adapt or worn out. I spent my time tinkering with them with my orthoprosthetist, and there was a lot of breakage and loss of bolts on the slopes.

Regarding wakeboarding, I didn’t have a prosthesis, so I started doing it with paraplegic people who practice Sitwake, sitting, I loved it straight away and I was pretty good, but I was snowboarding standing up, so for me it was unthinkable that I couldn’t wakeboard standing up too! I asked for a gliding prosthesis from PROTEOR and started trying to stand up with it.

As the face of PROTEOR, what is your role and how do you perceive the impact of this collaboration on your career?

I am the face of the French prosthesis manufacturer PROTEOR. Thanks to them, I have access to a physiologically more efficient walking prosthesis. And in exchange they use my image and I support them in promoting their products and the company. I therefore often participate in important events as a Muse and Athlete. But the most important thing is to live your sporting adventure 100% with your orthoprosthetist who is the “MacGyver” of prosthetics. We spend hours on the slopes and on the water trying settings or new systems, without him I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Sophie loubet-Para-snowboardjpg

How do you prepare for a competition like the Occitanie wakeboard league championship?

I’m part of the “Barca Wake Family” club in Perpignan, so we have lessons every week on a twin-compound and then I ride a lot to try to apply it on the 5-compound. Before a competition I try to arrive as early as possible to train on the park and think about the run I can do based on the module locations.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your sport?

Sophie Loubet sliders

It’s hard for able-bodied people to understand, but for me it’s easier to slide than to walk, so I have a huge feeling of freedom when I’m on my board and can slide as much as I want . Plus this sport is a lot of fun for me, I can try to do freestyle without hurting myself too much because the falls are in the water. And the progression objectives are indefinite because we are always trying new modules and new figures. Every year I arrive with new goals in my head without knowing if they are possible for people like me.

How do you deal with pressure and expectations during competitions?

I always give the impression that everything is fine, when in fact the stress of competition can make me lose my composure at first. So I laugh about it with my competitors and my friends, and we realize that we all feel the same thing. But once on the water everything is better, the stress disappears.

As sponsor of the GÉNÉRATION AVANT-GARDE association, can you explain to us your commitment and the objectives of this association?

I am the Godmother of Génération Avant-Garde, a wonderful association which, through donations, charitable events and sponsorships, helps to finance sports prostheses for amputees, because unfortunately in France, social security does not cover responsible for the equipment needed to play sports for people with disabilities. And this amounts to several thousand euros. In addition to this, the association gives sports scholarships to young talents so that they can start their careers.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to follow in your footsteps in para sports?

To do as I did at the start, that is to say to leave the house and not hesitate to travel miles to take part in courses or disabled sports days organized by associations, by orthoprosthetists, rehabilitation centers, because there we will lend him the appropriate equipment, he will be supervised by volunteers and above all he will meet expert para-athletes who will teach him how to do it. Not to mention the conviviality, the meetings and the friends he will make there. I did a lot of Para-Snowboard and Sitwake courses to learn everything, to be as independent as possible and to know how to ride safely.

Do you have any specific rituals or routines before a competition?

These are sports where at the beginning, you quickly get caught up in the atmosphere of the evening, the reunion with friends, etc…. But the next day I’m worthless. So I’m very careful to stay reasonable before the day of the competition, that is to say go to bed early and eat light.

How has technology and innovation in sports equipment influenced your performance?

Without technological developments I would not be here. Femoral gliding prostheses with shock absorbers have only existed for 10 years. The first ones couldn’t go in the water because of their weight and rust, even if I put them in the water, they had to change quickly. It is riders who are passionate about their sport and who have had a serious accident who developed these prostheses. Even though I use a snowboard prosthesis when wakeboarding, we are already working on its evolution.

Sophie Loubet Snow-wake

What are your short and long term goals in your sporting career?

Sophie Loubet Podium_

Go as far as possible. I will be going to the Paralympic Games in the Parasnowboardcross race and I train a lot in the winter for that. And as far as Parawakeboarding is concerned, there are more and more riders, all from the snowboarding world, who want to ride in the summer when there is no snow, so France has decided to be the precursors and to open our category to the French championships.

How has the support of your family and friends played a role in your success?

At the beginning, my mother saw me going in circles a bit, I went to the gym or to the physiotherapist every day but I got tired of it. And one day she said to me: “why don’t you go and take kitesurfing lessons again, you who have always wanted to do them?” I waited for someone to lend me a prosthesis and I went for it, it felt so good to get out of the rehabilitation routine that now I alternate days of wakeboarding and weight training.

Are there any other sports disciplines you would like to try or already train in besides wakeboarding?

So I tried kitesurfing, and last year I went to train with the French Para-Surf team, I trained for 4 months, I even participated in the French championships. It was great, but for me it’s a much too frustrating sport because I like to slide for a long time like in snowboarding and be able to jump everywhere like in wake.

How do you see your sport developing in the years to come?

These are the beginnings, and we are already quite a few practitioners. I think the standing Para-Wakeboard will evolve quickly. And above all, some seated practitioners, not thinking that this sport was possible while standing, stand up, and that’s beautiful to see!

Sophie Loubet Friends

What is the most important thing the public should know about para-snowboarding and adaptive wakeboarding?

The prostheses seem impressive and “yes” thanks to them we can do certain sports like wakeboarding. But not to be confused with the legs and arms invented by the “Marvels”! Unfortunately our prostheses have very little utility, they are simple bicycle shock absorbers in a metal frame. These prostheses handicap us much more than they help us, but that’s the price we pay to be upright. It’s the rider above, who through years of training, manages to compensate with the rest of his body. As I often say: “I would ride much better on one leg”.

After this Occitanie league championship where you finished 2nd in a valid category, are you planning to participate in the French, European and World championships?

That’s it, our category is finally open to the French championships! So you will see us there on July 6 in Bordeaux for the first time in the history of wakeboarding, in the mixed category to start because I am the only woman practicing. But that doesn’t bother me, my experience will surely allow me to beat a few men this year! France being the country which hosts the world championships in September, I think that following these French championships, they will make a choice, whether or not to open the category at the international level.

Thank you Sophie for this interview, anything to add, any thanks?

I would like to thank all the Wakeparcs, clubs and associations who put a lot of their energy into integrating people with disabilities and who do everything possible to ensure that things always go well and get better and better. The result is there and is visible on our faces through our smiles and our desire to come back! I also really thank my orthoprosthetist (he will recognize himself 😉) with whom I ride a lot and who always manages to repair my leg! Big thanks to Unleashed wakeboard magazine and spotyride for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. 🤙

And find Sophie during one of her training sessions with the Barca wake Family on the teleski-nautique de Barcares

Interview conducted by Philippe Sirech

Sophie Loubet Para-Wakeboard