Hydroflight is certainly not the most accessible sport in the world and for Alejo Sotelo it took serious commitment and traveling to the other side of the world to make his Flyboard dream a reality. Originally from Argentina, now living in Mexico, the financial hurdles were very real and the entire Hydroflight world is grateful that he was able to overcome them and take his flying to a World Class level. We interviewed Alejo Sotelo just prior to the sixth Flyboard World Cup in Cavalaire-Sur-Mer France where he finished in 5th place!
H2RO MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ALEJO SOTELO
H2RO) Alejo please share with us your background, where you’re from and the sports you were involved in growing up?
I’m from a small town called La Falda in Córdoba Argentina. I grew up skateboarding, roller blading but never being good at it. Then I played rugby, karate, gymnastics and ran cross country. When I was 13, me and my family moved to the beautiful island of Cozumel in Mexico and lived there for 12 years. It was there that I started to do Jetskiing, motocross and cliff diving. So yeah! I would say I’m Argentinian and Mexican in my heart.
H2RO) How did you get introduced to Hydroflight and when did you think it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
Back in June 2012, I was working in Jetski rentals at Hotel Presidente in Cancun, when this French guy, better known as Franky Zapata haha showed up with this huge locked box. He opened it and took out the 2012 Flyboard Legend. He did a demo and we were all shocked with what was happening out there! A week after a company bought it I was hired by them to do rentals and some demos, so I can say I started Flyboarding on the 17th of June 2012. I started to see this as a profession when I started to get hired in 2014 to do exhibition (shows) around Mexico.
H2RO) What have been some of your biggest challenges in this sport? How are you working to overcome them?
I would say the biggest challenge was the money. When I was working in Flyboard rentals it wasn’t for the money, considering that I started making 3,600 Mexican pesos per month (194 usd) and I needed to pay rent, food, transportation etc. But I wanted to stay because I was doing something amazing and I never imagined it was gonna become a sport. After a while I got hired by another company, they were paying me double, then I started to do the exhibitions, and finally China! And after almost 5 years on the board I can say it was worth it to be hungry some nights to reach where I am. Finally money is not a problem.
H2RO) Please talk to us about your job in China. How long have you been flying professionally over there and what are some of the highlights so far?
I got to China back in August of 2015 so it’s gonna be 2 years for me in here. And being here is extraordinary! You are in this big group of guys most of them from different nationalities, with different stories, different skills and it’s great! There’s so much talent on this team! People like John Albinsson have these crazy ideas in their head, and two weeks later BAM! He builds it! And you get shocked! Andrew Hickey taking care of us and sometimes being a mother, haha, making sure that everyone is happy and working. It’s not easy to manage a big group of “superstars”. And a lot more guys that I can’t tell you right now because this interview would be crazy long.
H2RO) Take us through your process for developing and perfecting your tricks? How do you like to train and what tricks have you created that you’re excited about?
I would say I’m more a technical flyboarder than a creative one. I see what people do and then think about how to make it better, faster and more stylish. When I go to train I do short sessions, probably 10 minutes, rest 20 minutes, 10 minutes again of flying and that’s it. When I hit a point where I start to fail every time I try something I stop, take a break, and then go out again.
H2RO) Who are some of the Hydroflight athletes you look to for inspiration and ideas? What is it specifically about their flying that made them stand out?
I have to say the first hydroflight athlete that was an inspiration for me was Franky, ofc. Then it was Aaron Gould, he used to train right next to where I used to work in Cancun. We flew next to each other many times and he is the one who finally made me understand how to do a backflip back in 2013. Suksan! He is just amazing! Again and again he keeps showing the world how complete he is for this sport. And my beautiful crew! “The lost boys” Damone Rippy, Erik Diaz, Daniel Guerra, Andrew Hickey, Oscar Schönberg, Blake Luttrell, Geoff Hulet, and Simone Careddu! Eight guys from seven different countries flying side by side every day, it pushes you to be better. We share tips, ideas and a little bit of competitive spirit, right Damone and Daniel?
H2RO) You have yet to compete in a major competition, will that be changing any time soon? Do you have any interest in competitions?
The truth is, I was never interested in competing for two specific reasons. I like to fly for me, no stress, no rules, 100% freestyle, for example I love to do huge layouts and land it barely hitting the water and in a competition that would affect me. Second, the money. Before it was impossible to be able to pay for a flight ticket, hotel…etc considering how much money I was earning before! And I’ve never had the proper equipment to train until now, never had the chance to train with dual impellers until I got to China. I probably tried it like three times in Mexico and that’s it. But luckily this year I did qualify for the 2017 Flyboard World Cup! The whole team is supporting me to go and compete! So hopefully I will do good in my first world championship. (H2RO Update: 5th Place result for Alejo so yeah he kicked some!)
H2RO) What are some of your goals for the future? I think I saw that you are engaged, congratulations!
Yes! I got engaged! Something that I never thought was gonna to be possible! But what can I say, this woman become my everything and I couldn’t imagine my life without her! About my goals, I’m planning to stay in China. I’ll help the team the best I can to keep growing the shows bigger and bigger! I’ll help the company to keep growing and continue to bring more boys like me, people who are out there working hard, who may have a bad economic situation just because they prefer to have this job for the love of the board. They deserve to be here and be part of something bigger. Regarding competition, my goal is to become a judge. I’m more interested in be there as a judge than competing.
H2RO) Any final shout outs?
Well I would like to thank my family for believing me! My future wife! All my Argentinian and Mexican friends for all their support from the beginning and the whole Flyboard Show Team. Stephane Denis, a guy with a huge heart for being so little! And just to let the world knows… Be ready! Because this year the Flyboard Show Team is gonna kill it at the World Championship!