Interview with: Professional Athlete, Ruben Lenten

Interview with: Professional Athlete, Ruben Lenten

Time to read: 8 minutes

This week, we introduce you to Athlete, Adventurer and Nurturer, Ruben Lenten. Ruben is known to be one of the most extreme kitesurfers in the world. Besides that, he has his own brand LEN10 and with his company LEN10 Experiences he organises luxury kite holidays to the most beautiful places in the world to help people reach their kiting goals and have a great time whilst doing it.

Ruben with his kite gear.
Picture: Craig Kolesky

Hi Ruben, so good to talk to you! Can you please share with us, what is unique about what you do and what makes you stand out?

What is unique about what I do is having found my passion for kiteboarding from an early age on and being able to turn that into my career. I think what makes me stand out is my (extreme) riding style and positivity.

What inspired you to go kitesurfing?

I was born and raised in a small beach town in the Netherlands and up until I was 6 I had a pretty easy and comfortable upbringing. When I was 6 years old my brother and I were called to sit at the kitchen table and that’s when our parents told us that they were going to get divorced.

Both of my parents were seeking for a new life and structure. The following years I ended up moving to 3 different schools and football clubs and lived in 10 different houses, all before I was even 10.

To escape the instability at home I always went to the beach and saved up some money for a small power kite. With every little breeze, I’d fly my kite for hours. I just wanted to play with the wind. I remember the day when I was flying my kite and way up the beach I saw someone fly a huge kite and enter the water, the first time I saw a kitesurfer. Then I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

My parents still promised me a present to ‘make up’ for their divorce so I chose a kite and a board. The best present ever. Kiteboarding only existed a few years, there were no schools to learn and the equipment was a lot more basic than it is now. It took me 3-4 months to finally get going. I’ll never forget that feeling once I got the hang of it, incredible, hooked for life. So I kept on spending many hours training and riding and from there it went super quick. In 2002 I visited the Dutch National Championships to have a look and that’s when they organised a small rookie contest where I got 2nd. At this event, I got in touch with my first sponsor and that’s how I turned professional kiteboarder.

16 year old Ruben on the podium at the world tour stop in Brazil in 2004 next to his good friends Aaron and Gianni

In 2005 I became 2nd in the world tour and in 2006 I trained hard to go for 1st place, but in one of my training sessions my foot came out of my foot strap and I injured my ankle badly. I was out for 3 months and couldn’t go for the world title anymore that year. It felt like my world collapsed, but during that injury, I was able to reflect a lot and figured that the competition format was not really my thing and what I really loved doing was flying as high as possible in the most extreme conditions.

As soon as I was fully recovered I got back into the groove and was able to ride stronger and stronger conditions, taking the kite loop higher and higher, and that’s how the “Megaloop” was born. I had a blast shooting some cool videos in storm conditions and got addicted to the feeling of the Megaloop. This became my signature move and the move that I got known for, all around the world. 

Soon enough more and more riders were inspired to do Big Air, so I decided to organise a contest for Megaloops. Together with Red Bull I organised the most extreme event in the sport and brought back the King of the Air to Cape Town. By specializing in what I absolutely love, I was able to build my name in the sport, shape up a nice career and building my brand LEN10. Extreme big air is now one of the most popular disciplines within the kite sport and the one with the biggest wow-factor.

Ruben performing his signature move, the megaloop in Cape Town, South Africa.
Picture: Ydwer van der Heide

What is the most challenging aspect of your work or the biggest challenge you have dealt with and how did you overcome it?

When you are an athlete, injuries never come at a good time and at the same time they are inevitable. Nonetheless it’s always a big challenge when it happens. The biggest challenge I went through though, both personally and professionally is when I got diagnosed with a mediastinal grey zone lymphoma, in 2015. Cancer. I had to undergo 6 rounds of heavy chemotherapy. What kept me alive during those times was the idea of me kiting again. After 6 months of chemotherapy where I lost all my hair, my nails and was barely able to eat, drink or walk, on the 16th of March 2016 I got the best news of my life. The cancer was gone!

After that, I could start building up again. Not only my body but also my career. I had a clean slate and cancer gave me a hard, but a very necessary wake-up call. Together with Nikki, we restructured the business so that we are less dependent on sponsors. We started the LEN10 Experience, LEN10 products and webshop and I started giving talks about my story around the world. After going through quite some challenges I could see that every time I went through a crisis like that, eventually things turned out for the better. Trusting that whatever happens, when I work hard and give it my all things work out for the better really helps me deal with whatever challenge comes my way.

Ruben giving a talk for 2500 people at the Stryker Sales meeting in Barcelona

Thanks for sharing that! It’s been challenging times for the world in general, but especially for you as you’ve been injured again and recently had to undergo surgery. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened? Where do you focus your energy now that you are not able to kite?

The world is going through quite some change indeed, and for the better of course. Same with me, I’ve shattered my ankle into many pieces in April 2019 and haven’t been able to kite since. The pain in my ankle remained due to all the cartilage being gone, so it was bone on bone. Now I’ve just had my 3rd surgery, an ankle arthrodesis where they fixed my Tibia and Talus together. No more up and down movement possible so I’ll have to rebuild my body and get used to this before stepping back onto my kiteboard.

From the start, I smiled and still today I am smiling. Life is good, just remind yourself of that every day. It doesn’t help to start thinking back and question myself what if, or why me… life happens for you, and also this challenge. So just going with the flow, with a smile. My partners Ozone and Mystic have been supporting me through this and I’m using this time to focus on my business, with new focus points to support other kiters through online courses with a special focus to help talents build their career in kiteboarding. We are also expecting a little baby boy in November, which is super exciting. So between rehabbing and getting fit to be back on my board as soon as possible, business and my family is where I focus my energy. 

Congratulations on expanding the family. That’s super exciting! What is the one life advise/wisdom you would like to pass down to your son?

We are all connected. Treat everyone as equal and with love and respect. Find out who you are, what your purpose is and live it up son!

Beautiful! What is your Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

My Mount Everest is two-fold, I want to rock my kiteboarding career through the roof by realising my dreams. I still have some big things I want to accomplish in the sport. Secondly, I want to inspire and support other kiters and the next generation to realise their dreams as well.

Ruben wants to help the next generation realise their dreams.
Picture: Craig Kolesky

What is your most sacred daily/weekly/monthly ritual or performance hack that really works for you? 

Breathing exercises, cold showers and visualisation are things I practice almost daily and they really help me to perform at my best.

Ruben finds that cold water immersion and breathing techniques help him perform better. Here we see Ruben in an icebath during a Wim Hof Method Workshop. Picture: Craig Kolesky

What is the most inspiring thing that happened to you as a result of iDiscover?

I think it’s the overall change it has made in my life in all areas. iDiscover plays a huge role in my life, in everyday moments, in my relationships with people and in the challenges I face. iDiscover truly gave me the insights and tools to be myself at all times and grow in the direction I want.

What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

Pure love and wisdom. Gal (Stiglitz, founder and CEO of iDiscover) has been such a beautiful and warm soul to me and many others, a true inspiration. Researching, studying, and working so hard to create this outstanding methodology and course to guide people through their biggest challenges to their most true self. Epic to witness each time and I wish iDiscover for everyone in the world. What the heck are they doing at schools? Better feed the kids this… :-) 

What was your best adventure ever?

It’s an ongoing adventure… loving life with Nikki. 

Ruben and Nikki at Burning Man 2016

What is your favourite quote or the question you want to leave us with?

Life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you. It’s something that Gal said during Core and I remind myself of it regularly.

Thanks for the interview Ruben! All the best and we hope to see you flying again soon! If you want to follow Ruben’s adventures be sure to follow him on Instagram, Facebook or look at one of his impressive video’s on Youtube.