We took a drive with professional kitesurfer Roderick Pijls in the all-electric BMW iX3
We took a drive with professional kitesurfer Roderick Pijls in the all-electric BMW iX3
Issue 3 2021Thrilling

Kitesurfing at One with the Elements

Roderick Pijls was 15 years old when he took his first kitesurfing lesson. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion. Since then, the 29-year-old from the Netherlands has kitesurfed in a volcanic crater in Iceland, on a toxic lake in Tanzania, and between ice floes under the Northern lights. Amidst the elements of wind and water, he feels perfectly at home.

Roderick seeks out the world’s most spectacular locations with the goal of making a difference. By showcasing nature’s beauty—and also its vulnerability—through his kitesurfing, he aims to inspire people to take better care of the Earth. A recent project saw him take a CO2-neutral trip from the Netherlands to Norway’s Lofoten islands—across the ocean by sailboat, then onwards by electric train and e-car. The new, fully-electric BMW iX3, naturally.

When did your special relationship with water begin?

I used to play field hockey until I discovered kitesurfing when I was 15. After that, I was hooked. These days, I spend more time on the water than I do on land. I love being out there and feeling free to do whatever I want. There are no limits. Nobody tells me what I can and can’t do, and it’s this freedom that’s so appealing to me.

For me, the ocean and the water are like a second home, a comfort zone, but also a place where I can keep facing up to new challenges. The sea is never the same. Every time I get on the board, the experience is different and new. I love playing with the elements like this. Not fighting them, not wanting to control or tame them. It’s about moving with them, engaging with them. You feel so alive when you understand what an insignificant part you play in this gigantic natural spectacle.

Volcanic craters and ice floes are impressive backdrops for kitesurfing. Is it a special feeling to be able to pursue your sport in places that are only accessible to a few other people?

One hundred percent. I don’t get top marks for my performance at these unique locations—quite the opposite—but that’s not what it’s all about. I love making myself at home in unknown and sometimes extremely challenging terrain. Being surrounded by, and at one with, nature is a thrilling, indescribable feeling. Being able to experience the diversity of our planet so intensively through my sport is humbling and takes my breath away. You become much more mindful of the environment in which you live. We take so much for granted, and it’s experiences like these that make you understand that it’s really something extraordinary. I want to share this respect for our environment with others.

Professional kitesurfer Roderick Pijls

Professional kitesurfer Roderick Pijls

For me, kitesurfing means adventure. Adrenaline. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

With sport mode switched on and the sound switched off, driving the BMW iX3 feels like sailing ten miles off the coast with the wind at your back.

I want to show people the beauty of nature through my sport and convince them that we have to preserve and protect it at all costs.

Is that the attraction for you, being able to explore this unknown terrain with your board and kite?

Yes. For me, kitesurfing means adventure. Adrenaline. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But I also feel that my experiences, my travel, and my message can reach a public. I want to draw people’s attention to the magical places that we have and need to protect.

Appreciation of nature is something very close to your heart. For one project, you took a climate-neutral trip to the Lofoten islands in the north of Norway by sailboat.

That was an unforgettable journey. I wanted to fulfill my childhood dream of seeing the Northern Lights. Climate change is making this more and more difficult. We immediately decided to keep our carbon footprint neutral during this adventure.

Traveling through the Lofoten islands in an electric car must have been an impressive experience.

It was magical. You’re almost alone in untouched, unspoiled natural surroundings. Like a movie backdrop. Driving on a road that winds along mountains and the rough seas is a dream for car fans. Behind every bend there’s a new panorama; you stop to take pictures, and stop again to take more just a few miles later.

Roderick Pijls uses kitesurfing to raise awareness of nature's beauty and vulnerability

Roderick Pijls uses kitesurfing to raise awareness of nature’s beauty and vulnerability

Do you think there are parallels between kitesurfing and driving a car?

Yes, absolutely. The very first time the wave comes and you decide it’s “go time”. The moment the game begins, when the energy and adrenaline take hold of you and you feel that sheer freedom and joy: Those are the moments that keep me going.

With sport mode switched on and the sound switched off, driving the BMW iX3 feels like sailing ten miles off the coast with the wind at your back.

Your mode of transportation on land is also a conscious choice.

My choices are very conscious. I want to know how sustainable a product really is. For me, it’s also important to know what a brand stands for and what contribution it makes to the world. That’s why I drive BMW: they focus on sustainability throughout the production chain, from the raw materials used for the battery and the production fueled by wind and solar power down to seat covers made of recycled plastic.

You want your experiences to inspire people to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.

I want to show people the beauty of nature through my sport and convince them that we have to preserve and protect it at all costs. I’m not in a position to demand things from people; I want to give them inspiration and motivation, show them how easy it is to make a crucial difference. Making sustainable choices really isn’t that complicated. There’s no better time to change than right now!

Author: Markus Löblein

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