Interview Alex Besseau
Alex Besseau, aka Jakette is the founder/organizer of the Outdoor Mix Festival, one of Europe’s most important Outdoor Festival (May 13-16th, Embrun – France). We wanted to catch up with Jakette on the evolutions brought to the 2016 edition, and on the launch of the Extreme Kayaking Euro Cup (EKEC)
KS: The Outdoormix is now among Europe’s biggest outdoor events. For those who have not been there yet, tell us, what is the OMF?
AB: Boulafacette! In French, that means “Disco Ball.” It is a term we use locally to show your friend a nice booty passing by, or, to express suddenly our joy of life. The Outdoormix Festival is an event disco ball-style; made of all the faces from the Outdoor lifestyle, it’s a great mix of disciplines in a warm and musical atmosphere. It’s an event made to show off our beautiful area to the world: the Hautes-Alpes region, a blend of the Alpine and Mediterranean spirits of Mother Nature. We like to promote it as the “European Colorado” where nature is preserved, giving the opportunity to run a cleaner economy based on the outdoor sports, our heritage and healthy activities. This is notably the reason we called our nonprofit organization WeAreHautesAlpes. So Outdoormix, as its name suggests, is an outdoor sports communities’ melting pot, a very lively one taking place over four spring days. The event consists of many events together, from competition to gathering and demo to workshops. The sport families represented are: kayaking, slacklining, longboarding, SUP, kitesurfing, paragliding, biking and skateboarding. The Outdoormix Festival is created first for the experience and satisfaction of the athletes and second for the crowd. We are very happy that, since the beginning, we have received so much great feedback, and each year we have more passionate people sharing with us the fun experiences they had during the festival. Because the Outdoormix takes place mid-May, it constitutes, for most of the riders, a nice start to the season. It is not only a sports event, at night the participants shed their gear to share a beer at the French old style guinguette bar, meeting other athletes, telling stories, and partying with the several thousand outdoor sports and music fans during three very long and raucous nights of the live music program. The party is located on a huge grass beach, surrounded by the lakes and mountains that allowed the rides of the day. We sum up our Outdoormix concept with this motto: Ride & Party, and we like it hard.
KS: Being a boater yourself, you wanted to keep whitewater kayaking as one of the top events in the festival, right?
AB: Well, I must confess that the kayaking element takes a bigger part of my heart, time and focus in terms of my work. I want it to be an example of our potential for our group of organizers, though some other sports like longboarding are already very surprising in their success. From the beginning, having Raphaël Thiebault and Julien Turin as the extreme kayaking managers has been a supreme pledge of trust for everybody, paddlers included, that the experience will be paradoxically cool and serious, fun and very competitive. I really enjoy working with these guys. They have kayak culture in their blood and a strong wish to offer fun and technical lines to the paddlers. I know their safety skills and thinking, which gives me more confidence to step up the level. Every year Raph and Ju are imagining new sections for the paddlers to discover; they are totally part of our team as they are also very motivated to show off our area’s beauty from every angle. We have done three editions so far, and from the first edition we’ve welcomed many nations of boaters to our competitions. I was very proud as a young organizer to see people like Sam Sutton, Casper Van Kalmthout, Severin Häberling and the Czech mates at our first edition! From that day on, we got all the love we needed from the kayak scene to convince us to organize one of the best international kayak events. Then, I took it as a personal mission to find the solutions for involving the kayak scene in a new way that would quickly make Outdoormix a major event for international
KS: This is your fourth year of OMF, right? What does the kayaking part consist of this year? Where does it take place?
AB: Yes, 2016 will be our 4th edition. The kayaking side of Outdoormix is also a disco ball made of many faces: extreme racing, freestyling, gathering, exposing and teaching, so every kind of kayaker from the top elite to the beginner is welcome. The Extreme Racing program includes different formats: sprint and boater cross on the Guil River, a long race on the very wild Byaisse River and the new slopestye format on a stepped torrent near the event village. The safety team is made of local river guides very aware of every feature change, they obey Raph and Ju’s orders, and come from their closest circles. The extreme races are the first stage of the Extrem Kayaking European Cup (EKEC 2016). On the freestyle side, we run with Jeremy Le Rouzic as manager in a very cool competition format. We want it to make people feel like they’re back in the 90s with old-school rodeo spirit, so we prepare easy judging rules, a special Dub sound system crew comes to get the paddlers fired up, and so everything is made to have paddlers ready to offer their best show for the crowd. If any paddler wants to come just for hanging out, watching the competition, paddling the alpine rivers around, sharing meals with their competing mates at the campsite, they are welcome. The Outdoormix is, for the paddling community as for others, made for having an open gathering.
KS: What is new this year?
AB: A lot of new stuff! Around kayaking we have new elements, more kayak teams coming, and new partners. Concerning the section, one of them really deserves to be mentioned: the slopestyle section, on the Vachère torrent, is made from many concrete steps that are really fun to drop off. Raph and Ju proposed this element for the 2016 Outdoormix Festival to create a new competition format, slopestyle, that the paddlers aren’t used to, that requires different skills and that should be fun. For Raph and Ju, the Slopestyle also recalls the good old days when they were running a sick Freeride event on the Ubaye river, The Ubayak, situated in the next valley. Globally speaking, we have a lot of fresh new stuff for the fourth edition: new disciplines like flat Water SUP racing, dirt BMX, longboard dancing, sky diving and a musical line up that is finally getting composed from international artists.
KS: You are also behind the creation of the Eurocup. What is it, who with, and why?
AB: The EKEC project is an answer to an actual lack of a clear extreme racing tour that brings the global community of paddlers together to keep the young extreme kayaking flame alive. It started from the common reflection of a group of organizers from Outdoormix (FRA), King of the Alps (ITA) and Devil’s Race (CZ). Our wish is to push our sport forward and find solutions to stimulate the scene by refreshing the involvement of paddlers, events and brands. For its first edition, the 2016 EKEC will include the three events that I just mentioned. We have already been contacted by other European events to get into the tour but they don’t necessarily fit 100% to our objectives or spirit. But it is good news that this action seems already successful. So for 2016, the EKEC will be based on just these three events, and we will hopefully have more great events in the future. As we put our forces together to run this EKEC, the organizers are agreeing on a few rules, such as: nice event spirit; enjoyable race formats that require different kayaking skills; professional timing; a common pot to offer sizeable prize money; difficult race courses; encouraging women’s participation; prelims open to a wide range of paddlers, from 4+ to elite; wild and picturesque environments, and most important for me, is good party times!
KS: What is the Kayak Team of the Year by Outdoormix?
AB: It’s a corporate challenge between kayak brands. We invite the team managers to register their team athletes into our competition. The winning team
gets his brand awarded “Kayak Team of the Year by Outdoormix” and benefits from special exposure and a dedicated award in our media partner Kayak Session. The brand submits the three paddlers’ names who will represent the brand in the corporate challenge. We don’t run an additional race, we just take their results
out of the Outdoormix kayak races’ results. This corporate challenge is part of the solutions I’ve found to involve the kayak brands in our event.
KS: What is the best we can wish for you and your festival?
AB: For me, to meet a nice woman and live happily with her forever would be hot. I spend too much time at the office since I started Outdoormix that I almost forget to keep meeting people outside, and even my paddling is getting rare! So now that the “baby” is grown, I hope I can come back to an easier and more enjoyable lifestyle, which is better than forgetting myself for the festival’s sake. So, more socializing, sexualizing and kayakalizing for me in 2016. For the festival, I guess we should also wish happiness to all of my volunteer colleagues into this project. They are like my family today. We are powering, by ourselves, a very successful event that everyday requires stronger motivation. This is where the weakness is in such a non-profit organization: how to keep people involved and passionate when we don’t have much more to offer than a great experience to share together. It’s a question of finances. That is another good point you could wish for us: partners’ consideration and investment. Being able to run three editions without financing sponsors, I’ll let you imagine what we could do with some support!
> More info on the 2016 Outdoor Mix festival: Here