Leon Glatzer feels at home from Waco to Munchen to Pavones

Leon Glatzer calls a lot of places home, Hawaii, Germany, Costa Rica and a few spots in between. Like Forest Gump, he’s comfortable wherever he goes. And Leon’s surfing reflects this. He can take the same aerial twist and apply it to different environments, from the roping walls of Pavones to the quick ramps of Waco and onto the jet flow of the world’s rapid wave pools.

Compared to surfers raised in one location, you have multiple places you call home. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct. I was born on Maui and while traveling my parents fell in love with Costa Rica and stayed. But growing up in Pavones, I always knew it would be hard to become a pro surfer, so I had to travel the world to put my name out there and everywhere I went I had to make it my home. Spending lots of time in France at the Volcom House and in Portugal when I’m in Europe. Germany is an important place for me as well as being part of the German national team. Some of my bigger sponsors like Citizen watches are from Germany, so there’s always something to do. It’s tough sometimes, but I love it.

Leon Glatzer
Rapid wave pool surfing at the Jochen Schweizer Arena. Photo by Tim Wendrich

And so where do you surf mostly now?
I surf mostly in Portugal, France and due to the current situation at home in Costa Rica. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time in El Salvador to train for the ISA World Surfing Games, which is the qualifying event for the Olympics. I missed out on qualification by one spot back at the ISA World Games in Japan in 2019.

How does rapid surfing compare to ocean surfing?
It’s very different, it’s a sport of its own. But then it of course has similarities. Rapid Surfing is happening stationary and you can try a lot of things at any time you want because the wave is always there. The wave is pushing you the other way as well as the current, which means you have to use a different weight distribution. And in the ocean, you are dealing with mother nature which is changing every minute. For example the wind, the swell, the tides and much more. It’s a lot harder to adapt to the ocean than to a rapid. But I love both. I have so much fun on rapids and it’s amazing to have that option if you are not living near an ocean that has waves. You have to check out the local surf scene in Munich, it’s crazy. I went there once for a local air show, it was crazy. Massive airs, massive crowds, some dude spitting fire. Believe it or not, Germans know how to have fun 😉

Leon Glatzer
Leon’s at home in both the tropical jungles of Costa Rica and the urban jungles of Europe. Photo by Tim Wendrich

Do you compete in both?
I have been competing in the ocean since I was 12 years old. The first time in a wave pool was in 2019 at STAB High at Waco. My first time in a rapid pool was at the German Rapid Surfing Champs in 2020. Definitely planning to compete a lot more at rapid events this year as it is a great way to get exposure in Germany. The German Champs had something like 170.000 live views on national TV… The progression is super interesting too when it comes to events. The Rapid Surf League has a format called Cut: 2 Call for example. It incorporates a game of skate-type format into the normal heat structure. It’s super exciting and simply takes into consideration that the wave is always the same. One surfer calls three maneuvers on his opponent. Say frontside air revers to backside air reverse to backside shove it. Then he performs those three maneuvers and the other surfer has to follow and do them too. It brings tactics into the contest and a great form of communication between surfers and spectators. And it’s easy for people to understand why one surfer won. I think wave pool contests should look at this. Cause in the end, Kelly’s wave is always the same as well and I find it hard to give Kelly a good score for parking in his barrel which he knows inside out…

How much time do you spend in Germany?
Usually 1 – 2 months. When traveling I always try to fly through Munich. Looks like flying through Munich could become a lot more interesting for a surfer in the future too 😉

How will wave pools change the surfing relationship for German surfers?
I think they will change it drastically because there are a lot of German surfers waiting for this opportunity. And you will be able to present surfing to a new clientele who would have never tried it in the ocean. You will be able to do events, show them on national TV… They are building pools everywhere in the world, it’s becoming a trend. People are loving it and the Germans will too! They are surf crazy!

Would this change the face of the German National Team?
Yes definitely, the team will be spending a lot more time in Germany to train and there will be a lot more upcoming talents. Imagine the kids starting young at a rapid like Eisbach in Munich, then transitioning to a wave pool, then to the ocean… It will be amazing and it will all complement each other. Because you can train certain maneuvers on a rapid and then take them to the wave pool or ocean.

Favorite wave pool and why?
Waco Texas, because I’m an air guy and it has the sickest air section ever made. But looking at the progression regarding tech, it looks like most pools now have the possibility to have an air section setting. Super exciting, because this is where things obviously complement each other too: you train Kerrupts in a wave pool with the same section coming at you over and over again. Then you take it to the ocean. Not saying that it will automatically work, but it definitely helps. I also think that when it comes to rapid pools, there are a lot of possibilities to make them more exciting for good surfers. The Eisbach in Munich has different sections for example and little ramps where you can launch off. There’s this new rapid pool near Seattle, it’s like 16 meters wide (50 feet). Imagine you add a proper section with a little ramp to the wave… progression would be crazy! The good kids in Munich do full rotations already.

Leon impressing under the Texas sun at the Stab High event. This image (and main image) courtesy of Stab High/Tom Carey.

Favorite rapid wave pool and why?
Hard to say as they are all a little different. The wave at Jochen Schweizer Arena outside Munich has this perfect transition, the rapid in Berlin is steep, very powerful and a little wider, which allows me to do airs there that I can’t do in any other wave pool. I haven’t surfed the Unit pool in Milan, it looks super fun! And hey, I also have a US passport so if Citywave wants me to try out their rapid in the US! I should send Shane Beschen an email, isn’t he involved? 😉

How would you do in a surf triathlon (ocean, rapid and wave pool)?
I would win, I know how to surf them all and really good, haha. Just kidding 😉 That would be interesting though. Maybe it will happen at some point. Maybe not a triathlon, but maybe an overall ranking through events in rapid pools, wave pools and the ocean…