Where The Wild Things Are

Argentinian Olympic class sailor turned wingfoiling environmentalist, Yago Lange is also not afraid to go take his foil – and his environmental message and actions – into some pretty far out locations (literally), documented beautifully in a recent YouTube film by Marko Magister (it so happens he also took these superb photos). We got in touch with the Lift team rider to hear about mission deep into Patagonia…

Yago, firstly let’s talk about your achievements as an Olympic sailor. This is something that runs in the family, right? 

Yes, my dad has taken part in seven Olympic Games (and has won three Olympic medals, one gold medal and two bronze). We participated in the Rio Olympics with my brother Klaus in the 49er sailing class and finished in 7th place. And we were part of the national Olympic team for Tokyo 2020, but we didn't make it.

Are you still competing in sailing?

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I’m no longer on the Olympic circuit. I am still active in professional sailing though, but nowadays my focus is on developing environmental projects and enjoying foiling adventures. 

Yes, so before we move onto foiling, when did you first start taking an interest in the environmental work, and how did that first permeate into your sailing career? 

It all started end of 2018, we were training in Buenos Aires and many days it was impossible to train due to the amount of trash in the water. We decided to do a beach clean-up to try to do something about it. It turned into a massive event, with 25 harbors around Argentina participating and more than 100 people in our own sailing harbor. I learned a lot from those first clean-ups I organized in Argentina, and again in 2019 during the Olympic circuit regattas. I was thinking, how can I spend so much time in the water if I am not doing enough to protect those waters that I so enjoy? Nowadays I am fully committed to ocean and nature protection, educating myself first, and then educating my community about ways to protect our planet. I been working with Parley since April 2019, and they have given me a lot of support and vital information to develop the impact of our actions in Argentina.

So, at what point did you first discover foiling? Who introduced you to that and where did you start riding? 

During the 2020 pandemic I was doing educational talks with schools (16,000+ kids participated in our online talks, and there were over 200 of those talks) and building community composting to improve our debris system in Buenos Aires. I was missing being in the water a lot. My uncle invited me to try wing foiling in December 2020, and since that moment I got so into it. I felt the energy of being back in the water and how simple it is to be out there foiling with a wing foil.

What was your first foil set up, and what’s your go-to set up now?

I started with a 110 liter board and a 1600 foil and a 5m wing. But my favorite set up now is the Lift 120/170HA, the 25 Glide V2 back wing, the 32 mast for wing foiling, and I’ll use the 44 liter board for wing foiling and the 34 liter board for prone.

What were your initial impressions of the sport in comparison to sailing? And were you already a surfer at all?

I loved it from the first time I tried it. That first feeling of flying is incredible, and there is so much progress in this sport that I enjoy all the time I spend on it. No, I was never a surfer, but being a sailor really helped me to understand about the dynamics of the wing foil and of course using the wind. Since the end of last year, I have put a lot of time into surf foiling and pumping just with the foil. Lift’s HA foil setup really helped me to improve here. And here in Buenos Aires we are really getting into downwinders now when we have good conditions.

How did you first get introduced to Lift Foils, and how did that relationship develop?

Kahi Pacarro put me in contact with Lift. We worked together at Parley and he is a very good foiler and he was keen to help me with Lift. After we spoke with Lift, everything connected naturally and they were fully motivated to support me. I am proud to be part of the Lift family and I appreciate their help in amplifying the message to protect our ocean playgrounds.

Since those initial clean-ups, you’ve moved quite heavily into the role of environmental stewardship. How did this develop out of that initial interest? Did it come naturally? 

It’s been four years now since I start doing those beach clean-ups. Throughout the journey I realized how important a part education plays, so I put big effort into working closely with schools in terms of environmental education. We implemented Parley educational talks as part of the Parley global clean-up network. As well as that, I’ve been traveling around Patagonia since 2020 and I’ve learnt a lot during those expeditions. We did remote clean-ups with friends and collaborated with biologists and local NGOs to understand the Patagonia region even better. 

Are environmental issues something you have always been aware of?

Yes. As a kid, we used to live in a boat on a river with my brothers. My best memories are being in the boat just enjoying the simple life, and it’s painful to see the river I grew up on so polluted now. I am really proud to receive support to do these expeditions by Parley and 11th Hour Racing, and now also from Lift too, allowing me to go to these remote areas, learn, explore and showcase the beauty and fragility of our oceans and marine coastlines.

As you say you’ve spent a lot of time in Patagonia, both foiling and working to educate and inspire others in environmental responsibilities. Had you visited Patagonia much before? 

As a kid I spent a few summers in Patagonia. But since I started doing these expeditions, I have been lucky to discover many new places in Patagonia and some truly amazing places for foiling. Patagonia is a very big area and there are so many different landscapes… You have beautiful lakes in the mountains on the west side, and then you have the Atlantic coastline when driving down the east. It’s easy to see whales, orcas, penguins, dolphins… all kinds of things. 

I imagine the conditions must change a lot down there… do you carry a wide range of foil gear and sizes when you’re traveling there?

Patagonia is very wild and some days the storm winds are so heavy that I have no chance to go foiling. Most places are very remote too, so we try to be very cautious every time we go in the water. I take as much as I can within the logistical space we have in the car and boat. In terms of foil gear, I love the 55 liter wing foil board paired with the 120HA foil. The perfect combo for both wing foiling and surf foil.

Can you tell us about a particular time down there that stands out? 

Yes, we did an island clean-up project down there. We cleaned more than six tons of plastic with 20 volunteers on an un-inhabited island 300km away from any city. We needed logistical help to get all the rubbish back to shore. On our way to the island we hadn’t seen any marine animals at all, and after we cleaned for more than 12 hours we’d only seen penguins. However, when we sailed back, many, many animals showed up including whales and dolphins. We even finished with a wing foil session amongst the dolphins.

Are there particular people who have inspired you?

There are a lot of people that inspire me. There are many people around the world doing great stuff protecting our planet. Kahi Pacarro is a great guide for me as a foiler and as an environmentalist, but I also get inspired by people doing simple daily things to assist in conservation. There is a little town in Patagonia where people created a veggie garden for their community and it’s a truly amazing project. Right in the middle of nowhere, in hard conditions, growing food for 50 families.

Finally, tell us about your ultimate goals… Is there an endpoint? Or is it more about the journey itself? 

It’s a journey itself for sure. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make a positive impact and educating myself about nature, the oceans and climate change. Motivating myself to see the positives in things and keep enjoying life. Foiling is an amazing sport and a great platform to be able to invite people to spend time in the water.  

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