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You have probably never heard of Buck Lyons, but you most likely use something he helped create. Photo Paul Lang

THE BUSINESS OF WIND The Buck Lyons Interview

By Paul Lang

You probably have no idea who Buck Lyons is, but if you’re reading this magazine you probably spend way too much of your time checking and rechecking your local wind conditions on iKitesurf.com. Ikitesurf is a part of WeatherFlow, a company founded by Buck in 1999. A decade earlier he had walked away from a traditional business career to start Vela, a windsports resort company catering to windsurfers and kiteboarders. Buck sat down with us to talk about the history of Vela and WeatherFlow and ďŹ lled us in on recent and upcoming changes at both companies.

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When and why did Vela get started? >[djcYZYKZaV^c&.--#>]VYWZZcdcV kZgnigVY^i^dcVaWjh^cZhheVi]ldg`^c\ ^cÃcVcXZVcYi]ZcbVcV\ZbZci Xdchjai^c\#L^cYhjgÃc\lVhhi^aaVndjc\ hedgiZheZX^Vaan^ciZgbhd[igVkZaVcY >hVlVcdeedgijc^ini]ZgZ#>bZVc! who wouldn’t think that would be a [jcWjh^cZhhid\Zi^cid4Dcbndlc ig^eh>»YcZkZghZZcVcni]^c\gZbdiZan gZhZbWa^c\Vl^cYhjgÃc\gZhdgi#>e^XijgZY the experience being much better for ZkZgndcZ^[i]ZgZlVhV[VX^a^inl]ZgZndj XdjaY]VkZi]ZZfj^ebZcig^\]ii]ZgZdc i]ZWZVX]gZVYnid\d#

This station in Jacksonville, Florida, is designed to survive and record weather data as a hurricane makes landfall. Photo Courtesy WeatherFlow

>ci]ZegdXZhhd[XgZVi^c\VeaVcidÃcY i]ZeZg[ZXihediidYZkZadehdbZ\^Vci gZhdgi>hZiiaZYdcl]Vi>i]dj\]ildjaYWZ Vc^ciZg^bhigViZ\nd[deZc^c\l^cYhjgÃc\ centers in front of existing hotels. These ldjaYc»iWZdjgdlcl^cYhjgÃc\gZhdgih WjildjaYVaadljhidegdk^YZi]ZgZhdgi ZmeZg^ZcXZWnldg`^c\l^i]di]Zgh# 7ZXVjhZd[i]ZlVni]ZbVg`ZiYZkZadeZY lZZcYZYjeÃcZijc^c\i]^hhigViZ\n instead of building our own resorts. What was the reaction of people around you when you said you were leaving the business world to start a windsurfing resort? A lot of people idiVaanb^h_jY\ZYi]ViYZX^h^dcVcY VhhjbZY>lVhX]ddh^c\a^[ZhinaZdkZg Wjh^cZhh#>cbnb^cY^ilVhVaaVWdji XgZVi^c\hdbZi]^c\cZli]Vi>XdjaYh^c` bneVhh^dc^cid#BVnWZ>lVhVa^iiaZcV^kZ Wji>i]dj\]i>XdjaYXgZViZVW^\Wjh^cZhh djid[^i#HdbZeZdeaZi]dj\]i>lVhXgVon l]^aZdi]ZghidiVaan\di^i# Where was the first Vela center? From hXgViX]lZYZkZadeZYVXZciZg^c6gjWV i]VilVhkZgnXdch^hiZcil^i]bnk^h^dcd[ V]diZaVXi^c\VhVl^cYhjgÃc\gZhdgi#6i i]ZhVbZi^bZ>[djcYVeaVXZ^c7V_Vi]Vi lVhVagZVYnXdch^hiZcil^i]i]Vik^h^dc# >cAdh7Vgg^aZh?VnKVaZci^cZ]VYVeaVXZ ^c[gdcid[l]Vi^hcdli]ZEaVnVYZaHda =diZa#=ZlVhgZVaanVe^dcZZg^ciZgbhd[ this concept. Los Barriles has seen a lot d[YZkZadebZci!Wjii]ZZmeZg^ZcXZgZVaan ]Vhc»iX]Vc\ZYbjX]dkZgi]ZnZVgh#

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How did you decide on places to develop Vela centers? We looked at wind maps and listened to people who igVkZaZY#LZVahdadd`ZY[dgeaVXZhl^i] gZhdgi[VX^a^i^ZhcZVgVcV^gedgi#>[ndj add`Vil]ZgZlZ»kZWZZchjXXZhh[ja! for the most part it’s been in places i]ViVgZgZVhdcVWanZVhnidigVkZaid! WjidjgYgZVblVhidÃcYhdbZi]^c\ gZVaanheZX^Vad[[i]ZWZViZceVi]#IdV certain extent, Brazil has been like that. >i»hcdii]ViXadhZidVbV_dgV^gedgi!Wji the conditions are so good people are willing to put in the effort to get there.

EjciVHVc8Vgadh!VaddhZKZaVV[Ãa^ViZ! is another example. That spot is in the middle of nowhere, but it’s special enough i]VieZdeaZVgZl^aa^c\idigVkZai]ZgZ# How difficult has it been to operate a business in multiple countries? Where Yd>WZ\^c4LZ»kZ]VYVadid[]dggdg hidg^ZhdkZgi]ZnZVgh#LZ»kZYZVai l^i]ZkZgni]^c\[gdb]Vk^c\Zfj^ebZci XdcÃhXViZYWnXdggjeiXjhidbhd[ÃX^Vah idÃcZhi]VilZgZidiVaanjc_jhi^ÃZY#>i lVhVkZgnig^X`nVcYY^[ÃXjaiaZVgc^c\ experience. What was your view on kiteboarding when you first saw it? >hVl8dgn Roeseler on waterskis in the Gorge and _jhii]dj\]i^ilVhlVX`nViÃghi#6[Zl nZVghaViZgl]ZceZdeaZhiVgiZYjh^c\ gZaVjcX]VWaZ`^iZhVcY>hVli]ViV cjbWZgd[eZdeaZgZVaan`cZl]dlidYd ^ilZaa!i]Vi»hl]Zc>ÃghigZVa^oZY^ilVhV aZ\^i^bViZhedgii]VildjaYÃi^ceZg[ZXian l^i]l]VilZY^Y#Bdhid[i]ZXZciZgh ZbWgVXZY`^iZWdVgY^c\g^\]iVlVnWji some managers put up a little resistance ViÃghi# >YZX^YZY>lVciZYidaZVgcid`^iZVWdji ÃkZnZVghV\d!Wji>cZkZg[Zaia^`Z>]VY i]Zi^bZ>lVciZYidYZY^XViZid^i#6Wdji VnZVgV\dbn\^gah!l]dVgZ&(VcY&+! YZX^YZYi]ZnlVciZYidaZVgc!VcYi]Vi

lVhVaai]ZZmXjhZ>cZZYZYid\ZihiVgiZY# >lVhVbVoZYWn]dla^iiaZi^bZ^iidd` to experience the feeling of being pulled kZgn[VhiVXgdhhi]ZlViZgdcV`^iZ#>i»h _jhiVc^cXgZY^WaZ[ZZa^c\#Jc[dgijcViZan> lVhWVYan^c_jgZY^cVgdVYW^`ZVXX^YZci ZVga^Zgi]^hnZVgVcYi]Vi]VhgZVaanhZibZ WVX`!Wji>»badd`^c\[dglVgYid\Zii^c\ back in the water soon. Why would a kiteboarder book their vacation through Vela instead of on their own? Vela resort centers d[[ZgV`^iZWdVgY^c\dgl^cYhjgÃc\XajW ZmeZg^ZcXZ#HdbZeZdeaZi]^c`i]Zn VgZc»i\d^c\idVKZaV^[i]ZnWdd`i]Z^g igVkZadci]Z^gdlc!Wjii]Vi»hcdigZVaan i]Zg^\]ilVnidadd`Vi^i#I]ZXZciZgh VgZkZgn^ciZ\gViZY^cidi]ZY^[[ZgZci hXZcZh#NdjbVncdiWdd`ndjgkVXVi^dc i]gdj\]KZaVdgZkZceaVcdck^h^i^c\V KZaVXZciZgjci^andjcZZYVhbVaaZg`^iZ! hideWnid\Zi[ddYVcYVYg^c`!dgbVnWZ hdbZdcZ^cndjg\gdjeYZX^YZhi]Zn want to take lessons. Our booking and bVg`Zi^c\hZgk^XZh]VkZValVnhWZZc_jhi VeVgid[KZaV#D[iZci^bZhi]ZlVnid\Zi the best price is to book through Vela, but some people want to book the hotel on their own. We’re indifferent to how eZdeaZWdd`i]Z^gkVXVi^dc#>[ndj\ZiV Vela catalog that promotes Cabarete and ndjh]dljedci]ZWZVX]^c8VWVgZiZ! lZXdch^YZgi]ViVl^cl]Zi]Zgndj


Buck spending a little time away from the office in Punta San Carlos, Baja. Photo Clark Merritt

The Vela Cabarete crew circa 1995. Photo Silvan Wick/Vela Archives

Photo Paul Lang

lVh_jhiejgX]VhZYWni]ZEgnYZ<gdje! the owners of Cabrinha. Karl Williams, KZaV»hBVcV\^c\EVgicZg!l^aagZbV^ci]Z brand manager, so the changes won’t be YgVbVi^X#LZl^aahi^aa]VkZi]ZaViZhi\ZVg Have you seen more kiteboarders [dghijYZcihl]^aZ]Vk^c\bdgZgZciVa considering renting gear because gear for experienced riders to demo. We of baggage fees? We are seeing more expect there will be more Vela franchises ^ciZgZhi!Wji>i]^c`^i»hWZXVjhZ`^iZgh [dg`^iZghidk^h^i^ci]Z[jijgZVcYndj»aa gZVa^oZi]Z^gkVXVi^dc^hV\ddYi^bZid hZZbdgZXddeZgVi^dcWZilZZcEgnYZ ignhdbZi]^c\cZl#6ahd!hdbZeZdeaZ_jhi <gdjeVcYKZaV#I]^hbZVchbdgZZkZcih a^`ZidigVkZal^i]dji\ZVg#>cl^cYhjgÃc\ VcYXa^c^Xhl^i]EgnYZVcY8VWg^c]ViZVb gZciVa\ZVglVhcZXZhhVgn[dgbdhieZdeaZ# g^YZgh!bdgZEgnYZ<gdjeYZVaZgbZZi^c\h! >c`^i^c\lZhZZ^ibdgZa^`Zh`^^c\dg VcY]deZ[jaanbdgZ\gdjeig^ehaZYWn snowboarding where most people bring adXVa8VWg^c]VYZVaZgh#:kZgh^cXZlZ their own gear, but there’s still a large helped pioneer kiteboarding in Cabarete b^cdg^ini]ViegZ[ZghidgZci# ^c'%%&i]Zhedgi]VhWZZci]ZYg^k^c\ force behind growth in our business and What’s your favorite Vela center? The lZZmeZXii]ViigZcYidVXXZaZgViZ#> Wjh^cZhhhVkknVchlZg^hi]ViZVX]d[i]Z `cdl@VgaVcY@ZciBVg^c`dk^X!i]ZEgnYZ places has its thing that makes it special. <gdje6bZg^XVhEgZh^YZci!VgZgZVaan =dcZhian!>YdadkZheZcY^c\i^bZViVaa excited about Vela’s future and are looking d[i]Zb#I]Zcdc"eda^i^XVai]^c\idhVn forward to expanding the number of ^[>]VkZidX]ddhZ^hEjciVHVc8Vgadh# `^iZhjgÃc\gZhdgih# >i»hi]ZXdbW^cVi^dcd[lVkZhVcYi]Z eZVXZ[jagZbdiZVibdhe]ZgZ#6iÃghih^\]i You also founded WeatherFlow, the camp there looks like something out of the company behind iKitesurf. How Mad MaxWji^iVXijVaan]VhZkZgni]^c\ndj did that start? ;dg-id&%nZVghKZaV XdjaYcZZY#>_jhiadkZ^iVcYbV`ZZkZgn lVhbnbV^c_dW#>lVhkZgnhVi^hÃZYid Z[[dgiid\ZiYdlci]ZgZdcXZVnZVg# ]VkZXgZViZYKZaV!Wji>Ydc»ii]^c`>»b ZheZX^Vaan\ddYVii]ZYVn"id"YVngjcc^c\ of a business that isn’t in the process of I understand Vela just went through a Zkdak^c\hjWhiVci^Vaan#>[ZZaa^`Zbn[dgiZ major change. What does this mean ^hXgZVi^c\VWjh^cZhh!hd^ci]Zb^Y".%h for the company? The Vela brand booked through us or not. The chance of ndjk^h^i^c\djg[VX^a^indcXZndj»gZi]ZgZ is high. The whole point is to get people idigVkZaidi]ZhZeaVXZh#

>WZ\Vcid[ZZa^ilVhi^bZ[dgbZideji bnZcZg\n^cidhdbZi]^c\cZl#H^cXZi]Zc >»kZldg`ZYl^i]hZkZgVaWjh^cZhhZhVh a founder or consultant and one of the XdbeVc^Zh>Xd"[djcYZYlVhLZVi]Zg;adl in 1999. >]VYWZZc[daadl^c\8Vaad[i]ZL^cY! l]^X]egdk^YZYl^cY^c[dgbVi^dcWn eV\Zg]ZgZ^c8Va^[dgc^V#?^bBVgi^c!i]Z founder, realized people would want wind ^c[dgbVi^dcl^i]dji]Vk^c\idXVaa^cVcY a^hiZcidVgZXdgY^c\#Jh^c\i]ZeV\Zgh lVh]^h^YZV#=ZlVhVk^h^dcVgnVcYV super hard worker, but he knew he wasn’t the person to take the business to the cZmiaZkZa#>]VYVk^h^dcidXgZViZVcZl XdbeVcnVcY8Vaad[i]ZL^cYlVh_jhi going to be part of it. At the beginning we absorbed Call of the Wind and Wind =dia^cZ!l]^X]lVhWVhZY^ci]ZCdgi]ZVhi# Both Jim and Phil Atkinson (the founder d[L^cY=dia^cZgZbV^ceVgicZgh^c WeatherFlow and Phil is still the technical \Zc^jhWZ]^cYdjgcZildg`#9Vk^YHi#?d]c XgZViZYi]ZÃghi8Vaad[i]ZL^cYlZWh^iZ and is still a partner in charge of all our lZWYZkZadebZci# The original goal of WeatherFlow was to create a series of internet portals for outdoor sports. One of the things that ldjaYbV`Z^ijc^fjZlVh\d^c\idWZ gZVaan\ddY[dgZXVhi^c\!lZVi]ZgYViV!VcY

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the other brands.>XVcjcYZghiVcY l]n^i»hXdc[jh^c\#LZ»kZbVYZZggdgh ^cdjgWgVcY^c\#I]ZgZVhdclZ]VkZ Y^[[ZgZcicVbZh^ci]ZÃghieaVXZ^hlZ YZX^YZY^ildjaYegdWVWanWZWVYid ]VkZ VlZWh^iZ[dg`^iZWdVgYZghXVaaZY iWindsurf. The content is different on the two sites and it will get more different dkZgi^bZidWZiiZgXViZgidi]ZY^[[ZgZci \gdjeh#I]Vi»hZkZcbdgZhdl^i] HV^aÄdl!djgWgVcYi]ViXViZghidi]Z hV^a^c\Xdbbjc^in#>cVhZchZL^cY6aZgi ^hViZbedgVgnhdaji^dc#LZ]VYV technological direction we thought was going to be much better, but it needed to WZYZkZadeZYl]^aZWZ^c\jhZYWneZdeaZ# :kZgni]^c\idd`Vadiadc\Zgi]VclZ anticipated, but what we expect to see in the future is that the best things about WindAlert will be integrated into the other sites without getting rid of the best things about those sites. Buck enjoys a little time with his daughters in Aruba. Photo Rahel Lyons

condition reports. The craziness of the ^ciZgcZiWddbXVjhZYhdbZVXfj^h^i^dch lZlZgZadd`^c\ViidWZhlZeiVlVn [gdbjhVcYi]ZhjWhZfjZci^ciZgcZi crash kind of put a damper on our original business plan. We had an elegant Wjh^cZhh!Wji^ilVha^`ZanidhiVnhbVaa ^[lZdcanXViZgZYidl^cYhjg[ZghVcY kiteboarders. We realized we had a great deal of expertise and decided to use it to pursue opportunities with businesses VcY\dkZgcbZcigZaViZYidlZVi]ZgYViV VcYbZiZdgdad\^XVahZgk^XZh#>cVYY^i^dc id]Vk^c\VeVhh^dc[dgl^cYhedgihbVcn of us are also geeks who like data and bVi]ZbVi^XVabdYZah#>iidd`Vl]^aZid\Zi going but it’s been a great success and gZVaan[jcVadc\i]ZlVn#IdYVnVWdjiV fjVgiZgd[djgWjh^cZhhhi^aaXdbZh[gdb our consumer websites. While it’s a small Wjh^cZhhWn^ihZa[!^i»hhi^aaV\ddYdcZVcY >»bkZgndei^b^hi^XVWdjii]Z[jijgZd[ `^iZhjgÃc\VcY^@^iZhjg[#Xdb#>ciZgbhd[ real participants, enough new people are Xdb^c\^cVcYhiVn^c\^c`^iZWdVgY^c\id \ZcZgViZhiZVYn\gdli]# What are some of the projects WeatherFlow has worked on? We ldg`XadhZanl^i]i]Z[ZYZgVa\dkZgcbZci WZXVjhZlZXVcegdk^YZ^c[dgbVi^dc^c the coastal zone that helps them forecast VcYlViX][dghZkZgZlZVi]Zg#I]^h^hYViV that fuels meteorological models. What lZegdk^YZ^hXdbea^bZciVgnidi]Z^gdlc YViVcZildg`VcY^hVbjX]WZiiZgkVajZ compared to them installing more weather hiVi^dch#>[Vcni]^c\!XjggZciWjY\ZiVgn egZhhjgZhVgZ[dgX^c\i]Zbid]VkZ[ZlZg hiVi^dch!cdibdgZ!VcYlZ]VkZVcZildg` that compliments theirs.

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What are the challenges of maintaining a network of weather stations?Fj^iZ[gVc`an^i»hVWgjiVa X]VaaZc\Z#>i»hZmigZbZanY^[ÃXjaiVcY ZmeZch^kZid`ZZeVcZildg`a^`Zi]^h up. For us to reach an uptime that would hVi^h[nZkZgnWdYnVaai]Zi^bZldjaYWZ bVhh^kZanZmeZch^kZ#I]ZXdhiidVXXZhh i]Zh^iZhldjaY]VkZidWZiZci^bZh higher, and that isn’t going to happen. LZ»gZcdiValVnheZg[ZXi!WjidjgiZVb ^hkZgn\ddYVil]Vii]ZnYd#Djgjei^bZ ^hWZiiZgi]VcVcn`^cYd[XdbeVgVWaZ network. Keeping the network up isn’t VeVgid[l]Vi>Yd!hd>gZVaanlVciid thank the team at WeatherFlow for the ^cXgZY^WaZ_dWi]ZnYd^cbV^ciV^c^c\^i# How large is the WeatherFlow network? LZ]VkZbVcni]djhVcYhd[ weather stations we gather information [gdb!bVcnd[l]^X]VgZcdigZVY^an VkV^aVWaZ#LZ]VkZ_jhijcYZg*%% stations that we own. Some of these are HD96GYZk^XZhi]VihZcYdjiVhdjcY lVkZVcYXVcbZVhjgZl^cYheZZYh^c a column of air more than 200 meters ]^\]#LZVahd]VkZVWdji&%%hiVi^dch i]VilZgZeji^cheZX^ÃXVaanid\Vi]Zg data about hurricanes. You hear about a hurricane’s wind speeds on the news, but i]Zigji]^hi]ZgZ»hkZgna^iiaZbZVhjg^c\ \d^c\dcVhi]ZngZVX]h]dgZ#LZcdl ]VkZVcZildg`i]ViYdZhi]Vi#I]ZhZ hZchdghegdk^YZ^c[dgbVi^dci]Vi^hkZgn kVajVWaZ^cjcYZghiVcY^c\i]ZYVbV\Z XVjhZYWnl^cYh# WeatherFlow recently launched WindAlert and I think some people are confused about how it fits in with

iKitesurf has almost become famous because of how little the site has changed over the years. The home page still features a photo of Teiva Joyex on a 2-line kite. >i]^c` ndjbZVc^c[Vbdjh#I]Vi»hVeZg[ZXi illustration of what we’re working on. LZ»gZ\j^ainVhX]Vg\ZY^ciZgbhd[hdbZ of the oddities on the site. Part of the gZVhdc^hi]VilZ»kZWZZc[dXjhZYdc Wjh^cZhhXa^Zcih!WjilZ»gZVahd_jhi^c VcVl`lVgY^c"WZilZZce]VhZ#^@^iZhjg[ VcY^L^cYhjg[VgZYZÃc^iZanYViZYl]^aZ L^cY6aZgiYdZhc»ifj^iZhVi^h[ni]ZcZZYh d[ZkZgndcZ#I]^hl^aaX]Vc\Zhddc#?jhi gZXZcian>XdbeaZiZYldg`dchdbZdi]Zg Wjh^cZhhZhVcY>»bcdlkZgn[dXjhZY on all aspects of WeatherFlow, including jeYVi^c\i]ZXdchjbZgh^iZh#>»badd`^c\ [dglVgYidi]ZcZmihiZel]ZcZkZgni]^c\ l^aaÃiid\Zi]ZgbdgZZaZ\VcianVcYjhZgh h]djaYhiVgiidhZZX]Vc\Zhi]^hl^ciZg#> i]^c`ZkZgndcZl^aaWZZmX^iZYVWdjil]Vi ^@^iZhjg[#Xdbl^aad[[ZgkZgnhddc#

If you’ve been around long enough you probably had one of the pagers featured in this old advertisement.


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Kiteboarding feature parks like the one in Hood River are fast becoming a widely accepted part of our sport. Photo Paul Lang

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By Paul Lang

THE

FEATURE FEATURE

Over the past decade the kiteboarding park movement has grown from a fringe aspect of the sport to the point where two of the main North American kiteboarding competitions (The REAL Triple-S and the Ro-Sham Throwdown) are centered around parkstyle riding. Whether you like this style of riding or not you have to admit that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growing and is having a real impact on the sport in terms of being able to attract more young riders into kiteboarding.

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Many people think wake and parkstyle kiteboarding is something new, but the truth is that it’s been around since the very early days of the sport. As REAL Kiteboarding’s Trip Forman said, “We’ve been doing this since the first time boots were popular.” The feeling is that rails and kickers are fast becoming a widely accepted part of kiteboarding and we thought it was a good time to talk to a few people about the history of the parkstyle movement within kiteboarding and where they feel it’s headed. Longtime pro rider Jason Slezak was just starting his kiteboarding career when REAL Co-Founders Matt Nuzzo and Trip Forman sat him down to ask what his plan was. “It all started when Matt and Trip asked me what I wanted to do in kiteboarding,” said Jason. “Coming from snowboarding and skateboarding I liked riding rails and that part of kiteboarding really didn’t exist yet. They agreed to help support it as much as they could. In the early days that was easy. All we needed were some 2x4s, PVC pipes, screws, and a place to build it. At the same time Lou Wainman, Elliot Leboe, and Mauricio Abreu were building stuff in Maui, but Maui’s a really poor location to try to have features in the water. Hatteras was a prime location and we started inviting people there.” According to Trip the first feature was “basically just two sawhorses with a PVC pipe on top. It was probably only 10’ long. Over the last 11 years they’ve just been getting bigger and better through trial and error.” On the opposite side of the country in 2003, Joby Cook was working for a kite school in Hood River and built a 40’ long flat rail and a kicker. Before anyone had a chance to hit the kicker they found out that having a park would entail more than just building something and putting it in the river. “The first time we towed the kicker out the Sheriff came up to us,” said Joby. “He asked, ‘You’ve got a permit for that thing, right?’ We were like, ‘What permit?’ Luckily we had someone that went through the permitting process but that lapsed after two years.” A few years later Joby and Forrest Rae created The Slider Project (www.sliderproject.com) for the purpose of organizing the scene in Hood River as a unified group. “It gave us the opportunity to work with the Port of Hood River,” said Joby. “By coordinating with them we also coordinated with the Oregon Department of State Lands and the Hood River Sheriff’s Office, so we’ve been able to get everyone’s blessing.”

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Trip Forman also went through permitting challenges on the East Coast. “In order to put our park in the sound here we had to get a CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act) Major Permit,” said Trip. “It’s the same permit you need if you want to build a large commercial marina. Both CAMA and the Coast Guard require us to show architectural drawings and the footprint of each feature and we have to tell them what anchors we are using. We had to get the bottom of the sound surveyed by a CAMA Environmental Scientist. It was a major deal to get the permit. It’s all doable though and anyone should be able to figure out how to do it in their area, but it’s a lot more complicated than just building something and putting it in the water. Jason and Sam Bell have been our REAL Slider Park Rangers and have been responsible for pushing it forward.”

Modern features are now constructed from welded HDPE plastic. Photo Nate Appel

The infamous REAL Camel Toe. Photo Courtesy REAL Kiteboarding

Coming from snowboarding and skateboarding I liked riding rails and that part of kiteboarding really didn’t exist yet…

Evan Netsch on one of the new all-plastic features at REAL. Photo Nate Appel


Tom Court on the Liquid Force Dance Floor. Photo Paul Lang

Not all parks have to be permanent or go through a long and complicated permitting process. With Konnect Parks (www.konnectparks.com) Matt Sexton is able to set up a feature while avoiding the local authorities in Florida. “The system is three 16’ sections that can be set up in any configuration up to 48’ long. It can get boring riding flat water trying to do freestyle all the time. For me to be able to bring out a legit rail park that we can set up in 20 minutes really diversified our riding and has made it a lot more fun as we’re switching it up all the time. We can put it out for the day and then take it down so we don’t get the park rangers or any other authorities mad at us.” According to Slezak a lot of other kiteboarders at the beginning didn’t quite understand why anyone would be interested in building and hitting features while being pulled by a kite. “I remember when the board off freestyle movement was really big,” he said. “People just looked at us confused as to why we

would want to kite onto a solid object. We just all had fun doing it and wanted to introduce this element to kiteboarding. Personally it was something I wanted to see it in the sport.” From the early days until now the features themselves have evolved along with the abilities of the riders. “We started with PVC pipes and triangles of wood,” said Trip. “Then things went to being framed with wood with plywood sheathing topped with vinyl fencing or Trex decking on top. The Red Bull Fun Box was the first really big feature we did and it was literally as big as the original building at REAL. It was almost just like building a house. The John Wayne Cancer Foundation Rail was the first one built with an aluminum frame and HDPE sheathing. It was so much better than everything else in the park that it became the only thing people would ride. This year Joby came out and we rebuilt the entire park out of welded HDPE after losing everything in Hurricane Irene. The new features

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are all plastic and as sturdy as anything we’ve ever built. They won’t warp or rot and the whole park can break down into pieces in case we have another big storm.” Jason said, “Now Joby designs features on the computer, but everything used to literally come from sketches on napkins we would draw up over a few beers. It was all trial and error. We would spend weeks building something, put it in the water, and realize right away that it was too steep.” In 2004 the crew at REAL built the infamous Camel Toe rail, which Jason broke three ribs and cracked a vertebrae on when he plowed into one of the uprights. “The Camel Toe was way before its time in terms of degree of difficulty,” said Trip. According to Jason the rail that literally broke his back was gnarly for a few reasons. “A big part of it was money,” he said. “It was a really spontaneous thing. A bunch of guys including Jeff Tobias, Stav Niarchos, Sam Bell, Moe Goold, Andre Phillip, and Bertrand Fleury came together and we all pitched in and put it together. It only cost a few hundred dollars compared to something like the Liquid Force Dance Floor that cost thousands. Part of why it was gnarly was because it was cheaper that way, but it was also because we wanted to show that we could hit something narrow and sketchy. I got hurt on it and that can happen in any board sport, but people getting hurt doesn’t really make it welcoming or encourage less confident riders to give it a try. If you look at the things that are being built now, what we want is more acceptance. We want people to get out and try it. It’s about having something for people to start on so they can start progressing. With something like the Dance Floor, even if you slide all the way across on your back, you’re just going to fall in the water and laugh. You’ll either try it again or you won’t but you’ll know whether it’s for you or not.” With the addition of safer and easier features like the Dance Floor, Joby has seen more riders open up to the possibility of riding in the park. “It’s like that movie Field of Dreams: If you build it they will come,” he said. “We’ve got 10-year old kids out there hitting features for the first time and we’ve got 50-year old dads out there shredding with their kids. The Dance Floor kind of opened the park up to people who maybe wanted to get into it but were a little scared to. That feature is super easy, super forgiving, and easy to learn. It’s all about having an entry point for people to get started, especially the kids. If you look at today’s kids who are interested in things like skating and snowboarding I think they could be interested in kiteboarding for the same reasons. If you make it viable and accessible to them they’ll get into it and their friends will follow. It could create a crowd that starts hitting rails from a young age and that’s when we’ll start seeing crazy progression.” The park in Hood River is open to the public and anyone is welcome to show up and ride. It’s free and you don’t need to sign a waiver, but that doesn’t mean that it should be taken for granted. “The park is here for everyone to enjoy,” said Joby. “Being that it’s a community effort, don’t be the guy who comes in and complains that something isn’t at the right angle. Get a crew together, ask us what needs to happen, and go take care of it. If you go to a skate park and the bowl is full of dirt and leaves, you don’t complain to all the other skaters, you go grab a broom and sweep it out.”

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Recently Trip has begun to see a shift in the customers at REAL. “The traditional big part of the kiteboarding market has been people from ages 25 to 55,” he said. “Now there are a lot of kids as young as eight that are learning and these kids have entirely different goals compared to the

Eric Rienstra hits the Slingshot Kicker in Hood River. Photo Paul Lang

Construction of the Camel Toe. Photo Courtesy REAL Kiteboarding

Sensi Graves on the LF Dance Floor in Hood River. Photo Paul Lang


older students. They just want to learn how to go, how to jump, and how to hit rails. For them this aspect of kiteboarding is the sport and is why they want to learn.” Jason recently relocated to Hood River and is seeing something similar there. “Now you’ll find teenagers and 20-year old girls wearing helmets and charging in the park,” he said. “There are people of all different age groups and it’s been really accepted here. People are actually coming to Hood River just to ride the park.” Jason also brought up the point that the growth and acceptance of features is something that is not just happening in kiteboarding but is happening across all action sports. “As kiteboarding has evolved we’ve also seen the evolution of snow parks, mountain bike parks with features everywhere, and the creation of way more skate parks,” he said. “The progression of action sports in general has gone that way and it just happened to coincide with kiteboarding’s inception and growth. That progression has really helped the wakestyle/parkstyle movement in kiteboarding. Look at cable parks over the last few years. Within the lifetime of kiteboarding they’ve gone from having a few awkward kickers to having parks full of safe and creative welded plastic features. There are kids now who snowboard, skate, and kite and they ride parks in all of those sports. It’s the norm and it doesn’t seem awkward or weird to them. This is where action sports are going and it’s helping to push this side of kiteboarding.”

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Trusted Waters plays an intimate show at the FCD surf shop.

(

far from home

(

Words and Photos by Paul Lang

About a year ago my wife and I relocated from the near-windless city of San Diego to Santa Barbara. The reason for our move had nothing to do with a desire to live in a windier area – my wife was offered a job here shortly after finishing graduate school. Knowing that California’s Central Coast is a windy area, I didn’t put up a fight when we talked about relocating. As a result, for the past year my main kite has been a 9m as opposed to the 15m that seemed to be the only kite I was ever able to ride in San Diego. Now living in Florida, Rob “Corky” Cullen had been one of the first to learn to kiteboard in Santa Barbara. “I started in July of 1999 as the surf in SB is pretty nonexistent during the summer and the wind at Jalama gets weird for windsurfing.” Corky said. “Peter Trow was the first guy with a kite in SB, first riding a 5m Wipika and then a hot pink 8.5m. My friend Jeff Logosz sold me a 4.9m Flexifoil Blade (a two-line foil kite) with 40m lines and that was the kite I learned on. It was basically me and Pete that summer at Leadbetter Beach. Eventually we were both on Blades as the foil kites totally outperformed the existing inflatable kites in 10-20 mph. And oh yea, we swam a lot that summer!”

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Fletcher Chouinard at Jalama.

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Jalama.

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esides being a relatively windy place on its own, this area is also close to other world-class riding spots. Ventura’s C-Street is located a mere 30 minutes to the south and the infamous and remotefeeling spot of Jalama is just an hour to the north. Between those two spots are numerous other great places to ride that are lesser known but can be amazing when the conditions are right. Having become used to the madness that is the scene on many Southern California beaches, it’s been a pleasant surprise to find that it’s not unusual to find completely empty sections of beach on the Central Coast. A few spots can involve a 10-15 minute walk from the car to the beach but the reward is worth it. Imagine cresting a small hill to find 20 knots of wind and endless empty waves that you only have to share with a small group of riders. That dream-like scenario in not uncommon here. Early in the fall I was contacted by Liquid Force’s Gary Siskar who let me know that the LF crew would be passing through the Central Coast while on a demo tour. They were going to be spending some extra time in the area and were planning a party at the FCD surf shop in Ventura to celebrate their new partnership with Fletcher Chouinard, a well-known surfboard shaper who shaped one of their 2012 kitesurf boards. The demo vehicle for the tour would be the recently-revamped Liquid Force minibus, an impossible-to-miss vehicle that can hold a ridiculous

amount of gear. For them, the trip was off to an entertaining start when a few wrong turns led to Greg “Tekko” Gnecco having to crawl out of the bus. Just a few days before leaving Hood River, an epic mountain bike crash had left Tekko with a set of painfully cracked ribs. While navigating by iPhone through Portland, mobile technology came up a bit short and the bus found itself wandering through town looking for the freeway south. Phone in hand, Tekko gave directions at each intersection until they came to a T. Waiting for instructions, Gary said, “Which way do we go? Right or left?” At this point, the phone decided to not cooperate with the situation. “I don’t know, the phone says go straight,” said Tekko. This conversation quickly devolved into a laugh fest, with Tekko crying out in pain with every chuckle due to his injury. Cries of “Stop laughing, it hurts!” only caused more giggles. To get away from the laughter, Tekko swung open the door and literally crawled away from the bus to get some relief. After composing themselves and finding the freeway, the demo tour was on. A few days later they called me up to let me know they were in the Pismo Beach area. About an hour later we converged at Jalama, one of the most consistently windy locations on the coast of California. At the end of a 14-mile windy, narrow road, Jalama is one of the most remotefeeling coastal spots I’ve ever been to in California. Somewhere along the road to the beach cell phone coverage disappears, giving you a forced break from

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Bear Karry takes a break.

the world of constant updates, emails, and phone calls. Located near Point Conception, a piece of the coast jutting far out into the Pacific Ocean, Jalama is well-positioned to catch wind and waves. The waves here are actually among the heaviest in California and can break in fairly shallow water. In the windsurfing days Jalama was a notorious spot to break gear as masts would easily end up pile driven into the sand if you found yourself struggling in the shore pound. In short, Jalama is remote, cold, windy, gusty, and one hell of a fun place to ride when it’s on. I arrived at the county park at Jalama and met up with Siskar, Tekko, and Jason Slezak. With Tekko’s mountain biking injury and my lingering Sherman Island limbo knee injury both of us were limited to beach duty. Dark clouds on the horizon told us that changing weather was coming, but Siskar and Slezak both got out on 9m kites. The wind was up and down and Siskar decided to come in and pump up a larger kite. From further down the beach, I was surprised to see that he was pumping up a 15m when Jason was still making a 9m work. I walked up to Gary as he finished pumping and asked, “15 huh?” He gave me an odd look and said, “Nope, 12 meter.” I took a step back to look at the wingtip again, thinking I’d seen the number wrong. Nope, it definitely says 15. Gary looked at the wingtip and threw up his hands. “I thought this thing was taking forever to pump up for a 12!” he said. The wind conditions were getting worse by the minute so Siskar decided to quit while he was ahead. Amazingly, Sleezy J was still making it look easy on a 9m kite in light and very gusty conditions. After catching a few last waves, Slezak came in and we packed up and got on the road just as raindrops began to fall. After making plans to head wherever conditions looked best on the next day, I headed back home to Santa Barbara while the bus went on to Ventura to spend the night. The next day proved to be a beautiful fall California day, but unfortunately the wind never filled in anywhere in the area. Early in the afternoon we decided to head to C-Street for a quick surf session where we met up with Teddy Lyons, a young up and comer who recently moved to the area from New Jersey. We were also joined by Tonia Farman, Tekko’s wife who was on her way back to Hood River. One of the great things about this area is its versatility. If the conditions aren’t well-suited for one sport, they’re bound to be good for another. Stuck on land I stood out on the point and took photos before we went just down the road to the FCD surf shop to catch the premier of Keith Malloy’s Come Hell or High Water next door at Patagonia. Come Hell or High Water is a

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Sunset surf session in Ventura.


East Coast transplant Teddy Lyons at C-Street. Ian Alldredge and Bear Karry at Jalama.

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film about body surfing, so I didn’t have really high expectations for it. However, the few hundred people in the Patagonia parking lot gave me the sense that I might be in for a surprise. A few minutes into the film I found myself standing there with my mouth open as I realized I had no idea what was possible when body surfing. If you spend any time in the ocean, you will enjoy this movie. The plan for the next day was already in place as a Liquid Force demo had been scheduled at C-Street. I gave Teddy a ride home, went to bed, and then headed right back to Ventura the next morning.

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Upon arriving at C-Street, we joined the Ventura Kiteboarding Association’s beach cleanup. We were each issued a garbage bag and then wandered up the beach to find some trash. Adjacent to C-Street is where the Ventura River meets the ocean, so there

was a fair amount of plastic and trash we picked out of the brush along the river’s path. The beach and kiteboarding launch area at C-Street is in the process of being renovated with the first phase of the project having only recently been finished. The previous bike path and parking lot were eroding and falling into the ocean, so the parking lot was moved inland, making the main launching and landing area much larger. Future plans include vegetated sand dunes as part of an effort to help return the beach to its natural state, but for the time being the beach is wide open and perfect for kiteboarders. Liquid Force designer Julien Fillion joined the crew with the rest of Trusted Waters, his Montreal-based band, in tow. The day started with light wind giving everyone who was so inclined the chance to grab a surf session. By early afternoon the wind came up enough for riders to get out on large kites and a few hours later riders were


Jason Slezak fuels up before his solo sunset session.

on 12m and even a few 9m kites. The wind stayed up until the sun began to set, giving riders plenty of time to try some new gear. After hastily packing the bus, the demo party moved over to FCD for beer, pizza, and a live show by Trusted Waters. The party continued late into the night, but I graciously (and gladly) bowed out of the late-night festivities to take Teddy back up to Santa Barbara. Apparently, the late night/early morning activities included an impromptu jam session that took place in a shipping container set up as a band practice space. Rumor has it that much loud noise was made. The next day found us checking wind sensors over and over to no avail. The lack of wind created another fine beach and paddle surfing day, first at C-Street and then in front of Fletcher Chouinard’s house for a sunset surf. Here I loaded my camera into its housing, dug out my fins, and swam out to grab a few images of the beautiful evening. For me this was a big milestone as it was my first time back in the ocean since injuring my knee three months earlier. It’s amazing how fulfilling a simple swim in the ocean can be after having to spend so much time on dry land. Back on shore, we barbequed at Fletcher’s house and talked about what we thought the weather would do on the next day. There was only one day left before the Liquid Force bus left town and we had not yet seen the type of conditions that really make the Central Coast a special place. A simple look at a swell forecast told us

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Ian Alldredge feeling at home on the Central Coast.

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that the waves were predicted to ramp up the next day. After much back and forth and both well-informed and ill-informed input, we decided to wait until the next morning to make the call about where to ride. By mid morning the next day Jalama was showing signs of being the best bet for wind. With Jalama, it’s always important to be really sure about the wind before you go as it’s basically an all-day commitment when you head out there. With the lack of cell phone coverage there’s no logging on to ikitesurf to check other spots or waiting for phone calls and text messages from your buddies telling you where the wind is going off. This might be one of the best aspects of Jalama. Leaving the grid for a few hours forces you to slow down and accept the conditions in front of you. There’s no turning around and racing off to check the next spot because that’s over an hour away and you have no way of knowing if it’s any better there. Here, you take a deep breath and go eat a world famous Jalama Burger at the small Jalama Beach Store and Grill if there’s nothing else to do while you wait for the wind to show up. Luckily, there would be no waiting around for the wind to show up today. I arrived with Airborne Kiteboarding’s Mike Sysavat and we met up with the Liquid Force crew, Fletcher and Jason McCaffrey from Patagonia, Ian Alldredge, Bear Karry, and Teddy Lyons. The wind was up, but the forecasted swell was nowhere to be seen with the waves only being about waist high. Eight to 9m kites were quickly rigged and launched. Everyone was disappointed with the small waves after imagining the head-high plus sets that were forecasted, but the small yet fun conditions still kept everyone satisfied. As the day wore on, the swell that had all but been written off started to arrive. Over a few hours, the conditions morphed from small and fun to big and intense. The change was so dramatic that anyone looking at the photos would not believe that the early afternoon and late afternoon images were all taken on the same day. After a short break to refuel with Jalama burgers and fries, the show was back on. Ian and Bear have put an insane amount of time in at Jalama over the past year and it showed in the way they rode when the waves came up. Teddy later admitted that these had been the largest waves he’d ever ridden. As the sun sank low in the sky, everyone came in off the water. Not finished yet, Slezak stuffed a few bites of a leftover burger down his throat, warmed himself up for a few minutes, and headed back out for a solo sunset session, staying out until the sun was down and the moon was up. More than satisfied with the day’s events, everyone packed up and headed out on the twisty Jalama road back towards Santa Barbara. The Liquid Force bus would keep heading south out of the area to continue the demo tour, but the rest of us weren’t going anywhere. For those passing through town the last few days had been a special treat to get a glimpse into what the area has to offer. For the rest of us this is home. TO SEE A 360° TOUR OF THE LIQUID FORCE C-STREET DEMO VISIT http://www.tourwrist.com/ tours/22593 OR SCAN THE CODE.

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Words and Photos by Paul Lang

ver the past few years, the course racing discipline of kiteboarding has been slowly gaining momentum. Whether you are a fan of this aspect of our sport or not, you have to admit that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s here to stay. Some people are pushing hard to promote kiteboarding course racing and there is a movement to get some form of kite racing (course racing or slalom) into the Olympics. While a group of dedicated kiteboarders has been heavily focused on the progression and promotion of kite racing, it seems like the rest of the kiteboarding world is split on what they think about it.

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Is this the future of kiteboarding?

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Johnny Heineken Bryan Lake AKA Bernie

Adam Koch

Some kiteboarders are really excited to see this aspect of kiteboarding gain momentum. The people promoting kite racing say that racing is the only fair way to compete. There are no judges and the fastest rider gets first place, no questions asked. They also like to talk about the fact that racing is a great equalizer. Riders who have no chance of competing in a freestyle competition can go out and race against the top racers in the world. Another thing kite racing has going for it is the minimal amount of wind it takes to have a fair race. While it can take a minimum of 20 knots or so to have an exciting freestyle heat, I have seen legitimate course races happen in as little as five knots of wind. There’s also a crowd of kiteboarders that don’t like what they see when they look at course racing. Their main complaints seem to be that it’s expensive (the top boards with fins can cost more than $2,000) and doesn’t do a good job of promoting the sport of kiteboarding. A complaint I often hear some version of is “With all the things that are possible to do behind a kite, do we really want the world to see kiteboarding as a bunch of people chasing each other around buoys?”

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Why do you race? When asked why they race, one thing seemed constant: they race because it’s something they love to do. “When the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco announced the first Kite Racing World Championships, I was like a kid in a candy store,” said Adam Koch, who raced sailboats from a young age. Adam was also a very early pro kiteboarder who dropped off the radar for a few years only to reappear as a top-level racer. “This gave me the platform I needed to apply all the sailing skills I learned as a kid. Kite racing is sailing and I love sailing.”

I find myself fitting into a third group who doesn’t quite know what to think yet. I had a very strong sailing background before I learned to kiteboard and have always looked at kite racing with some interest. However, I’ve been covering events since the beginning of kite racing and it felt like every time I went to a racing event the boards had radically changed compared to the ones I had seen previously. I never started racing because I never felt like I had enough time and money to play the gear evolution game.

Bryan Lake is well known for his strapless skimboard skills, but has quickly climbed the rankings in kite racing, finishing third at last year’s World Championships. “It’s all about competition,” said Bryan. “You can go out and ride your skimboard everyday and be so free and have so much fun, but there’s no competition for that. Then there’s racing and there’s nothing more cut and dry than getting first place or last place. I’m just really competitive. I grew up racing sailboats and now that sailing game has evolved into our kiting game. It’s a pretty fun game to play when you’re going 20 knots.”

During the 2012 La Ventana Classic, many of the world’s top racers showed up to compete. One at a time, we pulled aside a handful of them, put them in front of a camera, and asked questions about the direction of racing and what they thought it means for kiteboarding.

Current World Champion Johnny Heineken said, “It’s everything about sailing that I love without the logistics of getting a boat to the other side of the world. It’s so easy and simple. Some


Julien Kerneur blasts downwind.

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people think it’s gear intensive, but it’s so mellow compared to racing a high performance sailboat. We’re going just as fast and having as much fun as them without all the boat work. You can put your gear in a travel bag and go from event to event.” “It’s endless. You can ride pretty much all the time,” said longtime pro rider Damien LeRoy. “Even in five knots of wind you can go out with your buddies and just have a good time.” Rob Douglas, who holds the outright sailing speed record was also in La Ventana competing on the race course. “Any time on the water is good,” he said. “You can learn from each discipline and apply it to your own. With course racing, you can experience a lot of power in 15 knots of wind. It’s good training that I can apply to speed sailing.” What do you have to say to people who don’t like racing? It’s clear there are a lot of kiteboarders who don’t have any interest in racing and don’t like seeing it promoted. In response to those people, Damien said, “You know, our sport is so unique. We have freestyle, course racing, wave riding, we have all these aspects of kiteboarding. If you have all the wave guys pushing wave riding, freestyle guys pushing freestyle, and racing guys pushing racing, the sport is going to just keep growing. I hope companies and designers don’t just focus on one thing. Some people only want to ride waves. Some people just want to cruise. Everybody likes their own thing.” “You do what you know and you think it’s the best,” said Johnny. “We kind of think the same way with racing. But the thing it does is it opens up so many more places and so many more days to kiting. If people in Southern California figured out that you can have fun when it isn’t even possible to ride a twin tip, they might think differently.” Bryan Lake’s response is sure to get a few people’s blood boiling. “It’s kind of like freestyle motocross versus racing,” he said. “You know, tricks are for kids. If you want to come play with the big dogs, come join the race fleet.” What about the gear? Is it still rapidly evolving? Many kiteboarders are intimidated by the idea of having to always be testing and buying new gear to stay competitive, but everyone we talked to was in agreement that the rapid evolution phase of course racing is over. “The equipment race is over,” said Adam. “It’s done. The boards might not change for two years. We’re honing in on what we’re doing. Now, if Johnny and I are neck and neck, it comes down to who got their back foot in the strap first, not the gear we have.” Everyone else had a similar response. “Everybody is really close right now,” said Damien. “Fins from last year are still really competitive. There’s always room for improvement, but I think you can buy something right now and it will still be competitive in five years.”

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Paolo Rista, Fin Designer for Rista Fins (http:// ristafins.com), agrees the evolution of gear is reaching a plateau. He said, “The good news is that we’re at that point where a brand new fin

today will still be very competitive next season. Now it’s becoming more of a question of whether a fin is the right size for that rider’s weight or for that particular board. That’s a healthy progression for the sport.” What does kite racing bring to the sport of kiteboarding? One of the obvious benefits of kite racing is that it has pushed the light wind limit for kiteboarding ridiculously low. Currently based in San Diego, Bryan said, “Basically a race board allows me to ride every single day. You only need seven knots of wind and you can get that anywhere.” Rob Whittall, Kite Designer for Ozone, said, “There’s no other aspect of kiteboarding that can perform in ten knots of wind. As a showcase of the sport, it’s brilliant. I think it’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger.” Johnny sees the potential for racing to draw a lot more people into kiteboarding. “You know, I think the kiteboarding industry doesn’t realize that there’s a big potential market out there in terms of sailors who might want to kiteboard.” Paolo mentioned the sense of community that comes from racing. “Racing is a wonderful way to become part of a new community,” he said. “You’re very connected to the other people on the water. That’s the key. That link gives you a good feeling when you come in off the water.”


All the racers we talked to feel the period of rapid gear evolution is over.

What about the Olympics? “It seems like the only way it’s going to happen is if we’re a sailing class,” said Johnny. “If that part of the sport were to go Olympic, that doesn’t mean it has to be the face of the sport. It won’t be the only discipline out there and it won’t have to dictate how the whole sport functions. I think any mainstream visibility we can get will be good. Kiteboarding is on the verge of becoming very accessible, but not many people know they can just take lessons for two days and become a kiteboarder.” Adam seemed a little conflicted about the idea of kiteboarding being in the Olympics because he doesn’t like to see the sport becoming political. “When I first heard about the possibility of getting kiteboarding into the Olympics, I was all for it,” he said. “What child doesn’t want to have a gold medal? But when I hear about the politics and the details of it, I start to wonder if it is healthy for our

sport. On the other hand, what if it blows four knots? Trying to do a freestyle competition in those conditions isn’t going to make the sport look good.” What does the sailing world think about kite racing? Most of the top kite racers raced sailboats before learning to kiteboard. While many kiteboarders see course racing as an expensive form of the sport, most riders we talked to see it as a very cheap form of high-performance sailing. “From what I see, a lot of sailors are learning to kiteboard because of course racing,” said Adam. “Instead of racing on a million dollar sailboat, they can spend $5,000 and have the latest, most awesome racing equipment. It’s allowing them to take a sport they’ve been doing for a long time and are passionate about and increase the speed and level of the game they play. Everyone’s complaining about not enough money in the sport and not enough sponsor dollars and this is a chance to bring a lot more money into kiteboarding.” Rob Douglas, who also grew up sailing, said, “Financially it’s the most easily accessible form of sailing. If you look at kiteboarding as a class of sailing and look at what it can do, from the snow to the dirt, to the speed course, to the waves, to flat water, it’s the pinnacle of sailing to me.” Bryan said, “People who know me through sailing are contacting me. They’re saying, ‘We want to

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Johnny Heineken and Bryan Lake enjoy a close race.

get into that, that looks so cool. We want to race.’ Right now, we’re the most high-performance kind of sailing there is.” Damien didn’t grow up sailing, but he said, “We’ll go jump in the starting line with other sailboats and they’ll just be like, ‘What am I doing on this thing when I could be on that kiteboard?’ I see a lot of sailors learning to kiteboard because of course racing.” What do retailers think? We also talked to Evan Mavridoglou, who has a retail shop in the San Francisco Bay Area (Live2Kite, http://live2kite.com). He sees course racing as a small but growing segment of kiteboarding. “2012 is the first year we’ve seen kite racing clubs ordering boards. Ten to fifteen-rider teams are ordering race boards from us, showing that racing against friends is a fun and growing activity among kiters.” He also sees the perplexed look from kiteboarders when they see a course board for the first time. “Let’s face it - they look intimidating,” he said. “The most recent racing kiteboards look insane to the untrained eye. The fins are flesh-cutting sharp and positioned in ways that an average kiter can’t relate to. The 2012 IKAregistered boards are 180cm long by 70cm wide and two to three inches thick! These are not your regular daily twin tip boards.”

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What should people do who are interested in racing? The racers we talked to all recommend finding a board to borrow or a used board to purchase to get into racing. “I can understand people don’t want to go order a race board because they want to try it,” said Johnny. “I think you pretty much need to have a friend with a board to get started. If you can get a fleet of five guys in your area to do it, you can do simple pick-up races, have fun, and go drink beer afterward. It’s great.” Adam suggests that you can take steps towards racing without having to buy new gear. “If you want to learn how to race, first learn how to tack with the equipment you have. Don’t feel like you have to have the latest gear. Whether you’re in first or last place, you’re still racing against the guy next to you. That’s what is so beautiful about sailing.” “I’d recommend getting a used board and just getting out on the water,”

said Bryan. “Learn how to tack and jibe and experience how these boards feel when they’re going full speed. Don’t quit and try to ride that board as fast as you can.” What does it all mean? Before conducting these interviews, I didn’t quite know what to think about racing. Now, I see it as a small yet growing segment of kiteboarding being driven by a passionate group of riders. I’ve also realized that the growth of racing doesn’t have to harm any other kiteboarding disciplines. There’s room for every part of the sport to grow in its own way and if racing can bring more people and more money to kiteboarding, that could be a very good thing. Does it mean I’m going to quit riding waves and focus on racing? Nope, but it’s peaked my interest enough to get a race board. Thanks to Damien LeRoy, I’ve got a used one on the way. I’ll wait until I give it a try to decide what I really think it.

To watch the Kite Racer Interview videos, go to http://thekiteboarder. com/2012/03/kiteracer-interviews or scan the code.


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2012 Published Stories  

A sample of some of the stories written by Paul Lang published in 2012. All words and most photos by Paul Lang.

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