A little about who I am… I love the water and I was lucky enough to grow up in South Florida, which is pretty great location if you love the ocean. I started sailing when I was in high school then a buddy of mine taught me how to windsurf. Being the adrenaline junky that I am, windsurfing pretty much ended my interest in sailing. I was hooked on windsurfing and it literally altered my life. From the moment I learned, I was addicted and began teaching windsurfing within 6 months of learning. At the time windsurfing was a relatively new sport, very similar to where kitesurfing was only a few short years ago. There were tons of people that wanted to learn and for a solid 3 years I taught thousands of people how to windsurf. It was also a great opportunity for me to be able to spend a lot of time on the water doing what I loved and getting paid for it! After teaching I had to decide whether to continue as a professional windsurfer and move to Maui or head north to college and attend the University of Florida. GO GATORS! It was a tough decision, but I chose to attend college at a place where the closest water location was a pretty crappy lake. Lets just say there was not much windsurfing going on for the next 3 years. 🙁
I came back from college with a degree, but the whole time I was missing windsurfing and the water very badly. I moved back to Miami and quickly went back to the sport by working for the areas biggest shop. It was great to be windsurfing again, and it felt like something that had been missing in my life had returned. College taught me some very important lessons, but one of the most important ones was not to deprive yourself of your passions in life. At that point I promised myself that I would never put myself in a position where I could not windsurf again and that ended quite a few out of college career opportunities. There were not too many companies out there that were going to let me go windsurfing when it was windy!
Shortly after working for the shop I picked up my first major sponship with Windwing. I started racing again and also got a sponsorship from Seatrend. After winning some races and garnering a solid reputation in the South Florida area I was lucky enough to get sponsored by Neil Pryde and ASD as a team rider. For the next several years I raced in many events, traveled to windsurfing destinations, taught clinics, worked trade shows, was Team Captian of the SFBSA, and lived and breathed windsurfing. Then in 1999 the strangest thing happened – after so many years of dreaming of going to Maui to windsurf I finally made my pilgramage to the mecca, but when I got there what did I see that utterly captivated me? Elliot Leboe at Sprecks with a two-line kite boosting insane jumps and ripping. At that point I knew I had to learn….
I came back to Miami really wanting to learn to kite. At that time the distribution of F-One was being handled by a former windsurfer in the Miami area. He had hired Trip Foreman (of Real fame) to be his sales manager, and although Trip probably does not remember he took me out on an F-One foil kite for a “lesson”. After the lesson I watched a video of some of the best guys riding on F-Ones and they were getting trashed pretty badly. Also at that time there was another fellow in Miami, who was definitely a pioneer of Kitesurfing, named Raul A. who was also a former windsurfer that I knew quite well. He was always begging for rides doing these crazy downwinders, but not out of choice – simply because going upwind with the kiting gear for that time was not an option. For the next year and a half I pretty much put kiting to the side because I felt that the gear was not at the level of development that it should have been.
During that period there was a core group of pioneering riders that were pushing the sport in Miami and some of which are very successful in the the sport today, namely, Kent Marinkovic, Larua Meyers, Victor Hernandez, Oliver “Mogli” Butsch and others. Since most of them were former windsurfers it was very interesting to see them leave the sport they all loved so much, and switch to kitsurfing to the point where they were never windsurfing even on the “good” days. I give these guys a lot of credit I personally witnessed many “incidents” with those early kites, esepecially the foil kites, that were pretty hairy. On one occasion I watched Kent at our main windsurfing launch, Virginia Key, put his foil up in about 25 knots only to have the kite completely collapse and then re-power in a split second, as they often did. Before I knew it Kent was 10 ft in the air flying straight toward the rock jetti downwind and he somehow managed to land safely standing upright on the rocks. I think he used one of his lives up on that day 🙂 I know Kent still has that foil kite in his shed, I don’t think you could pay him to even launch that kite now.
At the end of 2000 I learned that the Neil Pryde Group was going to beging producing and distributing Cabrinha. So in the Spring of 2001 I decided to get two kites for me, a 12.2 and 9 Black Tip and of course a 7 for my wife’s birthday – still not sure how I pulled that one off. I still remember Kent giving me one of the first Cabrinha’s out of production. There was a bag, a kite, a bar, lines, and a ballon pump (yeah we used to pump up 12 meter kites with a ballon pump!). No instructions, no hints, no help included. At that point I could have gotten the standard lesson that Kent gave at that time, which was pretty awesome. He would take you out on his boat and anchor in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Then he would strap you into bindings and hand you the kite and say – “go for it!” Not a bad way to learn considering there was nothing you could hit downwind of you, and in a few hours Kent would be around to find you – after he was done kiting or fishing that is!
Most of the riders at that time were riding a Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, however, I wanted to try some other spots. I had gone to Matheson Hammock a couple of times to windsurf, but honestly, it was a crappy spot to windsurf. It would always get too shallow, to the point where you could not ride because of your fin. Plus it was too flat, not even a bump to hop and plus it was waist deep at best. Wholly shit! A light bulb went off, and I thought, man I should kite there, and so I did. At that time it was pretty awesome. Although, I can’t even imagine this now, but I used to be worried if someone was going to be there to launch my kite. My wife and I would race out after work to go out in 6 mph…
To be continued…