Oct 7, 2009
Author: Colin Smith
It’s the worst-kept secret in the world of kiteboarding.
“Certainly more and more people are visiting Hatteras Island every year for kiteboarding,” says Brian Klauser, owner of Ocean Air Sports, the oldest watersports shop in the area, dating back to the ’80s under various names including Windsurfing Hatteras. For more than 25 years hordes of wind jockeys have been heading to Cape Hatteras for good reason. “The riding here is really unlimited,” Klauser says. “The possibilities for ocean riding and sound-side riding are still unlimited. There are still new places to ride here, which is amazing to me.”
Klauser, 37, has been around the area long enough to know each and every one of those possibilities. He moved from New Jersey to the Outer Banks in 1998 and immediately got a job working at Windsurfing Hatteras. In 2000, the original local owners sold the business to North Sports and Klauser was given the opportunity to remain at the shop where he worked his way up the ranks, becoming general manager in 2003. In 2007 the name was changed to Ocean Air Sports and three years ago Klauser bought the building at an auction. Then, in the spring of 2009 North Sports gave him the chance to buy the business outright. Klauser hesitated, briefly, and ultimately came up with the cash to bring the shop back into local hands. “It took some doing. It’s not that easy to borrow money these days,” he says.
From his early days stocking the shelves to his current status as the man who runs the show, Klauser’s dedication to his job and to the shop has become legendary. It’s so strong in fact that it very nearly cost him his life.
On August 3, 2004, Klauser was supposed to be enjoying his birthday. Instead, he was the only one in the shop when Hurricane Alex hit the East Coast. It was originally forecast as a tropical storm but as winds of up to 100 mph whipped along the Outer Banks, Klauser prepared for catastrophe. “I kind of took the role of the captain going down with the ship,” he says.
Things just progressively got worse when a house right behind the shop caught on fire and with the wind blowing 70-80 mph it never stood a chance. “The place was just a towering inferno,” Klauser says. Fortunately everyone made it out of the house safe. Heavy winds smashed in one of the shop windows with Klauser standing only 10 feet away. “We had hot coals, burning embers actually blowing into the shop. I was literally inside the shop stamping out hot coals on the carpet,” Klauser recalls. “I would imagine that if I wasn’t in there there could have easily been a fire in the shop. I was definitely a little bit fearful for my life,” he says.
Aside from that terrifying experience Klauser says he has loved every minute of working at the shop. His passion for kiteboarding is infectious and it rubs off on all his dedicated staff and every customer who walks through the door looking for an old part to keep their rig going and every new rider learning the sport in Ocean Air’s windsurfing and kiteboarding school. “Having a kite school is critical to having a kite shop,” Klauser says. “Our shop is located right on the water. We’ve got a WaveRunner dock right at our building. We take our students up to basically an empty beach on the sound where we can rig safely, setup, launch the kite and then there’s just miles and miles of area in the sound where you can go downwind, shallow water and no one else around.”
When he’s not busy with the shop, Klauser is kept occupied by his young family. He has a three-year-old son, Rudy, and a six-year-old daughter, Eva, who has even been out windsurfing a few times and has gone out strapped to Klauser’s back while goes out kiteboarding. Klauser says it’s tough getting his sessions in when he’s constantly being pulled in a number of directions, but the accomplished kiteboarder always finds time to get out and test the new gear each season. “That’s been a struggle for the past several years, keeping it all balanced,” he says. Klauser does his best to stock up on sessions over the winter in preparation for the rush of visitors during spring and summer and living in Cape Hatteras 12 months out of the year, Klauser knows why the locals stay and the visitors keep returning. “It’s different everyday,” he says.
Shop name: Ocean Air Sports
Location: Cape Hatteras
Owner/manager: Brian Klauser
Toll free: 866-995-6644
Local Conditions: Year-round riding in the slickest of slicks to huge surf in the ocean. Plenty of places to launch and ride on both sides. April through July provide consistent warm winds, then things fire back up October through December. Shallow water in the Sound makes this area a great place to learn.
Gear for the Area: My quiver is 7m,10m,14m, 5’10” surfboard, and a twin-tip. That covers 15-35 knots for me. If by chance there is no wind, a surfboard or stand up paddle board will get you on the water until the wind comes up. If all else fails, a cooler full of beers and a fishing pole can help pass the time.
Local Knowledge: There are a lot of places to ride here, many accessible by 2WD, but 4WD will get you access to many more. On the most crowded days you can still find a great place to launch somewhere else away from the crowds. If you are new to the sport, take a lesson and keep our beaches safe.
Lesson Information: We have PASA Certified Kite Coaches teaching from March 15th through November. Lessons range from $125 US per hour for a private, $450 US for our Learn 2 Kite program, and Kite Camps are $650 US per person. We are right on the water and we have a fleet of WaveRunners to teach with.