Nov 16, 2011
Author: John Bryja Fall 2011 Issue 12.1
You have a long history of success with action sports brands like Arnette, OP, Sole Tech and Burton. Now that you’ve been with Liquid Force for a year, what unique challenges does kiteboarding present, and what do you see as its biggest strengths?
First off, it’s great to be a part of the Liquid Force family. Liquid Force is the leader for wakeboarding in the action sports arena. The brand and everyone involved act and move just like other brands that are leading in action sports. This leadership mentality runs through the kite division, as we share the same brand DNA and goals as our Liquid Force wakeboarding brethren.
Kiteboarding is a new sport, still evolving and progressing. I feel like it’s in its teenage years, so to speak. The sport, to me, was born to a grumpy father called windsurfing and a liberal mother, surfing and wakeboarding. This has created a sport that is still finding its identity. Having these two parents are a great strength in the end, as kiting will find its way into the lives of more people with the crossover diversity it offers.
As for challenges, well, we, as kiteboarders, get a bad rap. To this day, when you put kiteboarding into a search engine for videos, all the results are people flying through the air with the outcome ending badly. I can’t tell you how many times people stop me on the beach and say something to the effect of: “Wow that is insane. I would love to learn, but I was told I would get launched into a building and die.” To me, this is because of the lack of communication and education that we project. It really hinders growth of the sport, creating the challenge of getting new participants and youth involved. Access to a spot is a massive challenge we are facing to a great extent daily. Beach access for launch sites are getting closed all around. And if we don’t all work together to again communicate and educate—not only people who don’t kite but also people who do—about respect and safety, we could be looking at some very limited launch areas.
How do you see kiteboarding fitting into the larger action sports industry?
I see kiteboarding getting a big group hug from the action sport industry someday. Daily, participants in sports like surfing, wakeboarding and snowboarding are picking up and learning how to kite. Take me for example: I started to kite because my local surf spot in Peru gets a ton of wind. One day, a couple of guys rigged some kites, went out on surfboards and had a blast as I sat on the beach hiding from the wind. I know my story is not unique. There are more and more surfers picking up kites, as are more and more wakeboarders because they see the freedom a kite can create at a lower cost than a boat.
What direction are you looking to take the LF kite brand in 2012?
Liquid Force is a product-driven brand, and for 2012 we focused on innovation. We are bringing new ideas to life that make kiteboarding easier, safer and more enjoyable. We are also taking the initiative to get more kids involved through youth camps worldwide, not just for those who already kite to progress, but to teach and get new kids involved.
Now that you’re directly involved in the kite industry, are you getting more or less time on the water?
I feel very, very lucky. I’m a strong believer in a brand being connected to the end user, and sitting behind a desk moving spreadsheets and Word documents around is not the way to stay connected. So we’ve done a ton of demos that have allowed me to get out and ride with a ton of people. The by-product of this has been more time on the water.
How has your local scene changed in the past few years?
My local seen has been in North Peru for the past few years. I do kite a fair bit in Southern California but, really, North Peru is my scene. My place is in Mancora, and the kite culture there has exploded. It has created a bustling economy for instructors, guides and the local hospitality businesses. As recently as four years ago, there were about a half-dozen of us in town who kitesurfed, and to see a traveling kitesurfer would be few and far between. Now, all the locals are really into kiting and there are always people traveling to experience the fruits of Northern Peru kitesurfing. It’s nice to see a little town enjoy the benefit of kiting.
Best place work has taken you: On the beach anywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Cape Verde, Africa or Belmont Shore in California, it’s all wonderful!
Favourite riding spot: North Peru—tons of waves in every condition.
Side gigs: Well, I have a small boutique, yoga, bed and breakfast retreat in Peru called Samana Chakra. My lovely wife, Johanna, stays on top of that, but I do help from time to time with setting up kite and yoga retreats and providing condition reports.