Apr 10, 2012
Author: John Bryja
Lou Wainman is unquestionably the most influential kiteboarder of all time. During the late 90’s and start of the last decade, he pioneered the wakestyle movement and has been at the cutting edge of the sport. In 2007, it came as no surprise to SBC that a new brand was emerging with him as a partner. In just four short years, Wainman Hawaii has established itself as a core brand, with a strong following around the world. SBC Editor John Bryja caught up with Lou Wainman to find out more about Wainman Hawaii his vision for kiteboarding’s future.
John Bryja: You very quickly combined wake boarding with kiting. What in your background made this possible and what were the biggest challenges in the early days?
Lou Wainman: Truth is I was an average wake boarder and border-line pro windsurfer (not paid). Obviously in the early days we had no real idea of what we were doing. We used to all launch the kite straight downwind for years. Funny how obvious things seem today, but back then we were all pretty stupid, but we were all a family. In the early days the biggest challenge was trying to get paid without participating in goofy contests that just lie about the 200,000 spectators, when there were really only about 300. We turned to making movies, which was super smart. This was before DVDs or Go-Pro’s.
What do you think the potential for kiteboarding is compared to wake boarding?
The only way kiteboarding, on any style from wake, to big air to surfing…will get more popular or known is for television to get involved on a huge level. If they can make a huge success off a bunch of whiney people stuck on an island, playing some sort of high school spin the bottle games, then for sure any show with top wakeboard pro’s or Kiteboard pro’s living their lives the way they do would be some stuff I think a lot of people would be amazed at. Personally, I think anything other than water ski’s are easy to learn on. Eliminating the variables is what is going to bring success quicker. For example when we learned wake-style it was harder than today because we had no leash or brakes.
Lou, you have always been a visionary in kite boarding, where do you see the sport heading?
I would say that the wake-style type guys are going to have to get sponsors to chip in to build the worlds biggest half pipe system like we see in snowboarding. But way bigger... I envision a set of or multiple giant oil tankers or de-commissioned freight cargo ships, fitted with 1/4 pipe ramps on each side so the spectators can be on board looking down at the riders coming up to grind the hand rail…something way bigger and more dangerous than some fun boxes with sk8-shoes. For any sport to get respect and or viewers there will be a need for mayhem in speed, free-style and surf.
Racing needs to get rid of the upwind legs and goofy-ass course racing boards with 4 foot long kitchen knives on the bottom. Nobody can tell what’s going on anyway... and it’s really boring unless you’re racing, I hear. Lets see some high speed downwind obstacle slalom if we have to watch racing, but with a 30 knot minimum and something that works like in Indy....there are time trials and then it goes to the top few guys who have to race for like 3 kilometers through the gauntlet. Maybe the crowd can participate with giant water balloon sling-shots and paint ball snipers at each 50 foot tall buoy.
I think the surf aspect is pretty good how it is, just need time to sort out good moves and combine wake tricks with off the lips and so on.
Do you think the wake style guys are too focused on wake style today, or do they have the right idea?
I brought this crap to the table so I can say this: Any rider who claims that one style is better than another is like hearing somebody say: “I hate when people have to talk shit.” or something like: “why do people always have to complain”. Statements like this, even if they are one sentence long, completely and in such short numbers of words, re-define how stupid we all are. Truth is though, wake-style does feel and look cool, like a pro surfer wearing baggy boardshorts to the knee instead of a banana hammock. So in the end, we all are waiting for who-ever can afford to build the big ramp so the poor shmuck can hit it and feed his family while watching on the television.
Do you think kite boarding will ever surpass wakeboarding in terms of style and trick level?
I know a lot of pro wakeboarders that have tons of money. They would not be pro wakeboarders if they didn’t have it. Boats are expensive. Boat stands for: “Bust Out Another Thousand.” Kiteboarding can be really sick in the future but it will need a lot of money to see it happen and for the masses to enjoy. Sure, every now and then we see a guy jump a pier, or get a thermal up to the clouds. But in reality, for kiteboarding to really hit the level we hope for, it has to be the old guys, young guns and all the girls we can muster, to build some new foundations with each company partly furnishing and promoting the whole sport. I think that a lot of people watch TV, and when I do, there is 150 bucks I pay each month to do it and 4 channels I watch.... I wish there was some good stuff on TV, so when I rest from my awesome life out there I can watch myself and others doing it so I’m pumped up for the next day.
What excites you most in kiteboarding today?
Only things I have not seen before. Watching guys like Niccolo Porcella makes me want to practice. I’m involved with my own brand and seeing people smile makes me smile. Mostly I like to tow people in when they break down in the water. I hope to be the first paid kite-life guard or asked to be an old goat securing the perimeter out there at these events.