This high intensity sport is not for everyone, but those who tackle it can glide and dive like birds and rocket through the air to amazing heights.
This winter day is exquisitely warm and bright and the wind is joyfully ripping across the water — just what the kiteboarder is looking for. I stand on the beach at Gulf Island National Seashore on Okaloosa Island and watch as the kiteboarders are fearlessly throwing a challenge to the turbulent winds.
I inquire about this high energy sport and am immediately directed to XL Kites in Fort Walton Beach for more information.
I find Roger Mosley, who is the lead instructor for kiteboarding with 14 years of experience. I ask what brought him to kiteboarding and he replies, “You remember that dream you had when you could run as fast as you wanted and then jump and fly — this is that dream made real. One day I read this article in a magazine about kiteboarding and I read it twice. I said to myself, I am going to do that as soon as I can find it.”
He not only found it, but now he teaches it.
This is a fabulous sport that brings an adrenaline rush along with a sense of freedom and the ability to fly. However, it can be a dangerous sport if you don’t know what you are doing, and Roger says lessons are really mandatory. Kites have a lot of power and you need to be trained to do this safely. XL Kites offers 6 to 9 hours of instruction before they are comfortable with releasing you, by yourself, to the wind and water. If you are not sure about getting into the sport, XL Kite can provide you everything you need to complete your training. For more information, call (850) 243-5483.
I ask Roger how kiteboarders stand being out on the water in cold weather and wind.
“When it’s really cold one wears a wetsuit that insulates you by putting a layer of neoprene rubber around your body and also traps a thin layer of water between the body and the suit. The body warms the water and keeps you comfortable. You might prefer a dry suit which has seals at the ankles, wrists and neck and is water tight.”
Wear warm clothing underneath and you are as snug as a bug in a rug.
I always think that the strain on the back must be terrific. Not so says Roger: “The harness you wear around your waist has great back support and the big difference is the fact that the harness spreads the load across the hips and back.”
I talk with Curt Palermo, manager of XL Kites, and ask him how high do some people soar.
“King of the Air just had a kiteboard show sponsored by Red Bull where one participant soared to a height of 83 feet.”
Soaring with the power of the wind is one thing, but there is an art of perfecting tricks while in the air. Today there are 660 named loops, spins and acknowledged tricks that one can perform.
I was amazed to recognize that they actually inflate the kites before sending them skyward. Every kiteboarder I saw coming out of the water wore a protective impact vest with slight flotation for safety reasons.
All were saying, “Great ride, I had a blast. Good workout.”
Laura Hall is a longtime Destin resident. She writes about local topics, sometimes with her dog Annie in tow. If you would like to be profiled on a future column, contact Laura at email@example.com.