Sunday, May 1, 2011

The History of Kiteboarding on Maui

Found this old article on the internet, 2002
The Kite Story On Maui
August 19, 2002

Add it like this

"This is the proving ground, if you can do it here you can do it anywhere in the world!" This voice is Joe Cool and he is telling Flash Austin about the importance of being able to kitesurf at Ho'okipa. Flash had met his mentor; a chance meeting that would change the course of his life. Flash immediately began what he calls "his daily ritual launches at Ho'okipa." In the process, Flash became the first hard-core, full-time, dedicated kitesurfer on Maui. The history of the kite story on Maui is filled with similar stories that involve a select group of athletes. In short, they seized an opportunity to create their own game and pulled it off. The game works on all levels check out the pictures and quotes that follow.

"If that's the way it is remembered, so be it, that's the way it was." This voice is Don Montague and he is responding to my concern that he is given the credit he deserves. Montague continues, "the main thing is that we are back to the grass roots. Just like the old days in windsurfing, everyone gets together to go kitesurfing. We are helping each other to get better and we are helping each other to grow the sport." Such is the spirit that characterizes kitesurfing and hopefully this article. Someday the history of kitesurfing will be written. "History," said Lord Chesterfield, "is only a confused heap of facts." Let's avoid the confusion of who did what when, this story about the spirit and the athletes that made kitesurfing a reality.

The Proving Ground
In the 1994 Cory Roeseler came to Maui as part of a Kiteski promotional tour. Roeseler, a fixture at the Gorge in Hood River, Oregon, is well known for sailing with his mini-winged hand glider-like kite and water skis. When he sailed out at Ho'okipa on this rig he drew more than one skeptical look. As Waltze points out, "at first we thought he was kidding and then we noticed that he was staying up wind and going as fast as the rest of us. It was Laird who saw the potential, he was determined to find a kite that would work for us." In 1995 Hamilton bought a rig from Roeseler and much to their dismay, he and Waltze quickly destroyed it. Then they moved on to a variety of "parapont kites." Working as a team, one man would launch the kite and sail downwind and the other would follow in the boat. Thousands of hours and many humorous stories later, Waltze and Hamilton established that a kite was capable of pulling them down wind on a surfboard. Then a breakthrough occurred. Armed with a kite that floated, Manu Bertin clearly demonstrated the future of the sport. Bertin had gone to France to get a Wipika kite from Bruno Legaignoux. The inflated frame of the Wipika along with its shape made it possible for one person to re-launch the kite. Kitesurfing could now be done solo and the shape of the kite made it possible to sail the kite up wind. The next breakthrough occurred as Joe Cool convinced Wipika to distribute their kites on Maui. The availability of the kites made kitesurfing a viable option for a select group of athletes who were poised and ready to take kitesurfing to the next level. Cool provided the vision and the direction that helped the kite community get started. Together, Joe Cool and Mike Waltze organized the first Open Kitesurf Event at Ho'okipa and the rest will be history. Kitesurfing, like windsurfing in the early 80's is in a stage of rapid growth. Each day brings new awareness about the future, new levels of performance and fun and new energy to maintain the momentum.

Joe Cool and Laird Hamilton speak to the future

Joe Cool
"I've been fascinated, perhaps obsessed with kites since 1983. I started flying a 16-foot flexi-foil around that time, ever since that experience, I've seen kites as the next step in the evolution of windsurfing and sailing. Right now I'm focused on adapting kites to sail boats. David Kalama, Ka'a McKenney and myself are working on using a 13 square meter kite to power David's 30 foot sailing canoe. The next step will be to use a 20 square meter kite on a much lighter boat. Kites are the future for speed in sailing and I'm stoked to be involved in making it happen."
Note: Ka'a McKeney, a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society... "I am always asked whether I think the (ancient) Hawaiians used kites on the ocean. I wouldn't be in the least surprised sighting the Legend of Ka Lupe o Kawelo (The kite of Kawelo)."

Laird Hamilton
"I was first exposed to kitesurfing in 1985 at a Water Sports Exposition in France. A guy was attempting to water ski using a kite-like apparatus. He was having a really rough go but it was easy to see the potential. Then Cory Roeseler came to Maui and the time was right. I was burned out with windsurfing, extremely ready for a new challenge. When I saw Cory that day at Ho'okipa I knew we could find a kite that would work for us. Experimenting with a parapont in my yard, I had a few close calls with the electrical wires before I decided that this had to be a water sport. Then we started doing the coast runs with paraponts waiting for the right kite to materialize. When Manu Bertin showed up with his floating kite we knew that the sport was about to happen. Now that the sport of kitesurfing is here… I'm excited to part of the fun. Kitesurfing is a natural progression of windsurfing. I like the fact that the sport is so open, windsurfers, and wakeboarders, gymnaststics¦ everyone has a shot at taking this sport to the next level. We will all benefit in the end, we will have a sport where you can literally haul ass. For me, I want to help establish the speed records for kitesurfing and sail around the world in a kiteboat. There are no limits to what we can accomplish in this sport."

Don Montague speaks to design

"The passion to fly, I dream about being able to fly from Ho'okipa down to Mama's Fish House (a distance of about 1000 yards). Don't laugh, being able travel that far in the air is only a few years away. As a designer, I have a computer program that allows me to change the shape of the kite in foil, aspect ratio and outline that allows us to make kites more efficient. Just as windsurfing sails have become more efficient for speed and power and maneuverability we will be able to do the same thing with kites. For me, I love the challenges related to kitesurfing; the challenge of learning to sail the fastest, win the race, jump the highest and make the best kite. I am driven to compete. Kitesurfing is still in its infancy and it will change a lot. I am here totally involved in the changes and I will be here to chase all these changes around. And now that Windsurfing and Kitesurfing are in my dreams there is no time to cut the lawn."

Mike Waltze and Rush Randle speak to the performance and the fun

Mike Waltze
"My first exposure to a kite was a sneak preview of the fun we were about to have. I went with Laird to the beach at Spreklesville to watch him fly his parapont. Laird urged me to give it a try and as I took over the bar he cautioned me: DO NOT TO LET THE KITE GO IN THE WATER OR LET GO OF THE KITE. Sure enough the first thing the kite did was start to dip into the water, as Laird showed me how to steer the kite back up a gust of wind hit the kite and took me 30 feet into the air. Wow! I remember thinking¦ this is some fun sport¦ now how am I going to get down? Well I passed that test and Laird asked me to join him for some real fun. Some of the fun came in the form of hairy adventures but we persevered and I'm stoked that we did. Kite surfing is my main non-wave activity. I'm addicted to the rush. I love the speed, the height and the freedom of the 3rd dimension. The feeling of being able to float and fly has driven me to excel at kitesurfing. Longboarding is there when I just want to relax and have fun. Shortboarding is there when I travel to Fiji. Jaws and big wave surfing is at the top of the list, but that only happens maybe a dozen days out of the year and windsurfing is still fun when it is really good."

Rush Randle
"At this point in my career I am focused on windsurfing, surfing and kitesurfing. When there are waves, I windsurf and surf. When there is just wind, I kitesurf. Kitesurfing is what windsurfing was for me 15 years ago. The sport is so new; it challenges me in a way that is both interesting and exciting. Kitesurfing is like skydiving from the ground up. I've done my share of tricks, the hele-spins and flips; right now I'm into getting massive air. I like to jump about 50' in the air and travel as far as possible, sometimes over 100yds. Kitesurfing satisfies my need to get maximum airtime. Our motto is to get 5000 vertical feet of air a day."

Flash Austin and Lou Wainman represent the new energy

Flash Austin
Presently on tour in some exotic country, out of touch with his friends but totally in touch with the sport he loves. This former professional skim boarder adapted a traction kite to a skim board and terrorized the shore break up and down the coast of Florida. Moving out into the surf he quickly realized the future and headed to Maui. Once on Maui he made the switch to a directional board and instantly made his mark on the sport.
"A contest was held and I just barely clenched 1st place. As I was holding the victory cup over my head with the distant roar of jets landing in Kahului, it was precisely the minute, to exactly the day, of my arrival one year ago. Since that fateful day I have been traveling, competing, teaching, and promoting the sport of kitesurfing on a world basis. It seems to be my fate, it is definitely my passion, and it may even be my life work. So if you ask me to write a press release, what can I say, but that simply, I love the sport, the feeling of flying one of these very powerful kites is impressive alone, but to surf at the same time, is a feeling that is almost indescribable. Then when you ride that wave, or catch that BIG air just right, well it is beyond¦ it is beyond the moment¦ it touches the face of the¦infinite, if you will. When I die, it is not what I have that will count, but it is what I have done, the experience, that I have acquired, that I will take with me. So I say to you, no I plead you, everyone of you to go out, and try it, who knows it may just change your life!"

Lou Wainman
"My focus is on adapting the wake board and wake board style to kitesurfing. I use a stock wake board with bindings. The only drawback is that in wake boarding when I make a mistake I can let go of the bar and have the boat pick me up and start all over. In kitesurfing, I have to hold on to the bar, which slows down the learning process. At first I had trouble adapting to having a smaller margin of error on the kite. But now¦ I'm totally stoked. As a kid growing up in Orlando Florida I dreamed of being able to windsurf with the best guys in the world. All I wanted to do was be in the water, have fun and rip at what I love to do. A few years ago I had a major decision to make. Go on the professional wake boarding tour or come to Maui and windsurf. I saw a picture of Laird in WINDTACKS Magazine on a kite and I decided right then that kitesurfing was for me. I came to Maui, struggled at first but now I've made it and I'm living my dream. I will take this sport as far as I can."

Anne Pigon and Julie Prochaska represent the woman

Anne Pigon
"I came to Maui in September. I have been kitesurfing for a year and a half. I learned in France from my boyfriend Laurent Ness. He pioneered the sport in France, he has the biggest kitesurfshop and kitesurf school in Europe. I love being associated with this new sport. I love the feeling of being able to travel so easy on such a small board, and to be able to jump in flat water and light wind. My focus right now is on jumping and learning to ride the waves. My desire is train all over the World and stay at the top in terms of my performance. I want to kitesurf in small waves and then push my limits in bigger and bigger waves. I'm very excited to be here on Maui. It's like a dream, I feel blessed. I'm only 19, a team rider for Naish kites, sponsored by Axel'air Kitesurfshop and Stonkerboard, and… I'm here for two and half more months. I'm so stoked; I don't want this time to end. As we say on Maui, ride on!"

Julie Prochaska
"I came to Maui in January with one goal in mind, I wanted to sail faster. Competing on the World Cup Racing Tour has been my main focus. I had absolutely no interest in kitesurfing; in fact I only tried it to make my boyfriend Chris happy. Wow¦I'm glad I did¦ kitesurfing is now my number one activity. In one year I have grown to love this sport more than windsurfing, a fact I never would have believed. I am totally stoked; my drive to excel is a pure-passion for the speed, power and fun of kitesurfing."

Pete Cabrinha and Robby Naish speak for the profession

Pete and Robby have been competing against each other since littlest of little kid days. Loyal friends and fierce competitors, these two icons from the windsurfing world went head to head in the King of the Air Kitesurf Event at Ho'okipa last October. This event showed the world just how far the sport has come. Pete and Robby demonstrated along with a host of other really talented athletes the cutting edge of what is possible for speed, air and wave riding with kites.

Pete Cabrinha
"It's hard for me to express the passion I have for kitesurfing in a sound bite but here goes... There is this switch in the back of my mind that works like a motion detector. It comes on at the earliest signs of something moving in front of my path. The switch makes me stop what I'm doing for a second and take a good look at what's going on. The switch came on a long time ago for kitesurfing; it was at the World Cup in LaTorche, France in 1986. I was waiting for the wind to come up. Windsurfers were standing still on their race boards with 7 square meter sails. This guy on a kite with water skis takes off from the beach and goes flying past the sailors; he headed around the point never to be seen again. That was the first hint of what was coming. In 1986, I was completely focused on windsurfing as there were new developments around every corner. I started seeing the kites again in Maui a couple of years ago and that's when the switch came on like a 'freakin' burglar alarm. It was then that I decided to give it a try. Kitesurfing is absolutely the most fun sport to come along in a long time and I love it. It's equal parts windsurfing, wakeboarding, and surfing with the added bonus of RIDICULOUS hang time. Kitesurfing is a great spectacle so it is easy to see why people are interested in finding a workable format for competition. Since it doesn't take too much wind to perform decent maneuvers, and because you can get a huge amount of air even on flat water, the professional potential of the sport is huge. I'm sure in time there will be more events that will eventually lead to some kind of tour. That's a given. But I'd like to see things move slowly to give the sport time to work out the kinks. The future of kitesurfing looks good, but it's too much fun not to enjoy in the present. I've been competing in kitesurfing lately in Maui, Morocco and Switzerland as a way to help nurture the sport along but competition is not my ultimate plan for this sport."

Robby Naish
"For years I have been involved in windsurfing, surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding, etc. Kitesurfing is great fun and simply another excuse for me to be on the water. I enjoy the technical side of developing kites and boards, but the real fun for me is in the doing. In the beginning of the sport I was not so interested in getting involved. I did a coast run or two and the rewards did not match up with the time and effort invested as it was always a one-way ride. However, around the end of last year my sail designer Don Montague, who has long been sold on kites pushed me to see and feel the potential. Naish Sails Hawaii has since become heavily involved in the production of kites and boards. We are committed to being a driving force in the evolution of this new sport, and our team riders Pete Cabrinha; Flash Austin, Anne Pigon, others and myself are pushing the limits of what is possible. I'm stoked!"

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