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Close Up: Sean Mertens

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Close Up Sean Mertens
By Marina Chang

Name: Sean Mertens
Age: 17
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 145 lb.
Years Kiting: 3
Favorite Spots: Home
Favorite Conditions: Side-shore winds with waves
Favorite Moves: Rodeo wrap, strapless frontside air
Sponsors: Flexifoil, Azhiaziam

Gear setup

Board: 5’11” Firewire KTJ
Kites: Flexifoil Ions
Harness: Dakine Pyro

TIPS:

  • If you go strapless, wax and booties give you the most grip.
  • The harder the bottom turn the better your top turn will be.
  • Always give the person on the wave right of way. You’d want the same.
  • Keep your kite low. Having the kite above your head will make you outrun the kite on a fast wave.

Growing up with windsports-addicted parents, free (and sometimes mandatory) rides to the beach whenever it was windy didn’t give Sean much of a choice. It was either learn to kite or be bored to tears. He started taking kiting in his own direction about two years ago when he was just getting good at wave riding. Most of the locals had gotten out of the water and some pumping high tide sets were coming in. Sean grabbed the largest wave of the day and as the peanut gallery watched and hooted, he charged into a big bottom turn, caught his rail, and face planted on the face as the wave reeled off without him. The hazing he got after that continues to this day and he has never made the same mistake again.

Photo Brian Caserio

When, where, and why did you start kiteboarding?
I started kiting in 2007 on the Central Coast of California. With my family’s dedication to the beach, it was either learn to kite or emancipate. It didn’t take long before I was just as hooked as them.

Have any other sports or disciplines helped influence your kiteboarding?
Absolutely — since kiting is so young we are still playing catch up. I look at what surfers and skaters are doing and try to mimic them with a kite in my hand.

What riders inspire you?
All of the guys at my local spot influence me a ton. As the younger guy out there I was always trying to do the stuff they were doing. It just so happened they were all going for waves. Watching kiters like Josh Mulcoy and Peter Trow showed me how far wave riding could be pushed.

What standout features do you look for in your gear?
I like my kites to feel like an extension of me, not something that I have to deal with once I am in the wave. Flexifoil kites deliver everything I want. They turn well in the waves but can also be parked and keep line tension. In a board I like a lot of tail rocker, which my Firewire has. I can hit the lip at the last possible second and ride away with it.

What do you do off the water to help you on the water?
I skate, even though I am not very good at it. There are so many tricks that can be transferred over from skating to kiting. The only problem is falling on concrete hurts a lot more than water.

What are you currently working on in the water?
I have been working on my strapless airs in the waves. It takes a lot of crashes before you can consistently land them. My goal is to be able to do the same stuff as the professional surfers in both turns and airs. Landing a strapless air on a wave is insanely satisfying. It’s all about pushing your riding and trying new things.

How do you think the current gear on the market can be improved?
Most board manufacturers are beginning to catch on that instead of trying to reinvent the wheel they need to take the shapes that work well in regular surfing and make them stronger so they can hold up to the harsh use of kiting.

What do you think about strapped versus strapless wave riding?
You can’t be blind to either. If you enjoy being powered and smacking the lip at high speeds then you probably prefer straps. If you are trying to get the closest feeling to surfing then strapless is your thing. Either way can be a lot of fun as long as you are going for it.

What is something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
I have seen a ridiculous amount of movies. Thank you Netflix.

What is your worst wipe out?
My worst crash was putting my face into my board doing an air. I landed in the part of the wave I call the V of death (the spot where the wave breaks and the whitewater shoots out from). The wave shot the board back up at me and it broke my nose and left me needing stitches.

Where is your favorite place to kite?
For me nothing beats kiting a great day at my home break. Sharing an amazing day with Brooks, Dean, Peter, Brian, my dad, and all the other locals is hard to top.

What is your most memorable kiteboarding experience?
Kiting a perfect point break for a week in Baja with my dad and my friend Brian Caserio. It was so good we would be in the water from morning until dusk and only stopped for Cliff bars and Monster energy drinks. Our tent is still filled with Baja dust.

What are your must haves that you can’t live without?
My kiting equipment, surf, and Chile Limon Lay’s potato chips.

If you could pick any place in the world to kite, where would you go?
Teahupoo — by far the most beautiful wave in the world. That wave is terrifying, but I am frothing for barrels.

Any words of wisdom you want to share with our readers?
If you’re not falling then you’re not learning.

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