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CLOSE UP: Oli Berlic

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Oli Berlic

Age: 25
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 158 lbs.
Years Kiting: 6
Favorite Spots: Jericoacoara, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent, Fort De Soto
Favorite Conditions: Strong wind and big waves
Favorite Moves: Kiteloop Flat 3, Megaloops, Strapless Backroll
Sponsors: Naish, Otherside Boardsports, Triton Kiteboarding, Capsule Boardshop, Stultz Clothing

Gear Setup:

Boards: Naish Momentum 134, Global Fish 5’8”
Kites: Naish Parks and Torches
Harness: Mystic Warrior

TIPS:

  • Never kite alone. If you do, make sure someone is watching who can call for help.
  • Talk to the locals when you get to a new spot.
  • When teaching without boat support, have a kite inflated for rescues. Make sure you know how to rescue the kite, board, and rider.
  • If the opportunity arises, go for it!

As Matt Sexton’s roommate at Eckerd College, Oli Berlac helped found the Collegiate Kiteboarding Association (CKA) after first trying to learn with a 12m kite and no harness. After finishing school, Oli moved to Brazil for a few years and is now the resident coach living onboard Meercat, the Zenith Ocean Voyages catamaran (http://www.zenithoceanvoyages.com/). Oli recently started a blog, so you can follow his travels at http://www.olibblog.blogspot.com

Where did you start kiteboarding?
A group of us would go to the beach and mess around with a 12m Vegas in St. Pete, Florida. At that time we didn’t have a harness or any idea of where to launch the kite so we got thrown around a bit. After we pooled together some funds and got a trainer kite we worked out how to generate power from the kite and I managed to cross a small channel at North Beach. The next day I was getting a kiteboarding lesson.

You were involved with the CKA from the beginning. What events led up to the foundation of the CKA?
Matt Sexton and I were roommates and we would chill out watching kite videos at the end of the day like Spare Change and Unhooked 2. We constantly asked ourselves, “Why is this not a collegiate sport?” The gears started spinning and we contacted Neil Hutchinson who played an integral role in the creation of the CKA. It went from an idea in a dorm room to a presentation to our board of directors to the finals in Key West that made it all real.

Do you think the CKA will continue to grow? What would help bring more young riders to the sport?
I certainly think the CKA will continue to grow exponentially. The thing that makes it tough to expand the sport is the entrance expense. You’re going to need at least a few lessons and you need gear. This is a very expensive hobby for the average student, but college clubs that have gear make it a little more possible. If you’re thinking of starting a club at your school talk to Matt Sexton or Billy Bosch, they’ll sort you out.

Oli Berlic. Photo "The Dudemeister"

Have any other sports helped influence your kiteboarding?
I grew up skateboarding, wakeboarding, and snowboarding which has certainly helped me develop a unique style. I often find myself trying skate tricks on my surfboard.

What riders inspire you?
Billy Parker, Ben Wilson, and Mitu Monteiro. He’s a genius with a surfboard.

What features do you look for in your gear?
I like a twin tip with a good deal of flex and pop and kites with fast steering and a lot of power. Surfboards depend on conditions, but the Naish 5’8” Fish gives me a great range.

What do you do off the water to help you on the water?
I stay in shape by any means necessary, whether working out, surfing, skating, or practicing passes on a hanging bar. Watching videos also helps to visualize tricks I’m working on.

What is life like on the boat?
Living on the water is incredible. To be able to spot a break, drop anchor right outside of it, and launch off the boat is out of this world. The possibilities with Zenith Ocean Voyages are endless.

What is something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
I’m a half-Brazilian street artist.

What is your worst wipe out?
A torn ACL on a bad kite loop my senior year of college. If anyone you know needs this surgery make sure they take physical therapy seriously. You need at least four months off after the operation. I got back in the water after three and I can still feel it on hard landings.

What is your most memorable kiteboarding experience?
The various downwinders from Cumbuco to Jeri that I did during my two-year stay in Brazil with the Palace and Gaff crew. More recently while we were in the Tobago Cays a swell produced some nice head high to overhead waves at a secret spot. It was a truly epic day.

What are your must haves that you can’t live without?
Well, I’m on a boat, so I only need board shorts, sunscreen, and my kite and board.

If you could pick any place in the world to kite, where would you go?
Mauritius. After seeing those waves I know I will make it there someday.

Any words of wisdom you want to share with our readers?
Go out and have a good time, try not to sweat the small stuff, and ride for yourself. If you’re pushing the limits you’ll get noticed by the right people. Remember why we all love this sport so much; keep it safe so we can all still enjoy it. Most importantly, travel!

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