Far from the frigid beaches of Central California, Patrick Rebstock steps off a plane onto a warm Italian tarmac headed for a Red Bull Invitational Contest on the southern tip of Sardinia. From the small resort town of Chia, Patrick looks out on the crystal clear Mediterranean beach break known as the Italian’s version of Pipeline. Alarmingly, there isn’t a surfable wave in sight, yet an unknown competitor standing nearby, Francesco Maffei, doesn’t care. A last minute no-show pulled Francesco into the Red Bull entourage of other legendary kiters like Keahi Aboitiz, Patri McLaughlin, and Reo Stevens. Shoulder to shoulder with Rebstock, Francesco confesses that although the two have never met, the Italian has learned much of what he knows from this dreadlocked Californian.
One look at the expansive collection of online kite surf videos that Patrick and childhood friend, Ian Alldredge have masterminded on Vimeo, and you will start to understand how a couple of twenty-something’s from Central California are influencing the transformation of kite surfing the world over. The dynamic combination of hard-hitting music, high-quality camera work and jaw dropping surfing sets the visual tone for the progressive style that both Ian and Patrick have pioneered.
Long before they began kitesurfing, Patrick and Ian were snottynosed elementary school kids, kickflipping and grinding the sidewalks and schoolyards of Santa Barbara. Surfing was ingrained in their home lives from an early age, each learning to paddle into the Central California waves in the wake of their waterman fathers. At an early age, Patrick parlayed his personal interest in skateboarding into a side business of building skate ramps in neighbor’s backyards for cash. Meanwhile, Ian dedicated his younger years to the competitive pursuit of ice hockey. Little did they know these formative experiences would become the foundation of a future collaboration, both creative and competitive.
The two were introduced to kiteboarding as malleable middle schoolers when twin tips were the rage, both learning on handme- down Liquid Force Pickleforks. Hungry to kite, but hampered by the lack of drivers licenses, Ian would hitch rides down to Ventura to kite with his dad, while Patrick’s access to a kite beach often required taking his mother “kite hostage,” a term she lovingly coined for the hours she spent reading books or walking along wind blown shorelines. The crucial years of development happened in high school when Ian, one year ahead of Patrick, passed his driver’s test. Armed with wheels and the ability to bail out of school when conditions were right, they were free to pour their adolescent energy with single-minded abandon into kiting. Influenced by the professional surfers of Santa Barbara, particularly the likes of Bobby Martinez, Tom Curren and Dane Reynolds, the boys set out to apply the style of their surfing heroes to kitesurfing. Patrick recalls watching surf videos, “These guys are crazy, but we knew we could do the same things with kites and maybe even go bigger.” It’s debatable as to whether it was a conscious decision at that stage, but Ian and Patrick were set on bridging the performance gap between the kitesurfing they inherited and the progressive surf scene they admired.
At that time, the Central Coast kite scene had been shaped by pioneering wave-rider Peter Trow and the early strapless experimentations of Chris Gutzeit and Wes Matweyew. It wasn’t until the invention of high-depower kites that Ian and Patrick began refining their fluid yet powerful surfing in the strong gusty winds of Central California. The boys began to attack wave faces with control, aggressively setting their rails to draw more traditional surfing lines, free of the kite’s relentless pull. In that same vein, under-bar tuning inspired Ian and Patrick to explore the outer limits of long-throw bars that according to Patrick “freed your hands from being handcuffed in front of you.” Patrick recalls removing the stock stopper balls, “it allowed us to take full advantage of the kite’s expanded angle of attack while allowing your arms full range of motion to load up your body for maneuvers, which becomes super critical to that kind of surfing.” Innovations like sawing off their spreader bars to make way for rope travelers and the use of wax on their boards made a big difference in the fluid wave riding and technical aerials they ported to kitesurfing.
In 2008, Ian put his newly minted Naish sponsorship to the test and packed up his boards and kites to travel around the world with Reo Stevens. In hindsight, Patrick reflects, “growing up on the Central Coast, none of us thought that the next step was possible until Ian traveled around the world and progressed a ton during that time.” Ian’s return with newfound skills and perspectives made it obvious to Patrick, “Ian learned a lot riding different spots, with different people, and when he came back that exposed us to a whole different world.” This was a world that they were now eager to dive into.
The boys began making rudimentary videos of their early trips with a cheapo digital Flip camcorder, a gift from Patrick’s aunt. They didn’t care about the poor quality or crappy zoom, they were just stoked on the ability to record videos of their riding and capture the fun they had traveling the beaches of California with their posse of likeminded friends. Patrick had already acquired a professional quality 800mm telephoto lens which had been useful for taking still photos, but it was the recent advancements in digital SLR cameras that allowed him to begin using this same lens to capture high-definition kite video.
In those early days they learned a lot by picking the brains of the still photographers they worked with. Patrick created the internet video channel called Living the Dream (LTD) and Ian established The Dredge Zone (TDZ). One of the first videos on Ian’s TDZ channel was shot by friend and photographer, Toby Bromwich, in the spring of 2010. According to Ian, “Toby came out to shoot photos but we decided to test out the video on his new camera.” Patrick looks back at that first video, “It was super sick, it’s still one of my favorite videos for its classic riding with super smooth, drawn out turns.” Seeing the potential to create visually stunning kite surfing videos, Ian recalls long conversations in the car with Patrick, the two obsessing about camera equipment and different shooting techniques, as they drove back and forth to the beach.
The availability of the new cameras and high quality internet streaming were undoubtedly crucial to the building of the TDZ/ LTD video outlets, but perhaps more importantly Ian and Patrick had the help of close friends, fellow Central California kiters Bear Karry and James Ropner. Bear grew up with Patrick and was instrumental in the progression on the water, while James came to the group without a background in surf, but a passion to learn. United by the common goal of filming, the boys kited together as much as possible, trading places behind the camera to capture footage when the conditions were the best.
The making of kite surfing films had a very practical effect on their progression in the water. Patrick reflects on filming’s role. “You learn a lot when you are filming; you’re watching your buddy up close and you get to analyze his moves and replay exactly what he’s doing. Then when you switch, and you are the one in the water, you can try to take it one step further and now he’s learning from you.” While Patrick brought a strong visual eye to the projects, Ian had the newer computer and cranked out faster edits to bring their ideas to life. Disappointed in the way traditional kiteboarding media portrayed their side of the sport, Patrick recalled, “magazines would put pictures of kitesurfing with straps and riders sitting in the backseat – just blowing it – and then follow that with something that reflects the ‘new’ direction of the sport, but it didn’t matter because they already ruined all their credibility.” It was this shared feeling of disillusionment that inspired them to literally create their own media channels to push their vision of what kite surfing “ought to be.”
They chose gnarly music to make the clips edgier and they didn’t care if older kiters were forced to turn off their sound. The videos released on TDZ/LTD were aimed at the next generation of kitesurfers with the intent to motivate the kids and change the future of the sport. Patrick recalled, “We wanted to make something that we could show our surfer friends and get them stoked on kiting. If we sent them the normal kiting stuff, they’d say: ‘Oh that’s lame, that sucks’.” Although that viewpoint runs the risk of alienating many of our sport, it’s precisely that hyperfocused obsession with the progressive side of kitesurfing that helps top athletes like Ian and Patrick push the envelope beyond what’s thought to be possible.
While it’s obvious that not everyone will be the next Francesco Maffei learning to punt air reverses by watching TDZ videos, it’s clear that many kiters are ditching their straps for a more progressive style of riding waves. As to the future of kite surfing, it’s hard to know what is next, but one thing’s for sure. Keeping an eye on the videos coming out of the Central Coast of California will not disappoint.