He didn’t even try that much, but he was amazing”, says Tommy Byrne, a kiter at Matheson Hammock, “He could do a lot of tricks, but he could do the “slim chance” that none of us at Matheson could do.” “I remember him trying it all the time, at first he did it but not inverted, until one day he went completely inverted and it was completely insane! The best slim chance of anyone riding at Matheson,” says kiter Nico Biaggi, praising the performance even above pro riders who would occasionally visit. “He was high, his kite was low, and he was fully extended. It was perfectly executed.” A born natural, and unique in his style, he was stunningly talented. That effortless style, always full of energy and always with a smile on his face, he embodied like on water, like in life. “My best friend and hero” says Devon Bateman about his friend; “He was the person I wanted to be like no matter what”.Today marks exactly 2 years since the world lost Stefano Aime. Stefano was much beloved in the kiteboarding community in South Florida when he lost his life in an unfortunate accident. As sudden and baffling as it was, many were left struck and heartbroken after the accident, losing a beloved friend, brother, son, and a brother on the water alongside whom so many of the top riders of South Florida grew up learning tricks and shared memories with. Halfway through his senior year at University of Miami, he had many friends at UM and it would not be wrong to say that his death affected a great amount of people, all around the world. Stefano comes from an incredibly lovely family (where dad and sister kiteboard too), that has traveled and lived around the world, and has left footprints on people’s hearts everywhere they’ve gone. Friends and families traveled from different places internationally to say their goodbyes to Stefano, and to comfort his suffering family. A son of a Scottish mum and a Chilean dad who settled in Miami with two little children, him and his sister took the best of both worlds, and offered the warmth of a friendship to the many they befriended in Miami and beyond.
Stefano was born in Holland where the family resided for a couple years before moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Aimes remember their days in Rio with deep fondness, as Stefano’s older sister Camila affectionately laughs saying, “Stefano was the most Brazilian of us all”, claiming that he spoke fluent Portuguese and appeared to be a little Brazilian kid. 4 years later the family made their way to the United States, where they spent a year in Atlanta before settling in Miami, where they live till today. Both children attended Palmer Trinity School and decided to further their education by attending college also in Miami. “Stefano knew it would break my heart if he moved away too far,” says his dad Jorge Aime, who spends time between his hometown in Chile and his home in Miami, and visiting his son in the West Coast, where Stefano had initial ideas of going, would be difficult to do often. The closeness of the family is easily spotted and undeniable. Stefano and Camila both stayed in Miami with their family, and pursued their studies at University of Miami.
It was still during Palmer days that Stefano took upon kiteboarding, almost 9 years ago. As family friend and kiter Ian McKeown remembers, “I was really excited for having a new generation of kiters coming in, since it was an older sport at the time”, he continues, “It was refreshing and nice seeing someone in high school learning to kite- wasn’t as common back then.” Matheson Hammock Park became a frequent location for the Aime family, and Stefano would be dropped off either by his mom Rhona or dad Jorge where he, with full enthusiasm and motivation, struggled through all the falls and crashes. Ian particularly emphasizes: “I remember he was having trouble learning. And I was like the older brother encouraging him, “keep it up, good job”. I remember him being frustrated, but he came back from that so fast- that was distinctive! I couldn’t understand- how did he get so good so fast. And he made it look really good.” In a month or two, Stefano just seemed to have all the tricks down, and as his kiting progressed, fellow kiters could not help but notice his effortless, unique and super smooth style. “He was younger than us, 17,18” Tommy Byrne remembers, “and he wasn’t as obsessed and serious about the sport as we were, and he wouldn’t even be there as much as us. But when he did come to the park- he was the best!”.
Motivated and enthusiastic, yet carefree, Stefano was just having a good time doing it. To Stefano, kiting was a time to be with the people he cared about, having fun with his friends and family. “The best was seeing the whole family on the water, Jorge, Camila and Stefano riding together all at the same time,” remembers Tommy who has been kiting in Matheson well over 12 years and is a family friend. “To him, it meant being with friends and family.” The closeness of the family was clearly visible to others. “Family was so important to him. And he was to his family. They looked up to each other, Stefano and Camila,” Ian says, impressed by their special brother and sister bond. Ian remembers that Stefano brought a lot of energy to the beach. “Joking around, bringing people together, he embodied it. It was a recreational time, always refreshing and effortless with Stefano”. He adds: “People gravitated towards him. My friends, Tommy Fields. It was his personality, his spirit. His excitement in life. He was living his life to the fullest.”
Jorge responds to Ian’s tribute on Facebook: “One thing that you and the guys taught him to master a trick was the full “commitment,” and no fear. He kept that philosophy for everything else in his life.” That philosophy has translated and become the motto known as #livelikestefano. #livelikestefano is the way Stefano is present today and keeps inspiring. Camila writes about this valuable lesson and inspiration on her bio on her website camilaime.com: “My goal is to fall asleep every night knowing I had an adventure that day, no matter how big or how small, you never know which one may be your last. My brother suddenly died in an accident in December 2015, it made me realize that everything can slip away so fast. He was and forever will be my ultimate role model, and best friend. He knew how to live. His #LiveLikeStefano hashtag has taken off because of his uniquely awesome lifestyle. It serves as a constant reminder that our time is now, life is going by quickly, we have to make the most of it.”
His physical life may have been short, but what he has left is a powerful legacy that lives on. Jorge writes: “Stefano lived his life to the fullest, with no regrets. The comfort that I get to the pain I’m suffering is to see how many people he touched and view him as an inspiration.” Through the people he befriended and got to know, whom he touched with his contagious energy, beautiful bright smile, and the positivity towards everything and everyone. His Facebook Wall is flooded with words, as dozens of people, friends from childhood, high school, family friends, sister’s friends, college friends, kiteboarding friends thank Stefano for bringing such positive impact in their lives and inspiring them. “A bright light in a world that can sometimes be far too dim”, “the most consistently beautiful spirit I ever encountered”, “Not only seeing life in saturated colors but saying “yes” to life more than anyone I have ever met”.
Today, two years later, Devon, who with Stefano were affectionately named “Devano” by college friends because of how close they were, shares about his best friend: “Who is Stefano Aime? Stefano is that stoking voice in your head that somehow convinces you to paddle out on those double-overhead days or boost that fat 30ft air on a howling day at Matheson. He is the travel bug that eats away at you while you daydream about exploring unfamiliar cities or chasing empty waves around the globe. He’s the inspiration and creativity that sparks during hour 12 at work for the day. Stefano plays a part inside of us all. Stefano has impacted and touched more lives than any of us could’ve imagined. People from all nooks and crannies of the globe continue to pay their respects through stories and pictures that pinpoint them all over the world. His thrill seeking and free-spirited ambitions have inspired countless trips to unforgettable countries, hikes to new peaks, and thousands of miles journeyed for others than just myself. Most importantly, Stefano has given us a second family and a real reason to call Miami, home.”
The reason for many in this international city of Miami to call it home really is the Aimes. Their unique energy is spotted instantly, and one could not help but be drawn to their infectious and positive dynamic. And Stefano’s special spirit surely comes from his beautiful and generous family. When an invitation is received from either Rhona, Jorge or Camila whether one would like to join a lunch or a barbecue at their house, one will not hesitate to say “yes”, just thinking and imagining the great time that awaits them, full of laughter, fun, great food (Rhona just cooks so well), jokes (Jorge will wait for you at the door to make fun of you), and just the warm and loving family-feeling with whom they just seem to share so well with. It is not hard to see where Stefano got his positive energy that so greatly impacts the lives of others. His family, even with all the hardships they’ve been going through, opened their hearts and continue to do so generously to the people around them, welcoming Camila’s and Stefano’s friends, and would just about anyone in their home with much love and care.
Camila wrote: “Though Stefa’s time was short, he lived it to the absolute fullest, and getting a chance to meet and know all of you was part of his adventure. Now I only ask that we keep him alive in our laughs, our tears, our experiences. He will be with us now, and in the future. Now it may seem impossible to speak about him without teary eyes, but I hope soon we can talk about his adventures and crazy fun stories with laughter and joy. That’s all he would have wanted. I love you Stefano, you are my brother and my best friend. I know you will be with me in everything I do. And I’m going to try to be more like you every single day, I’m going to try to live life for both of us as you would have wanted it.” No matter our situation in life, any single one of us, each in our unique environments, can be like him. Be caring towards your brother or sister. Be caring towards your parents. Bring positivity to others. Make that dream happen. Inspire the one next to you. Love life to the fullest. Live life to the fullest. Live like Stefano. Two quotes that Stefano’s dad Jorge found in his quote book; “Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today.”
Two weeks after his death on Christmas day Camila received a lovingly pre-prepared present for her from her brother. It was a printed poster full of short phrases, words that Stefano had chosen for his beloved sister. With his last present, as if knowing he will no longer be physically present, he gave her advice and inspiration for the rest of her life. “I will always read it in his voice” says Camila. “This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching tv. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, all emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate very last bite. Life is simple. Open your mind, arms, and heart to things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
Tefa loved life, and lived his live to the fullest.
Tefa loved the water but at the beginning it wasn’t the case.
When we were living in Brazil we had this pool with a net around for his protection because Cami was already a fish and her hair was turning green of how much time she was spending there. Tefa was more careful about this pool.
So what I did was put a belt around his chest and put two arm bands full of air through a belt, but the floaters were in his back, so he couldn’t see them ,i started this process of placing this belt everyday we got in to the pool, so I would walk with him, and with one arm I held him and meanwhile he was kicking I would press the air valve of the floaters until I took out half of air out, after a few minutes I just walked beside him , then he would be at the edge of the pool and I be in the other side waiting for him , so he swam towards me knowing I would get him, we did this exercise over and over until one day he realized that no air was in floaters and he was swimming by himself, then he became fish numero 2.
I m sharing this with you because Stefano is going to teach me to swim , now I have this sinking feeling and Stefano is putting floaters around me filling them with his spirit so I can float and his walking beside with me when I m kicking , letting me at the edge of this pool and letting me know that his waiting for me at other side of this pool called life. And this is giving me great comfort to keep going.
I Adore my boy
Two quotes that found in his quote book:
Dream as if you will live forever,
Live as if you will die today
And for all of us:
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
*- #livelikestefano has appeared in pictures: Chile, Brazil, Thailand, The Galapagos Islands, Belize, the Bahamas, Turcs and Caicos, United States- Miami, New York, New Mexico, San Diego, Austin, Vail, San Francisco, Hawaii, Italy, Dominican Republic, Spain, South Korea, Australia, Iceland, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Western Cape of Africa, Atacama Desert in Chile. And the list continues..
Words by Annemarija Asare