AAnticipating the stifling heat of the Middle East, Justin Bruns opened the grand glass doors of the luxurious Holiday Inn, only to be greeted by a brisk chill in the air as he stepped into the first hours of daylight. a quick scan of the horizon revealed nothing but a rising sun—standing next to Damien Leroy, Mark Miedema and Evan Netsch, there was a stumble in the excited jabber, a moment of quiet as the group took in the vast emptiness of the Saudi Arabian desert. With no visual landmarks aside from the sand dunes that surrounded the marble steps of the hotel entrance, it was as if they were standing in some kind of bizarre oasis in the middle of nowhere.
In the fall of 2017, Saudi Arabia began implementing an audacious series of royal decrees aimed at breaking the country’s complete reliance on oil extraction and exportation. When oil prices dropped to all-time lows between 2014 to 2016, the kingdom felt the crushing economic impact and set about building a more diverse economy, foreseeing a future in which transportation no longer depended on internal combustion engines or oil. Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the son of the current reigning king of Saudi Arabia, is spearheading the Saudi Vision 2030 campaign with a series of progressive economic and social reforms aimed at modernizing and developing a tourism industry in Saudi’s deeply conservative country. Chosen as kiteboarding representatives to a government sponsored kite festival for the vision 2030 campaign, Damien, Evan, Mark and photographer Justin Bruns were invited along with representatives of the recreational kite flying world to showcase the power and beauty of kites in order to encourage change, openness and diversity in an otherwise conservative society.