Where were you when Barack Obama first tried kitesurfing? Maybe you were at the beach or out in the water, or maybe, like me, you were trying to sleep while your work phone was exploding on the bedside table. Odds are by now that you’ve seen the images of former President Barack Obama giving our sport a try when the former Commander and Chief of the United States headed to Necker Island and entered a friendly wager with Sir Richard Branson: Could Barack learn to kiteboard before Richard learned how to hydrofoil?
I remember that day vividly; it started with my boss, Liquid Force Brand Manager, Gary Siskar sending out a company-wide email at 4am to break the story. I flipped on the television news; ‘Barack Obama Goes Kiteboarding’ flashed across the screen as B-roll Obama footage played in the background. I then popped open Facebook to a newsfeed cluttered with people sharing links to various articles and videos of President Obama accelerating on a twin tip before exploding in a spectacular wipeout. Then the texts started pouring in—first my dad, then my mom, followed by friends I haven’t spoken with in years. In no time Instagram was plastered with images of Barack Obama in a Liquid Force lifejacket and helmet. Back in the office all my Liquid Force coworkers were exclaiming, “Yeah! Barack rides LF!” and just like a giant snowball gaining speed down the hill—the most important thing in my day was Barack Obama kiteboarding.
Barack Obama’s first session was pure spectacle. TMZ called our office asking for quotes, “How excited are you that Barack was on your brand?” Tony Finn, the founder of Liquid Force, was asking us how we could capitalize on the momentum: “How about a Barack Obama day sale?” he asked. All day long people kept walking into the office to ask us, from a brand perspective, how excited we were to have Barack Obama riding on our gear. “How did you guys pull that off, are sales going through the roof, and what’s Obama like in real person?”
Stepping back and taking a look at this from a larger viewpoint, Barack Obama was the president of the United States for eight years and after a ‘scary’ surfing incident one day during his first term, the Secret Service barred him from the ocean until after his presidency. So, what was the first thing Barack wanted to do after leaving office? He wanted to go kiteboarding! We can all relate to this point and all understand that this is the fundamental aspect of our sport that brings us all together. Kiteboarding is fun! Moreover, it’s an escape from worry and a stress reliever for all—even a president!
There was a point in time where you would never think of handing the president of the United States a kite, and for a good reason; our sport used to be dangerous. Back in the day with no leashes, no single line safety systems and no meaningful depower, kiteboarding was extreme and was much more difficult to learn. As I like to say, “Nowadays, kiteboarding is only as intense as you want it to be.”
Here at Liquid Force, we work with schools all over the globe and use their feedback to develop better kite equipment that’s specifically suited for getting new people on the water. Over the past six years, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the demand for reliable and easy-to-use safety systems, lighter bar pressure and kites with more depower. About a decade ago, a typical kiteboarder was the super agro mid-20s party animal bro, who was ready to ‘point break’ with Bodhi. Nowadays, the kiteboarder stereotype spans the entire gamut of generations and lifestyles. This is the true beauty of having Barack Obama in our midst—proof that we’re an inclusive sport geared towards just about everyone.
This article was first featured in Vol. 14, No. 1 of The Kiteboarder Magazine. Want more like this? Read every back issue for free. Subscribe here.