When the pandemic hit the East Coast, I did my best to socially isolate, hunkering down in my hometown of Nantucket, 30 miles off the southern tip of Massachusetts. I worked hard to respect the local guidelines in an attempt to mitigate and recognize the emerging threats of the global crisis. If traveling is a staple of an athlete’s life and often taken for granted, amidst the bizarre backdrop of life interrupted, the lockdown became an unforeseen opportunity to enjoy the Massachusetts coastline’s world-class surf, windy seasons and endless fisheries. Despite the frigid water temps, my 6.5mm wetsuit kept me warm all spring, allowing me entrance into the ocean nearly every day for the purpose of surfing, kiting or fishing. Having spent much of my youth pursuing professional snowboarding, the lockdowns allowed me to follow Nantucket’s transition through the seasons. Home for what turned out to be an incessantly windy spring, a
perfect foil and wake kiting summer and an epic fade into fall with multiple hurricane swells—I kited more in the past six months than I have in my entire life. In the middle of the summer, my sponsor Duotone called with a favor. Duotone was hard-pressed to produce marketing materials for its 2021 line amidst the travel restrictions of the pandemic. Renowned kite photographer Toby Bromwich had proposed I fly out to Hood River to meet up with Colleen Carroll, Duotone’s female icon, and take advantage of the Columbia River Gorge’s consistent wind and diverse locations.
Toby picked me up at the arrivals curb at PDX, and within 15 minutes, we were racing east along the southern banks of the winding Columbia River. From the car window, I could see whitecaps crumbling from the building wind as we approached Hood River. Confronted with howling wind and a limited timeframe to cover an entire range of boards, kites, and bars, we wasted no time and were on the water in a matter of hours.
When opportunity knocks, it’s best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The unmentioned wrinkle in Toby’s invitation to Duotone’s freeride photoshoot is that I have never been a freeride athlete. Generally speaking, most freestyle athletes begin their kiteboarding adventure with the standard fare of jumping, spins and maybe some board-off moves before maturing into the more technical specialties of freestyle and park riding. My submersion into kiteboarding and more recently the industry side as an athlete had remained largely dedicated to the niche portion of park riding. Toby was looking for someone who could showcase the equipment’s big air capabilities, while also illustrating the product’s associative attainability, capturing the interest of a complete novice ranging to the most avid consumer, yet my unfamiliarity with freeride equipment revealed itself in my first couple of passes in front of the camera… to read the rest of Life Beyond the Park, subscribe to Tkb Magazine.