That looks so . . . NOT fun,” I remarked to a friend as we watched Kinsley ThomasWong get dragged through the reeds at Laguna Lake, out of control on his two-line Wipika kite. Having absolutely no interest as we rigged and launched our paragliders, we watched from above as Kinsley self-taught himself the new sport for lunatics—it was called kiteboarding. My first impression of the sport couldn’t have been more wrong. I quickly followed Kinsley over the edge and learned to kite during the early days before diving headfirst into a kite school partnership in Cabarete and ultimately taking over as publisher and co-owner of this magazine 16 years ago. The pace of this adventure has been fast, and the momentum intense. I can hardly believe that I’m reflecting on over two decades of kiteboarding, but here I am, still having fun.
In the first few years of kiting, tight-knit communities sprouted worldwide from necessity. We were all just learning, and while you could certainly risk teaching yourself and frequently, this was the only choice, for others, there was safety in numbers as we navigated the new sport and its inherent dangers like unrefined quick releases and almost non-existent relaunch-ability. Our lives depended on each other—and the camaraderie that grew amongst early adopters resulted in many good times and lifelong friendships. As kiteboarding grew, so did events, and rain or shine, the industry, pros and everyday riders showed up to share the stoke, meet like-minded enthusiasts and marvel over new and improved gear. Amateurs and pros competed together and apart, all in the spirit of fun, and I quickly learned that bringing people together at events was the biggest perk of my publishing role.
The Pismo Kitexpo ran for 16 years, and the La Ventana Classic for 10—organizing these two events and watching them grow are the main highlights of my career in the industry. Working with legends like Kinsley ThomasWong in Pismo and Tim Hatler in La Ventana, I’m proud to have helped build them into the most anticipated events on the West Coast while supporting non-profits and collegiate kiters along with creating good memories for so many. I also have the dubious claim of hosting the most miserable demo event, perhaps in kite history, when a freak Arctic front converged on South Padre Island. Brand reps alternated between the warmth of their cars and manning their tents in the frigid exhibition space that was flooded with ankle-deep water. Carol Bolstad rushed to Walmart and bought us all rubber boots, scarves and gloves, and I will never forget Slingshot rep Neil Hutchinson begging in a somewhat pitiful voice, “Marina, please don’t make us go stand in the puddle again.” Thanks to the visiting LAKAWA crew from Minnesota, who showed us how to have a good time in cold weather, the event was not a complete failure.
After 16 years as Tkb’s publisher, personal matters have led me to a hard decision: It’s time to redirect my focus and I couldn’t be happier to leave Tkb in the hands of former pro athlete and Tkb’s current Editor-in-Chief, Brendan Richards. Since coming on board, Brendan has built upon the legacy of his predecessor, Paul Lang, and expanded Tkb’s editorial and testing efforts to new dimensions. Because of Brendan’s passion for the sport, I’m excited to watch as the magazine enters its next chapter under his direction.
I want to heartfully thank the industry, pro riders, photographers, contributors and kiteboarders from the world over for your support during all of these years. I am thankful for the connections I have made during my adventure with Tkb and for the kiteboarding lifestyle it has allowed me to enjoy. There’s a special place in my heart and a profound appreciation for the Tkb crews, past and present, who helped get me to where I am today, specifically with the support of Paul Lang, Neil Hutchinson, Maui Mike, Kinsley ThomasWong, JamieThomasWong, Holt Alden, Kurt Friedmann, Brendan Richards, India Stephenson, Gary Martin, Alexis Rovira, Jen Jones, Jim Semlor, James Brown and Shana Gorondy. Most importantly, I thank my amazing mother who told me to go for it when the opportunity presented itself. You all gave me the strength to continue, made me laugh when needed and gave me a shoulder to cry on when times were tough and my spirits were down. As it turns out, standing on top of that hill 22 years ago, I was wrong—kiteboarding changed the direction of my life. It ended up being amazingly fun, incredibly rewarding and introduced me to some extraordinary friends, whom I will continue to cherish as we all move forward.
See you at the beach,
Tkb Publisher/Owner Emeritus