We recently caught up with sponsored kitesurfer and extreme sport entrepreneur, Jessica Winkler.
Jessica is an accomplished kitesurfing instructor and is best known for pioneering a kitesurfing business on her own in a third world country.
We asked her to share with us her take on kitesurfing and the vital role the sport plays in her life…
A Burning Passion for Kitesurfing
From the first time I saw kites dancing above the water in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) 10 years ago I was hooked. I used to go down to the water on windy days and just watch the guys practicing jump after jump. I kept saying to my husband at the time, “I want to do that” to which he just replied I would never be strong enough. This is the greatest misconception in the sport but at the time I believed him, so for 5 years I just watched. Finally after my divorce I decided I was not only going to kitesurf but I will excel at it!
I took a 6 month trip around South America and did my first lesson in Mancora, Peru. Leading up to taking this lesson I had only spent a couple of weeks learning to navigate ocean waves and was still pretty intimidated by the power of the ocean. Twice during the lesson I needed to take time out to try to build up confidence in myself. I was never a big swimmer and tended not to excel in water sports due to my discomfort in being underwater.
After 6 hours of lessons in Peru I was unable to find another place to complete the course until Jericoacoara, Brazil. I ended up staying in Jeri for over a year. I fell in love with the sport and kited every day. During my progression in kitesurfing I was also taking swimming lessons 3 times a week in the ocean to learn to handle currents, waves and rip tides properly. This was one of the most important things I could have done because kitesurfing can be a dangerous sport and the ocean is a very powerful force. It is very important to understand how to read the ocean and to stay calm in the case of an emergency.
I now absolutely love the water and spend most of my time in it either kitesurfing, surfing, wakeboarding or swimming. Once I got over my fear, I had the confidence to become a sponsored kiteboarder. I am currently sponsored by Fuel, O’Neill, Jet Pilot, You Scared?, ProTec, GoPro, Heart & Huntington, and I have just finished a film for Oxbow.
Starting the Kitesurfing Romance
Kitesurfing is an extreme sport and people should never try to learn it on their own. A certified instructor is always necessary for a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of instruction. People who attempt to launch a kite on their own without clear knowledge and understanding of the wind window and the equipment, often result in injury or in some extreme cases death.
When choosing a location to learn in I would recommend looking for shallow, flat water with as few hazards as possible. The school should have relatively new, well maintained equipment and knowledgeable capable staff and instructors. You can find this information by looking on Kiteatlas.com or here: Kitesurfing Schools Directory.
Kitesurfing Safety Tips from Jessica
Water safety in kitesurfing is extremely important. When you have so many elements to be concerned with, board, kite, wind, water, waves and other people, safety is number one. For me, I tend to be over cautious with my students. If I see someone kiting in an unsafe manner, I will point out to them how their behavior is endangering themselves and others.
One of the most important things is being aware of yourself in relation to others. You need to keep a good 30 meters of space between you and anything or anyone downwind of you. Always assess your surroundings before launching. Even as a spectator, never stand between the kite and the rider.
Secondly always remain in full control of your kite, on and off the water. If you feel over powered then you need a smaller kite or wait until the wind drops. Accidents happen really fast and the last thing you want is to put yourself or anyone else in danger.
Building the Dream Home – Kitesurf Resort Nicaragua
I ended up taking a surf trip to Costa Rica in June of 2010 to see my mom who was living there at the time. I decided to go to Nicaragua and check it out because it was close. About 10 minutes after I crossed the border I saw a sea of wind turbines facing a big lake with an island made up of two impressive volcanos. I asked the taxi driver to pull over so I could have a look up and down the beach for kitesurfers or windsurfers, but I didn’t see anyone, yet there was a good side onshore wind that day.
When I finally got to the beach town of San Juan del Sur, I spent the next week asking everyone about kitesurfing. The only thing anyone knew is that there was a guy who tried to open a school a couple of years ago, but it never worked out and at the moment there was no one doing anything here.
When I got back to Canada after my month trip I decided to start looking for a way to get down to Nicaragua. At the time I was working as a travel agent so I was exposed to meeting all sorts of people traveling to the area. About 2 months later I ended up selling a ticket to a guy who was building an action sports resort in San Juan del Sur and he thought the idea of opening a kitesurf centre was great.
By November I was on an airplane to start my new life. I’ve had experience with starting a kitesurf / windsurf centre in the past. In 2008 I was the Director of Operations for a million dollar Club Mistral / Sky Riders resort project in northern Brazil. That project gave me the confidence and knowledge for starting and working in a foreign country.
Currently I’m living in Nicaragua trying to start the first kite business in the country. There are 330 days a year of wind and strong side onshore winds Nov – May on Lake Nicaragua. I’ve started working with a Nicaraguan family who owns 800 acres of water front property on the best part of the lake. We named the area Amayo Kite Beach after the wind farm consisting of 39 turbines which line the beach. The spot is beautiful, private and empty!
My business Kite Nicaragua is slowly getting off the ground as I am still looking for an investor to help me build it. I myself have been fortunate enough to pick up a few sponsors who believe in me for trying to pioneer the business of kitesurfing by myself in a 3rd world country.
If you would like to know more, or you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section below, or contact me directly from my website.
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