Interview with Laurel Eastman
Laurel Eastman is one of the top 10 Finalists in our “Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer 2011” competition!
We caught up with Laurel recently, and this is what she had to say…
Laurel, tell us a little bit about yourself or your story.
Let’s see…..well, I have been involved in kitesurfing for a pretty long time. I was a competitor on the first PKRA World Cup Tour in 2002. Before that I taught kiteboarding in Kailua, HI. I learned in New Zealand, which is one of the coolest places on the planet to live if you love sports and nature.
I have a very popular dog, his name is Peter Pan and he is an 8 pound brown Chiweenie. It’s really funny because people come to the kite school just to say hi to him, and when we visit family there is this uncomfortable moment where people really want to say hi to Peter Pan first. I totally understand, he is quite charming!
Where are you from?
I grew up in California where I learned to really love the beach, however I moved to Montana during my first year in college. My family still lives there and it’s one of my favorite places on earth.
Where do live and kitesurf now and what brought you there?
I live in Cabarete, Dominican Republic – that is where my kiteboarding school (Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding – LEK) is located. I first visited Cabarete in 2002, to compete in the PKRA event, and then in 2003 I became sponsored by a local hotel who gave me the opportunity to build my business in conjuction with theirs. It’s hard to believe that 9 years have gone by!
How often do you kite?
When I am in Cabarete I try to kite every day that I can go on my 9 or 10m, which is very often. I spend 6 months per year in Cabarete and the other 6 months I travel. A lot of the time I travel for kite events where I do get to ride, and a lot of times it’s with friends – so that is the most fun!
Favourite kitesurfing spots?
So many! The reef in Cabarete Bay outside my kite school is for sure the best one. I also love the South Pacific.
Do you have any sponsors? Who are they?
I have a long standing relationship with Best Kiteboarding. I really love their product and their people.
Apart from kiting, what are your other Interests?
These days I am working a lot on humanitarian projects. I’m also very interested in psychology, I love travel, sports and fitness, boating/being on the water, technology, and health.
How did you learn to kitesurf, who taught you and when did you start?
It was a rough start, luckily I had great coaches – true pioneers of the sport and incredible athletes like Cindy Mosey and Jeff Tobias. I started in 2000, at the end of that year. It’s so much easier now!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your kite career and how did you overcome it?
Not being able to fully bounce back from a dislocated shoulder and corresponding surgery was really tough, it pretty much ended my competition career (at that time it was freestyle or nothing). Luckily I had my business, and I was able to immerse myself in that activity (building the business) and still stay involved in events as a comentator/host/MC.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am really proud of the work we are doing with Haitian immigrants who come to the Cabarete area to find jobs. We are employing and educating a handful of them, and building them a new community building where they can gather for their church services and hold elementary school classes for their children. It’s really nice to be able to give back, and seeing the progress on our construction project is really fantastic. You can check out the evolution of the project here: Kiters 4 Communities
It’s not complete, we are still raising money for the roof, which will be the floor for the upstairs dedicated school room and sewing center.
What is your preferred riding style?
With a big smile, my friends and loved ones, and some waves.
What would you like to learn?
One of my dreams is to get a Masters degree from Upenn in Positive Psychology.
Who influenced you to start kitesurfing? Is there anyone you really look up to?
My friends in New Zealand who were getting into it, the professional extreme skiiers and snowboarders who I had worked with on the Heli Challenge in Wanaka, and Flash Austin who came to NZ to compete in 2001 were my biggest early influences.
I look up to all the founders of the sport, of course Pete and Robby who have made great multinational businesses out of their passion and talent are both very inspirational for me. Also Cindy Mosey who won every single competition back then. She is amazing – she was always helpful and encouraging to the other female competitiors and she has a fierce passion for environmental protection and to preserving and honoring native cultures, she’s probably been my biggest influence in kiting.
Another kiter I look up to a lot is Richard Branson from Virgin. I really admire his ability to have fun while at the same time achieving incredible things. I also get inspired by his “can do anything” attitude and I love how inquisitive and interested in the world he is.
Describe a time you inspired someone to start kitesurfing?
Hopefully every single day when people come to my kite school!
How has kitesurfing changed your life?
It’s made it so fun! I’ve been able to travel to fantastic places with amazing people. I love my kitesurfing life!
Besides kitesurfing, what are you most passionate about?
What are you doing for Kitesurfing in your community or globally?
I co-founded a charity kiteboarding event in 2009, it’s called Kiteboarding 4 Kids, and it’s in Cabarete at my beach. It’s based on the Kiteboarding 4 Cancer concept; we raise money for children’s charities on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. In 3 years we have raised over $60,000 and this year we hope to raise $30,000. The event itself is a social “program” the participants are disadvantaged Dominican kids and by taking part in the event they are pretty positively influenced. It’s also really helped the relationship between the locals and the ex-pat kiting community in Cabarete, and it’s so fun!
The Kiters 4 Communities project is a social business I run with my boyfriend Pete. We recycle un-usable kites into cool beach bags, the Haitians sew them and earn great money, the kiters get a fun product to use, and all the profit is invested in educating the women – teaching them English so they can get better jobs (Richard Branson’s awesome idea – thanks RB!) and also in building community resources like the school/sewing center/community center.
I am also on the Board of Directors of KB4girls, a non profit founded by Kristin Boese, our mission is to empower women through the sport of kiteboarding. The events around the world raise money for local charities, help ladies get into the sport, or help prepare them for competition. I love attending these events as a coach, and also I am helping Kristin organize the local chapters program for 2012, to strengthen the network of women kiters around the world.
One of my favorite projects is being an Ambassador for the Global Kiter Foundation, an organization launched this year that works on social and environmental projects around the world. The GKF team are incredible, and this is an amazing way for kiters to become involved in giving back.
Other than those main projects I just do the best I can to be a good representative for kiteboarding. I get to work with the media a lot, when they visit Cabarete, or at events like the BVI Kite Jam or the KSP World Tour – I enjoy this aspect of my job and have a lot of fun communicating with the world about our sport and helping educate people or inspire them.
How do you think winning the 2011 Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer will shape your life and the positive work you are doing now?
It would be incredible! Mostly because it would help spread the word about the projects described above, all of which need the spotlight and to have inspired kiters come on board and join the efforts.
What do you think the future holds for kiteboarding / Kitesurfing and what can we do to improve our sport?
The future is bright! I think the most important thing we can do is continue to improve our safe practices. Safety is so important. This summer and fall my main “real job at LEK” project was making a DVD to go along with kiteboarding lessons which really focuses on safety and the safest possible practices. Having my office window right next to a busy kiteboarding beach/launch area I get to see so many botched launches, if people just learned the best possible practices and applied them to their launching and landing I think the sport will be so much better off.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
Other than more of the same (continuing to build my business, discover new kite spots in paradise, spend time boating, grow all the humanitarian projects) my main goal for the next couple years is to find a piece of land and build a house (hopefully in Montana) where we can snowkite out of our front door and backcountry ski out of the back door.
Kiteboarding with Laurel Eastman – Dominican Republic – On Voyage.tv
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