Kite boarding and kite racing used to be just a recreational pursuit for very few in the Cayman Islands not so long ago but thanks to Jhon Mora a generation of potential champions are learning the skills to raise the country’s profile in these particular water sports.
Colombian-born Mora came to Cayman five years ago after working in Ecuador and Peru, arriving here after meeting Cayman businessman Walter Fajette who is the owner of Agua restaurant and is also a business partner in their Kitesurf Cayman business. Neil Galway of Sail Cayman is the third business partner.
There was a limited kite surfing culture in the Cayman Islands when Mora arrived but he’s seen his membership grow from around 40 to over 100 in that time. On a busy day when he first arrived maybe 10 people would be out on the water, now it’s much more.
Mora said: “Walter was the one who brought me To Cayman after meeting me in Peru and having the idea of opening a kite school because there was none at that time and he shared the idea With Neil to put it together because Neil is one of the first kite boarders on Island and has a big background in windsurfing.
When he first arrived here, Mora was a kite freestyler which involved jumping and tricks, before turning to kiteracing, partly because risk of injury is reduced and also because it was touted as a demonstration sport at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
That will not happen but Mora hopes it will be introduced at the 2020 Games when he will be 38 and expects to be still competing at the highest level.
Mora trains mainly inside the reef area in Barker’s in West Bay and in South Sound.
“I am only 31 and if I stick to a good programme I will get there,” Mora said. “I represent Cayman because I learnt in local waters how to do this sport.
“I have flat water inside the reef and rough water outside it so you can train in all types of conditions.
“The idea is to have the local involved to do kiteracing. The sailing club has been very involved with us. Andrew Moon and Rick Caley are very keen because they know it’s going to be an Olympic sport.
“Waterman supplies all the gear in time for me and so many people have helped me to get this together.”
Mora went a month ago to Maui in Hawaii with the world No.1 Riccardo Leccese, an Italian to train for the North American Championships in San Francisco, acknowledged as the second hardest tournament globally behind the world championships.
This year the worlds are in China and next year Egypt.
Mora finished 14th out of 76 in San Francisco and won two races for racers who finished outside of the top ten.
“I showed the guys who were on top of me that I can do better than them,” he said. “Then we moved to the next event, Bonaire and I finished fifth overall and I beat five guys who beat me in San Francisco.”
Mora was champion of Central and South America and hopes to inspire more Cayman based followers of the sport, like Amy Strzalko, who took lessons from him a few years ago. Now Strzalko is competing in major freestyle championships in her own right.
“Amy learned with me four years ago and has improved a lot,” Mora said. “Now she is big into freestyle and competing in international events in places like Mexico and China. She and I are taking the Caymanian flag out there and showing it to everyone.
“Cayman is a great place for kiteboarding. I represent Cayman because I learnt kiteracing in local waters,
“I’m going to compete at the Europeans in Italy from 23 to 28 July and I’m looking forward to better results
“After my recent competitions people where very interested on where the Cayman Islands is located and asking many times how the kite conditions are here.
“Now we are working on a big kite event for February 2014 and looking forward to attracting the best riders in the world in Caymanian waters.”