“Everybody wants to walk on water,” says Caymanian kitesurfer Sean Myers.
Today it feels more like flying.
He carves across the shallow turquoise water off Barkers beach before launching into a gravity-defying jump, soaring above the bay in a long sweeping parabola.
At the top of the arc, fully 30 feet above the surface, he seems to pause for a second in mid-air before landing with a dramatic splash and surging away toward the reef line.
“When you jump, everything goes white,” he says.
“It is like everything else goes out of your mind. You feel totally free, to be honest.”
Myers was one of the first Caymanians to get into the sport.
Giovanni Swaby was next.
“We were camping and I saw him (Sean) doing it and I was like, what’s that?” he remembers.
He was 13 at the time and small enough to take a ride on his older friend’s back. After that, he was hooked.
Lessons are expensive, but Jhon Mora of Kitesurf Cayman offered to teach him for free.
Now 16, Swaby is one of the more accomplished kiters in the water off Barkers, performing an incredible array of jumps and stunts.
Both he and Sean work for Mora and hope to become instructors.
They were the first beneficiaries of an ad-hoc ‘pay it forward’ philosophy at the school that is now expanding into a formal programme in kiteboarding, offering free coaching for Caymanian teenagers.
“I would like more Caymanians to get involved in this activity,” said Mora. “We have one of the top locations in the world for kitesurfing.”
Even though Kitesurf Cayman has been at Barkers for a decade, he believes many Caymanians are still unfamiliar with the sport. And for younger people in particular, the startup costs of lessons and equipment are prohibitive.
Wind for Future
Now, two experienced kiteboarders, Fil Nikic and Gustavo Sancinetti, are helping bridge that gap by offering free instruction to teenagers from the public school system.
The Wind for Future programme aims to work with interested children and their parents to offer lessons in a safe environment. Using the school’s equipment and guidance, they aim to introduce more young Caymanians to the sport.
“We want the parents to come out and see as well, so the whole family is comfortable,” said Nikic.
“Everything is free for the kids; we only ask that they show up on time.”
The programme is already under way with its first student Diego Pino, 15, beginning lessons over the last month.
He has learned to launch and control the kite and was working on learning to ride with Nikic on Saturday.
One of the great things about the sport, says Nikic, is that it is hard work.
“Kiting is a huge learning curve. Gus and I are still learning seven years later. It is something you can do forever and build on your skills.”
For Diego it has been tough but rewarding.
“It has really been a fun experience ever since I started,” he said. “It was helpful to get my mind off all these other different situations. Spending more time in the outside world instead of being on my phone all the time.”
Sancinetti says young people will learn a lot of life skills in the process of becoming accomplished kiteboarders. Courage, perseverance and confidence are all necessary attributes.
Both men say they want to pass on their passion for the sport to those who might not know about it or have the funds to get involved.
“The idea is that it is for kids who wouldn’t necessarily get the exposure or the chance to get a start in the sport,” said Sancinetti.
Kiteboarding can also open up doors. For Swaby that has meant a summer and weekend job at the beach, helping kiters get in and out of the water, demonstrating skills for novice riders and doing whatever odd jobs the school needs.
The payoff has been free riding time.
“When I started working here, I started to get good pretty quickly because I could go out all the time,” he said.
Extreme as the sport may sound, he sees it as a way to get away from everything.
“It is relaxing because you can only focus on one thing, you don’t have anything else going on.”
There are other advantages, says Nikic. He believes the connections the kids make among the professionals that frequent the beach could be valuable to them later in life.
Paying it forward
Mora hopes the programme will set a chain in motion with each new student eventually becoming good enough to give back by helping to teach the next one.
“We are trying to create a virtuous circle where everybody pays it forward,” he said.
Swaby, who is already helping to pass on his skills and enthusiasm for the sport, struggles to explain why more Caymanians are not involved with kiteboarding,
“I think they just don’t know about it,” he said. “Once they try it, they would be hooked.”
Wind for Future
What is it?
An organisation of windsurfers and kitesurfers who want to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation.
Who is involved?
The project is being led by Fil Nikic and Gustavo Sancinetti in partnership with Jhon Mora, owner of Kitesurf Cayman.
What does it involve?
Free instruction in kitesurfing or windsurfing at Barkers beach with professional instructors and all equipment provided by Kitesurf Cayman.
What does it take?
A minimum of eight lessons are usually required to become self-sufficient in either sport. Ordinarily that would cost around $1,000.
Who can apply?
The programme is open to Caymanian teenagers (preferably 14 or over and from government schools).
What else is needed?
Students need to have a good attitude and turn up early for lessons. Everything else is free.
Is it safe?
A safe, encouraging environment is the first priority of the programme, says Nikic. Instructors meet with parents or guardians prior to commencing lessons to ensure that they are comfortable with the programme.
How do you get involved?
For more information or to sign up email [email protected]