Kiteboarding's 'A Freedom Thing' for Middle Aged
Posted February 18, 2008 7:18 p.m. EST
Buxton, N.C. — The fast-paced, exhilarating sport of kiteboarding is taking off along the North Carolina coast.
However, the identity of the people hanging underneath those kites ripping through the air can be surprising: Kiteboarding is reportedly the fastest-growing water sport among those 50 and older.
"It's just total freedom. Part of the time, I'm looking around, going, 'I can't believe I'm doing this,'" said Lane Dupont, a 53-year-old kiteboarder from Frisco.
A kiteboarder stands on a small surfboard with foot straps and uses a kite with a four-line control system to propel across the water. The kiteboarder must pilot the kite and steer the board at the same time. The technique enhances the wind's propulsion power and lets kiteboarders jump up to 30 feet in the air.
Older kiteboarders said the accessibility of the sport attracted them.
"Once they made the kites more safe, a lot of older people got out," kiteboarder Pam Bailey, 50, said.
"It's not as hard as surfing, probably a little harder than snowboarding," said Mike Raines, a 57-year-old who has been kiteboarding for four years. "Once you get the hang of it, it's kinda like the bicycle thing. Something clicks, and you go, 'Wow, I've got this.'"
Bailey and Dupont said kiteboarding fits perfectly with their lifestyle: It keeps them challenged, and it is great exercise.
"We have the extra time and money. Some people go down to Florida to go golfing," Dupont said. Bailey finished his thought: "We go to Mexico to go kiting. ... We lead the good life."
The sport's greatest appeal, however, lies in its excitement and outdoors experience.
"I just love it. You're with nature. It's kind of like surfing; you're zipping along on top of the water. The wind is free, once you buy the equipment," Raines said.
"We've been out there with dolphins and all kinds of animals, skeet going across your board," Bailey said. "It's just miraculous."
Raines said he believe kiteboarding will let him infuse his retirement years with the spirit – if not the lifestyle – of his youth.
"It's like a freedom thing, like the '60s or something ... without the sex of the '60s," Raines quipped.