Wet, Wild And With More Thrills Than A Rollercoaster

"Kite surfing isn't that hard to learn," Jensen said. "You start jumping your board a lot faster than you do, if you're learning to windsurf." But obviously there's a world of practice between those first little jumps and what is known as a "kite loop."

"You need a lot more wind for that," Jensen explained. "Seven on the Beaufort would be good," he said, referring to the Beaufort wind force scale; seven on this scale is a high wind, between 50 and 60 kilometers per hour. During such a trick, the kite loops while the rider is spinning out of the water. "You can easily get 15 meters high, then you dive down again -- it's better than a rollercoaster," Jensen enthused. There are only a few people in the world that can do this trick with confidence.

The Professional Who Lives In A Rusty VW Van

And because Jensen is one of those people, his sponsor doesn't only provide him with the latest equipment, they also give him a travel budget. "I actually still live with my parents in Pinneburg," a city near Hamburg, he said. "But last year I was only home for about two weeks." Basically his rusty old VW bus is his main place of residence. "If the wind is blowing then I'll either be on the water or somewhere between St. Peter-Ording and Fehmarn," he said. "And in winter I'll be driving to Cape Town to train." One relationship has already been sacrificed to this way of life. "Among other things," Jensen noted.

His sponsor is the company that belongs to American windsurfing legend Robby Naish. Naish won his first world windsurfing title at the age of 13 but then took up kite surfing and went on to win the kite boarding slalom world title at the age of 35. Naish is Jensen's hero: "Nobody is as radical as he is."

Unlike windsurfing, where the fan base has grown older, kite surfing is a young sport. On the German coast the numbers of windsurfer's sails have decreased -- and they have been replaced by swarms of kites, whipping back and forth across the summer skies.

Now Jensen hunted for a wave to take him back to shore, he held the kite with one hand and got hooked on a watery snag. The foam flies. But this time he had guessed wrong and he crashed while his kite landed between spectators on the beach.

German Women's Kite Surfing Champion Killed

And therein lies the catch with this wind borne pastime. "Kite surfing is still pretty dangerous," Jensen admitted. Seven years ago the sport made headlines when two entangled kites dragged Silke Gorldt, the German women's champion at the time, to her death -- she was pulled onto safety fences on the beach and died of internal injuries on the way to hospital. Since then manufacturers have tried to make kite surfing less dangerous, with the introduction of kite leashes, safety harnesses and various quick release features. Even so, a kite surfer died in South Africa this month when he was thrown against boulders and in June, two kite surfers in Italy were lifted out of the water by high winds and thrown against a car and a building. One was killed as a result. In the Internet you'll also see some hair raising videos of kite surfing accidents: wind gusts lift kite surfers so high they seem to disappear over the horizon, until they finally make a hard landing.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Year In Pictures
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview.
Ed Araquel/Sony/Columbia Pictures/AP Photo
PHOTO: Patrick Crawford is pictured in this photo from his Facebook page.
Meteorologist Patrick Crawford KCEN/Facebook
PHOTO: George Stinney Jr., the youngest person ever executed in South Carolina, in 1944, is seen in this undated file photo.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History/AP Photo