Get to know the crew
Last week on Sessions, we made our way to Orlando, Florida where we caught up with one of MACkite's original team riders and of my closest friends, Steve Lee. Every winter I find myself spending more and more time in Florida. As much as I like snowkiting and snowboarding, spending a couple weeks in the sun and in the water is good for the soul. Steve isn’t our only team rider who migrated to Florida. Blake Olsen has also been living down there for years now, originally in the Keys, now in the Panhandle.
A couple times a year, Blake and I link up to film fresh kiteboarding tutorials, usually in Key West. It’s not the first place you would think to visit for a kiteboarding trip, but it’s a special place for both of us. We know how the wind works, how to get to some unique locations, and when it comes to filming, it’s hard to beat the miles of shallow, blue water surrounding the island. On top of that, the local kiteboarding community is awesome.
For this series I’ve been doing some rider profiles to introduce some of the people who play a role in our videos.
In this blog, I wanted to share a bit more of the story behind the Ride with Blake series, the location, and the people who make it happen behind the scenes.
Blake Olsen doing a Downloop Backroll Transition
The Kiteloop Playlist
This is the third year Blake and I have been filming tutorials and we’ve both learned a lot in that time. Having done almost 100 tutorials, we’ve started to take things to the next level. We’re now focused on progressive playlists designed to take riders from the beginning stages to the advanced on certain tricks or types of tricks. Our first playlist was a beginners' list on jumping with style.
Now we’re here in Key West working on a dedicated kiteloop playlist. I had planned on joining in on the fun and getting in front of the camera for this list. In fact, I’m working on my own dedicated unhooked playlist. Sadly, I had a knee injury snowboarding the month before. It will be a couple of months until I push it on the water again.
Our Favorite Filming Location
Flying over Key West, I watched kites darting along the shoreline as the plane lightly bumped against the headwinds over Key West International Airport. The sun was shining and kiters were on the water; I knew it was going to be a busy afternoon. As I exited the plane, I was greeted by Blake and Hilary. We grabbed my kite gear, loaded up the Jeep and made our way to our favorite filming location, Smathers Beach.
Our favorite kiteboarding slick in Key West
This is the rock jetty you've seen in most of our tutorials. There's a small beach next to the road with varying water levels, often accompanied by the smell of sea grass rotting on the upwind side of the wall. Not exactly perfect but close enough. Smathers is home to a solid crew of locals as well, including the famous Paul Menta, an original team rider for Cabrinha Kites, entrepreneur and, long ago, a kiteboarding trick tip master in the early days. Paul is living the dream running his business and kiteboarding in one of the most eccentric, yet beautiful, cities in the US.
We spent our entire first afternoon and evening riding and filming the first half of our list. As the sun set, I booted up and got on the water for a short session. Even though I’m still recovering, it felt great to get in the water.
An unhooked pop.
The next morning we were up at dawn drinking cold brew coffee and filming the interview portion of the videos. You might not realize it, but it takes a great deal of effort to film 12 trick tips in a week. You’re pretty much on 100% of the time.
We also had to pick up Kristen Cooper, aka Coop, from the airport. You might remember her from the Sessions episode in Portugal. With the forecast having downgraded, we decided to take a boat out into the keys backcountry to explore and chase some wind.
Day two, we only had 11 knots of wind at best. Not exactly kite looping weather, but it was more than enough to explore. Having an injured knee, I’ve started to look at kiteboarding differently: I’ve learned to appreciate all the little things that come along with it. Things like appreciating the nature around me and the strong sense of community in our sport. I’ve started to see the connection between backcountry snowboarding and freeride kiteboarding as well. The keys backcountry is simply amazing. We posted up next to an abandoned shipwreck on a sandbar and pumped up our kites.
You might not read about the Keys too often in kiteboarding magazines, but this is the kind of place you dream of. Miles of shallow blue water, hidden sandbars and slicks.
I love kiteboarding for many reasons. Primarily it's a sense of purpose and progress. However, aside from that, I love the travel element and exploring amazing locations. That said, none of that would mean much of anything without the strong sense of community one can find in our sport. I’ve started doing rider profiles in these vlogs, so allow me to introduce some of my favorite people to kiteboard with.
Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Style: Freestyle / Parkstyle
HomeSpot: Muskegon, Mi
Rygo is a MACkite Rider and videographer. The last year, he's carved a role as MACkite's resident gear tester and reviewer as well. You can catch him on two different video series, Sessions and Versus.
Outside of kiteboarding you can usually find him riding the local cable park or traveling to new kiteboarding locations as often as possible.
Style: Freestyle / Strapless Wave
Home Spot: Muskegon, Mi
Kristen is a MACkite Ambassador. She often helps out with filming sessions and other videos on the MACkite YouTube channel.
You can catch her in various episodes and likely on future content as we film more lifestyle videos.
Style: All Around
Home Spot: Panhandle Florida
Blake is a MACkite team rider and content creator. You can catch him every other Tuesday on his series Ride with Blake.
Aside from working as a full time content creator for MACkite, Blake hosts adventure camps and lessons in various locations around the world.
Hilary is a New Orleans native who was introduced to kiteboarding just last year. Since then, she's kited in 6 countries and is loving every minute of it. She’s been working behind the scenes helping Blake film videos and getting as much kiting in as possible.
Expect to see more of her on our Instagram account and in more videos in the future.
Tenerife, Spain in the Canary islands
Wrapping up the playlist
As much fun as it was kiteboarding and exploring with this crew, Blake and I were unable to get all the shots we needed for this new playlist. Luckily, we had a trip planned to a small Spanish island off the coast of Africa to check out the new Duotone gear. Tenerife is a famous windsurfing destination with exceptionally strong wind.
It was exactly what we needed to wrap up some of the more advanced tutorials. Between all the new gear to play with, the strong winds and all the great people we met on this trip, Blake had the time of his life. Funnily enough, after the first day of filming I managed to catch the flu! Some good did come out of it, however. Blake used a GoPro to film some first person perspective with larger kiteloops. After reviewing the footage, I have no idea why we didn't start doing this earlier.
Blake getting some air in Tenerife
Next time on Sessions
Coop and I are making our way back to Portugal this week while Blake is doing his first adventure camp in Egypt. The last time we filmed in Lisbon, my aim was to progress and film an unhooked Back to Blind tutorial. This year I was hoping to film an entire unhooked playlist in the lagoons there. Depending on my recovery, I may still film a good portion of that new series. We're also potentially linking up with a couple of Liquid Force riders who frequent the area. Aside from my home spot in the spring, Portugal is one of my favorite kiteboarding destinations in the world. In case you missed it, I'll link in that episode from last year.
Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Just a dude from a kite shop testing all the gear one session at a time.
Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people who pulled the trigger. A few years into a postal career, he decided to change everything and travel as a kiteboarder, freelance videographer & writer. His mission is to help people and share the stoke. Get out there and kite!
Producer of: Ride with Blake I Sessions I Versus I Destinations I Foil Fridays