Ride With Blake - Checking In From the British Virgin Islands

Ride With Blake - Checking In From the British Virgin Islands

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Aaron: Hey guys, welcome back. We are live on the island with Blake. Blake, where are you at buddy? What are you up to today?

Blake: It's been a busy day. I'm in the BVI right now on Moskito Island, which is one of Sir Richard Branson's islands. Behind me is Necker Island, where he lives. He just got in today, actually. It's incredible here; he's got quite a quite a thing going on.

Aaron: So what have you been up to? I understand there's some confidential things that you can't disclose, but it sounds like you've been having some fun.

Blake: Oh yeah. Non-stop action. Today I woke up at 5am, did a little email and video editing, and then I hit the beach at 6:30 and rigged my kite. I have some clients here with Olsen Adventures and I was going to take them for a sunrise session, but the wind was light so I went for an hour foil session. Then the wind picked up, so I took one of them out and she was ripping. She wasn't really sure if she wanted to kite or not, but throughout this trip over the past 10 days I got her going, board on the feet, flying around. Kiteboarding changes people's lives and brings you back to being a little kid again.

Aaron: This is the good stuff.

Blake: Yeah. Then I took the husband out later, and he just crushed it at his first really long rides. Over the top excitement. Next up was their little son, 11 years old and just ripping, having the best time. He rode so long that I eventually had to tell him to stop because we were coming up to a reef. Then we did a bunch of eFoiling, so it was pretty much 10 days of kiting, eFoiling, snorkeling, and exploring islands. I got to do some kiting there with Tommy Gaunt, who's a really legendary Scottish rider who has a school out there, so I had a great time.

Aaron: Nice. Dude, let's make sure we give you a plug for Olsen Adventures. Do you want to give us a brief overview of what you're doing and where people can find more information?

Blake: Yeah, so Olsen Adventures is my company, and then I work with amazing companies like MACkite and all the others. My parents took me on adventures my entire life while growing up in Saudi Arabia. We traveled the world windsurfing and climbing and doing all the fun things. I feel very privileged to have had a childhood like I did. My parents are schoolteachers so we lived modestly, but growing up in the Middle East we were able to travel a lot more. I know how hard it is for people to travel and see new places, or perhaps it's kind of scary and sometimes you don't feel comfortable going somewhere or going to a new kiting location by yourself. I offer experiences and adventures for people. I have taken people to Egypt who have never left America before, and that changes your life. I take people to see beautiful, exotic places and line things up for you, or just come along on your vacations and adventures. This helps you have more fun and gets you doing all this stuff while hanging out, getting to know each other, and filming and documenting it all along the way. I think that, through fun, it's the best thing we can do to change the world. It doesn't matter what your beliefs are, what your religion is, or what your political views are; we all just want to have fun and enjoy ourselves, so if we have fun together, everyone is having a good time and none of that matters. That's the best way that I've learned how to change the world, so that's my company and what I'm doing. Olsenadventures.com - you can check it out. As you know, building a website is a big job. I have an amazing web designer in Spain who's a very good friend of mine, and we work pretty much around the clock on it. I also have Olsen Adventures on Instagram and Facebook. I have a team of friends of mine that are managing it. I get the content, but I can't really keep up with it so my friend Huli in Egypt and a few other people are managing social media for Olsen Adventures. I gave them thousands of photos and videos to go through and share whenever.

Aaron: That's amazing. Do you have a separate YouTube channel as well?

Blake: Yeah, I've got hundreds of videos on there, and then I'm creating something like a video channel on the website because all my Ride with Blake videos are on MACkite's YouTube channel, but I have the links on my website as well. If you go to my website, I have broken down where you can see eFoiling videos, kitesurfing videos, beginner videos, and specific playlists that are easy to choose from. I'm creating a team of people that are amazing, happy, fun people, and I want to share their videos and get them on board. I'm making a team of riders that have trips like this that I can't make it on, like Pat Taylor from MACkite, for example. I'm just working on one person at a time, giving more people opportunities to go on trips like this and experience the world, travel, and meet new people through fun.

Aaron: It's a great idea and it's based on a passion for kiteboarding that you have. The passion for sharing that is one of your superpowers; you do that so genuinely and so honestly. I've been in your presence hanging out and talking with you, but I've also watched you interacting with somebody else and it comes through as so genuine and the stoke is real. I'm sure your clients appreciate everything that you do for them to take them out and show them a great time.

Blake: You know, we're all just people and it's easy to get caught up in status or cultures or religions, but none of that really matters. You're a person and I want to talk to you and hear more about you and understand what life you're coming from and what made you the way you are. You can learn something from everyone. You're always learning and growing and it's good to listen. Even if you don't agree with someone, you should listen to what they have to say instead of arguing. We're doing fun things together and I never feel like it's hard hanging out with a person because I'm having so much fun doing all these things together.

Aaron: Well, I'm sure you have some long days where you spend all day on the water, especially when you're doing lessons, and it's taking it out of you mentally and physically since you're out in the elements. But when that is something that is so near and dear to your heart, technically it's work, but it isn't work, and that's awesome, dude. You do that so well.

Blake: It's a balancing act. I have a lot of different jobs and roles, but I am so grateful and fortunate to be alive that, ultimately, if I'm tired or sore it doesn't matter because if I ever start feeling sorry for myself, I just stop and slap myself in the face. My grandma told me and my dad and everyone that if you ever feel sorry for yourself, take a look around you. I've almost died so many times and I've been injured so many times that it resets your mind. One moment everything's good and golden and the next I can't move, I'm in a hospital, I can't walk or talk, and it's a natural reset to the very basics of life where all these things we take for granted have been taken away from me. Now, if I ever feel sorry for myself, I feel very selfish and guilty. Anytime I have a negative thought, I think about 10 things that I'm grateful for and then that negative thought goes away.

Aaron: Yes. Along the lines of what you said about stopping and taking a look around, what is your situation right there? Because it looks pretty rad.

Blake: It's a beautiful night. We've got some mountains, and Necker Island is the next one over. We've got a nice pool, and I'm in a beach bungalow. In the bedroom I've got my mobile office for Olsen Adventures. It's getting a little dark out and I've been going non-stop, but it's been a long, good day. I think I had seven sessions today, the first one starting at 7 a.m.

Aaron: Dude, that's a long day and a lot of sessions.

Blake: But there's nothing I'd rather be doing at all than this.

Aaron: Where are you off to tomorrow?

Blake: I'm going to St. Thomas for a little bit, and then I have another 14 days of traveling around the British and U.S Virgin Islands and maybe Puerto Rico for some different water sports. Then I'm going back to Key West to get reset, catch up on work, make some more MACkite videos, and then go home for Christmas to Michigan.

Aaron: That sounds awesome. Well, you better swing by when you're up this way, time permitting. It goes without saying that we'd absolutely love to have you.

Blake: I was talking with Pat. Maybe we could do a ski day, or if there's any wind we can meet up in one of the lakes and do some snow kiting.

Aaron: Yeah. The temps have dropped but it's dry again. We had some snow all last week and we went out and had a first session, but hopefully we will get some more here pretty quick. Or if it's just black ice we'll go wing skate or something.

Blake: Oh, that'd be so fun. That's what I love about Michigan. I grew up in Saudi and then lived in Abu Dhabi, but when I was 12 I moved to Michigan, and what Michigan taught me is how to have fun in any weather. You could drop me anywhere in the world and I know that I could have a good time. You get real creative, and whatever the weather, whatever the conditions, you just go with it and get out there and have fun.

Aaron: Versatility and resilience, right? That's two good things, man.

Blake: And then you really enjoy every moment of the summer, that's for sure.

Aaron: Yes. It's just now about 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and the sun's going down and it gets tough, man. So come spring, we lose our minds up here.

Blake: Yeah, you have to really power through and get creative. When I learned to kiteboard I was 16. I had to save up all my money, buy a kite, and take a lesson, but there was no wind so I basically taught myself how to kiteboard. I had so much fun with it that when it became winter and was cold and snowing I said, "Oh man, I don't want to stop kiteboarding, so I've just got to put on some thick rubber and hop over this iceberg and get into the water." Then the days get short and you've got to be tough and just get out there and have fun. Now ice kiting is one of my favorite things to do. My dream in life is to go to Antarctica and go kitesurfing and eFoiling and free diving and skiing and snowboarding. I'm in a lot of tropical islands, but the contrast of being in Antarctica would be incredible.

Aaron: That would be a big difference to where you're at right now, yeah! Well dude, thank you so much for taking time to check in and share a little bit about what you've been up to. I look forward to connecting with you over the holidays if you're up this way. To everybody out there who's used to watching Ride with Blake, it sounds like you'll be dropping some new videos here in the coming weeks. I don't want to pressure you or put anything out there that's not happening, but I know you've got some things in the works.

Blake: I'll definitely make it happen. It's on my mind every time I go kiting. I want to make a video, but I also want to make a good one and I don't want to just put something out there. It takes a lot of thought thinking about certain tricks and exactly how to do the tricks. Then there's the issue of traveling non-stop and getting time not only to film, but also behind the computer and having it all line up. Sometimes you know the trick that you want to teach, but you don't have the shots for it with the kite movement plus the close-ups and getting someone to film. Being on the road traveling always makes it a bit tough to keep up with it all, but making MACkite videos is one of the best things that has ever happened to me because it opened my world and my life, and that's one of the reasons why I'm here today and doing this. It's amazing. I love MACkite and working with you guys, and I hope it happens for the rest of my life.

Aaron: Dude, we love you right back, and that partnership is something that we've been extremely thankful of. Man, it seems like a long time ago since you started shooting videos with us. It's been a while.

Blake: I think it's been seven years?

Aaron: Yeah. Well, you're a natural talent and you just have a way about you that's infectious, and people really pick up on that. It's all coming from such a good place. You are a wealth of information, obviously, and an amazing rider, but you're just a skilled human when it comes to interacting with other people and helping them to share that stoke and the things that you love to do. I'm stoked for you, man. I don't know what else to say. You've created this. Sure, we might have been a vessel, but that's all you coming through.

Blake: Well, thank you. I don't take it for granted at all. I'm very, very grateful for this life and I feel so fortunate. For instance, I broke my neck last year and it hurts really bad so I need to take care of it, but at the same time anytime I feel sorry for myself, I just think about people right now in Yemen or people in Ukraine, and just thinking about what they're going through and thinking about their life right now and what I have, it gets you through anything. When I broke my leg I was 47 days in bed, and then when I broke my neck last year it's very easy to feel sorry for yourself and think, "Oh man, this sucks. This is horrible. Look at my life." But it's all on you; you did this to yourself. I've got a bed, I've got a beautiful place to live, I've got great opportunities and great companies supporting me. We're so fortunate, and no matter what level you're at in life, whether you're down and out or whatever is happening to you throughout the day, it could always be worse, and that's what's got me through it. I think the most important thing in life is to be grateful and be nice to everybody, and not be mean. I was bullied a lot in high school, and I promised myself that I would never bully or be mean to anyone no matter what, because it really affects you. It's hard moving to America and it's easy to make fun of people, but it's a lot better if you're just accepting and give people the time of day. Some of my favorite people I meet along my travels are the taxi drivers, and I enjoy listening to them and hearing their stories and talking with them. I still keep up with a lot of my taxi drivers on WhatsApp. I was on eFoil tour in the Bahamas, and I got out of the airport and I got surrounded by like 20 Covid officers and so I was walking out pretty ragged and this guy's the first one in line, so he comes up and is like, "Hey what's up? I'm Tyrone. What's your name?" "I'm Blake." And he's like, "Oh, no way! My name's 'Blind Blake'." So we became very good friends. I told him the address, which was the wrong one, and we ended up going on a two-hour tour of the island when I was only 10 minutes away. It was like a $200 taxi. I took him to lunch, we had a beer together, and he became my really good friend. We talked the entire time and had the best time, me and Tyrone "Blind Blake".

Aaron: Heh, only you, Blake, only you.

Blake: We had so much fun. I had to go early one morning and I called him up. He comes and picks me up and he's wearing a pair of Hanes underwear on his head and he's like, "Gotta keep my under bottoms on my head to stay warm." So I gave him my North kiteboarding beanie and he sends me photos all the time with him in it, and he just says how grateful he is for his life and how he just loves walking the beach and everything. You know, it's the simple things in life and just talking to people and hearing their stories and hearing what they have to say and keeping up with them.

Aaron: Blake, you are a beautiful human. You have such a way with people and your star's only getting brighter, brother. I'm stoked for what you've done for yourself and I can't wait to see what you get going with Olsen Adventures and what you've got going on tomorrow.

Blake: Oh man. It's just one day at a time and appreciating every day. Even if you have a job, just go do something fun each day, even a little thing. You don't have to go out on vacation; just go do something fun. I love going for a walk, and then from there it just builds. Life is good and I'm very grateful. Love talking to you, as always, A-A-Ron.

Aaron: Right back at'cha, Buh-lah-kay.

Blake: Yeah, thanks for the chat; it's been really nice. I still haven't showered. I just literally eFoiled from the boat to the shore and walked here, and I'm still sandy and wet.

Aaron: As it should be, bro. Well, thank you for checking in, Blake, and I'll be sure to catch up with you next week and see where you're at after you have a little time to get yourself settled. But it's awesome to see what you're up to. Thanks for showing us a little bit of where you're at right now, and I look forward to seeing what you've got coming up next. Stay in touch, brother.

Blake: Sounds great, Aaron. Thanks so much; talk to you later.


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9th Mar 2023 Aaron Johnson

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