By Claire Walla
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… kiteboard?
Perhaps you’ve noticed them before: men and women who, at first glance, appear to be surfing, until, suddenly, they’re transported nearly 20 feet in the air—you pan back and notice that their arms are attached to a long string and a glider-like kite, which has successfully picked up both wind and rider.
Kiteboarding is a regular sight in other parts of the world, but it has a relatively small following here in the United States.
Linda Argila and Kristen Boese not only hope to change that, they hope to change lives in the process.
In a joint venture that combines the missions of Argila’s fundraising organization Challenge to Triumph, and Boese’s motivational sports organization Kiteboarding for Girls (KB4Girls), the two have created Dream Extreme. Part fundraiser and part female empowerment, the event is centered on an all-female kiteboarding clinic run by Boese, herself a nine-time world kiteboarding champ.
“We’re always trying to get more women into the sport,” Boese said.
Like any hobby, kiteboarding necessitates focus and discipline, which can help anyone out of a lackadaisical funk. However, Boese emphasizes, the sport has an enormous value for female participants in particular. She explains, it’s easier on the body than even those sports in a similar vein, like windsurfing (which actually requires more wind) or wakeboarding (which is more strenuous due to the constant pull of a boat).
“Plus, with kiteboarding you only need about a week of instruction before you can do your first jump,” Boese added. “It really raises your self-confidence.”
Though quick to pick-up, Boese insists that anyone interested in delving into the sport see an instructor his or her first time out on the water. “It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing,” she said. Kites can range from 12 to 45 feet (the stronger the wind the shorter the sail), and winds can be strong and unpredictable. Kiteboarders need to be trained how to take necessary precautions—releasing themselves from the control bar (which is like a steering wheel), for instance—should the wind get too strong.
That being said, however, Boese emphasized that it’s a sport accessible to a wide range of people, from teenagers—the youngest person she worked with was 13—to septuagenarians. “It’s crazy!,” Boese exclaimed. “I’m doing an event in the UK three weeks from now and one of the women is 70.” On the whole, however, her participants hover around 32.
Growing up in East Germany, Boese was raised with an emphasis on physical activity, and she dreamed of one day becoming a professional athlete. So, at 22, when she instead found herself working a desk job that had her sitting stationary for eight hours a day, she knew she needed a change. Though to this day she’s still not sure exactly what it was about kiteboarding that motivated her so instantaneously, she clung to it and never looked back.
“I quit my job and moved to the Canary Islands,” where she worked at a kiteboard shop, she said. “And now I travel the world [giving clinics and kiteboarding] professionally!”
Boese now uses the sport as a vehicle to instill confidence and independence in women around the world. “It’s great for women who don’t have a hobby, who aren’t into sports, or don’t really have a passion,” she said. “It can completely change their focus in life.”
For example, Boese said, she worked with a girl in California who had been very unhappy in her relationship with her boyfriend. “She felt like a needy girlfriend because she had no hobbies; she was always waiting around for him to come home,” Boese explained. After taking a liking to the sport, however, Boese said she’s much happier: “Now she has something that she’s passionate about.”
Argila, who began kiteboarding on Long Island about three years ago, agrees. “It takes a tremendous amount of concentration and technique, and the wind can be very scary—but once you overcome that fear, it makes you more confident in other areas of your life.”
Those participating in Saturday’s clinic have all raised at least $1,000 as part of Dream Extreme’s fundraising challenge. (All proceeds will go to benefit Steps to End Family Violence, based in New York City, and The Retreat, an East Hampton organization that provides services for victims of domestic violence.) But the afternoon will also include activities at a more moderate price tag. The Beachside Bash ($250, and free to children under 16) includes paddle boarding, yoga, and tai chi, among other activities, all accompanied by food and a live DJ. The day will culminate in a dinner party and auction (with tickets starting at $500), which will take place at the Four Seasons in Southampton.
“It’s the first of its kind on the East Coast,” Argila exclaimed, referring to the fact that the event mixes fundraising and kiteboarding to fulfill its mission “to empower others to overcome life’s challenges and live their dreams.”
Both she and Boese hope to collaborate more in the future, possibly bringing Dream Extreme to the west coast.