Kiteboarding: Infiltrating the sailing community

Published on March 5th, 2013

jhTwo-time Kiteboarding Course Racing World Champion Johnny Heineken was honored last week at St. Francis Yacht Club as the US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. Johnny became the first male recipient to win the award in board sport, and in typical fashion, became the first award recipient to promptly trade his blazer for a wetsuit and go kiting after the presentation in San Francisco Bay.

Here are a few of the nuggets from Johnny’s acceptance speech:

Skiff sailing…
“My dad and I got a 29er when I was in the eighth grade, and that was the first boat that got me totally hooked on sailing. Going 25 knots downwind, out on the trapeze… it was the most exciting sailing I had done at that point. So my dad and I started racing together. I was learning a lot from him, because he had a lot of high performance experience, but I really hadn’t raced that much. So we were switching skipper and crew positions during the race. I was too nervous to start, but I could drive upwind, and he was too clumsy to be on the wire downwind. I am sure it looked pretty odd to see him, at the weather mark, running around behind me. I would grab the trapeze from him and he would grab the tiller. It was kind of a nightmare but we got pretty good at sailing the boat. But eventually I traded dad in for a younger more nimble crew, and our highlight was getting third at the 2005 29er Worlds.”

“In 2008 I learned how to kiteboard, and among the crew of kiters in San Francisco, we have been pushing the sport forward to where we are now. The equipment has come a long, long way, and the sport has grown to become global that is now infiltrating the sailing community. We are really proud to be accepted into the mainstream, and it means a lot to be given this award, as much for the sport of kiting as it is for me personally.”

“I think kiting is one of the purest forms of sailing. For those of you that haven’t done it, imagine if all the power from the sails goes directly through you and into the water. You are the direct connection; in a way you are the boat. There are so many subtleties to get the board to go fast through the water, to harness this sail that is 25 meters and transfer the power through the body and into the fins that are just skipping across the water. To get all these elements to perfectly work together is one of the most amazing feelings I have had in sailing. It is why I love kiting and racing; I am having so much fun with it. It is not just about the racing. As long as I continue to love kiting than I will continue to be out there racing.”

Award ceremony video:

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