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Taking Winnipeg by storm in rain, wind, snow
New Winnipeg resident looking to increase profile of kiteboarding in Manitoba
Prairie winds are legendary, and our gusty breezes may help make Manitoba the next big hot spot for aerial kiteboarding.
Windsor Park resident Gerrit Rietveld, 24, has been kiteboarding for five years now, and says the sport — which uses kites to power wakeboards, skis, snowboards or landboards (similar to a skateboard, but will all-terrain tires) — is so exhilarating that he expects it to catch on big here over the next few years.
"Manitoba is the perfect place for kiteboarding," he said. "There are so many wide open fields, and if the wind conditions are right you can get going pretty damn fast."
San Francisco resident Bryan Lee agrees, especially after spending part of his winter vacation shredding around the fields of Manitoba with his old kiteboarding instructor Dan Grains.
"I typically kiteboard on the water, so shredding around in open fields on snowboards was a whole lot of fun," he said. "Manitoba has great wind for the sport, too."
Grains, 24, is a certified kiteboarding instructor who recently moved to Winnipeg from Toronto. He made the move because of his love of kiteboarding and how well Manitoba facilitates his passion for the sport.
"Basically you harness yourself to a kite 1.2 metres to 21 metres in length and use the power of the wind to propel yourself over any surface. It is an excellent all-season sport."
Grains is so convinced that the sport has potential to gain a real following here that he has moved to the city to start his first instructional school and kiteboarding shop at 2 Donald St. He expects the shop to open in the coming weeks.
"Winnipeg hasn’t had that much exposure to the sport so far," Grains said.
"That doesn’t mean kiteboarding isn’t here, but I want to see the sport blossom in this province."
Grains is already making leaps and bounds in that respect. Since he began promoting introductory kiteboarding lessons in the city, he already has 300 introductory students and expects to triple that number once his business gets off the ground.
He added that his numbers do not include the more advanced students he trains on the side.
With the weather slowly turning cold, Grains is only offering snow kiteboarding lessons but when the seasons change again he will likely expand to ground or water boarding.
Antonio Bonilla, 33, a downtown resident, is one of Grains’s newest students. He said that kiteboarding is one of the most "adrenaline pumping sports out there."
However, the new kiteboarding enthusiast said you should know what you are doing before you start whipping around with a kite.
"With a kite school in town you can get the feeling of the kite, know about the safety systems and don’t need to spend a lot of money on equipment you might end up ruining on the first day alone," Bonilla said.
"After some lessons on safety and kite handling, you are ready to purchase your equipment and start building up on kite control."
Grains remembers the excitement of his first kiteboarding instruction. He said it is a completely exhilarating sport, and one he wouldn’t have found if it wasn’t for his father.
"I used to really like wakeboarding behind my father’s boat, but he would only let me go out for a short time because of the cost of fuel, so I started looking around for alternatives to using the boat," he said.
Grains recommends that newcomers start with a smaller, 1.2-metre kite, which is easy to control. He added that more advanced riders can reach speeds anywhere from 60-to-80 km/h depending on their skill and on wind conditions.
He said the best thing about the sport — other than how much fun it is — is that once you learn the technique and your equipment has been purchased, there is practically no expense.
"You can do this in any open space," he said. "You don’t need to pay for lift tickets or go on expensive trips like you would skiing or snowboarding. There have been many times I’ve gone out to a farmer’s field and just kiteboarded out there for a few hours. I ask the farmer first, of course."
Because the sport can be performed anywhere — he said he has kiteboarded all over the province, including Headingley — Grains also offers the services of his mobile chalet (i.e., a school bus converted into a camper) for students to warm up in while they are taking lessons.
He admits some people may be wary of being dragged along a snow-covered surface at 80 km/h but says the sport is perfectly safe thanks to advancements in its equipment.
"Anyone and everyone can now enjoy the sport," he said. "Kiteboarding has become a very safe sport. The equipment has improved a lot over the last few years."
For more information about Aerial Kite Boarding, or lesson packages, visit www.aerialkiteboarding.com.
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