Every morning, whatever the weather, he can be found scrutinising his phone for the latest wind conditions, before setting out to conquer new open spaces, kite firmly under his arm.
Could you briefly sum up the history of snowkiting and kitesurfing, its summer equivalent?
It’s a very short history! The two disciplines first came to light in the 60s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that they began to spark interest, and it’s only in recent years that they have become accessible to a wider audience, thanks to the introduction of new safety guidelines.
How did you get into kitesurfing?
I literally fell into it when I was very young. I was really fortunate to have grown up in the Magdalen Islands in Quebec, which for me is the best place for kitesurfing in the whole of North America, as it basically consists of a 200km long beach. It’s hot in summer, and in winter several metres of snow are whipped up by the wind ; it’s perfect. I should also add that my parents were responsible for opening the first kite school in Canada. So I was introduced to the joys of the sport very early on. At 12-years old I was already cutting my teeth as an assistant instructor, before becoming fully-qualified several years later. I’m now 22 and have 10 years’ professional experience under my belt !
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
Everything! Obviously skimming, jumping and drifting, and hang time, where you are literally flying, which feels totally exhilarating. But I guess what has really kept me hooked all these years is the incredible feeling of freedom when you are lifted by the kite, and are at one with the wind and water, or even snow. In winter, you can go anywhere for hours following the direction of the wind, it’s a way of getting from A to B. For me, it’s much more than just a sport; it’s a way of life… environmentally-friendly, clean and silent. It’s the sport of the future!
You mentioned that kitesurfing has become accessible to a wider audience, how wide exactly?
I have taught 4-year old toddlers and 77-year old big kids! You really don’t have to be an athlete to have fun: the kite is held in place by a harness, and physical strength doesn’t really come in to it. In this respect, I would say snowkiting is even easier to begin with than kitesurfing, as you start from a vertical position. And contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be a professional snowboarder either; as long as you stick to the safety guidelines, anyone can do it. In fact I started to take my younger sister with me – albeit in a sledge – when she wasn’t much more than a year old!
Are there any particular conditions required for snowkiting?
You need snow and enough open space for the kite not to get caught up, bearing in mind that it is 22km above your head! But apart from that, it’s a sport you can do practically anywhere: whether it’s flat, hilly, or even up in the mountains. And the great advantage over other mountain sports is that you are not at the mercy of lifts. You can use the upward air current!
So as long as there is sea or snow, you can do snowkiting or kitesurfing anywhere?
Absolutely, “kite” is a universal language. I have kitesurfed in the US, the Bahamas, in the French Alps, Vietnam, and I recently lived just outside Rome for a year. In every case, “kitesurfing” was like a magic password paving the way into the local community – it’s just one big, happy family! At the moment, I really want to travel to Scandinavia or Mongolia, where the combination of “wind and open space” is at its peak. I’ll see where the wind takes me!
1. Big Hole Valley, Montana (United States)
For the area’s unspoilt beauty and the thrill of the windy conditions.
2. Col du Simplon (Switzerland)
For the splendour of the imposing mountains and the reputation of the snowkiting schools.
3. Langjökull Glacier (Iceland)
For the immense expanse of pure white and 943km2 of available space.
4. Col du Lautaret (France)
For the sheer variety of available routes and charm of the Alpine villages.
5. Haugastøl (Norway)
For the giant plains, accessible summits and the Norwegian snow community.
6. Lac Suwa (Japan)
For the thrill of surfing on a frozen lake, next to natural hot springs, and the warm
welcome of the locals.