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East County Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 10 years ago

Kiteboarding: Anywhere the Wind Blows

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — There’s rarely a day that goes by that Drew Christianson isn’t tuned into the weather forecast.

Although, the Lakewood Ranch High School alum and University of South Florida freshman isn’t interested in the potential likelihood of sunshine and warm temperatures or the imminent threat of thunderstorms. It’s actually the wind report that catches Christianson’s attention.

And he’s been known to go to great lengths to find it.

An avid kiteboarder, Christianson will — quite literally — go wherever the wind takes him.

“The toughest part is finding the wind,” Christianson said. “When you’re on the road, you look for the wind and (sometimes) that makes you drive farther than you normally would. It’s addicting, but that’s what makes the sport unique.”

Christianson started kiteboarding about three years ago, after his family moved to Florida from Wisconsin. Christianson grew up wakeboarding out on the lake in Wisconsin; and when he found himself without a boat, Christianson decided to try another board sport.

Christianson took his first lesson from East County resident Steve Sipes, at KTS Kiteboarding, He was hooked instantly.

“It’s exciting,” Christianson said of the sport. “It’s an adrenaline rush, and the sport is actually easier to learn than everyone thinks.

“From the first day, I knew I loved it,” he said. “It kept growing on me, and I kept progressing and practicing and practicing. Eventually, I thought, ‘Maybe I can do something with this.’”

Christianson continued to progress in the sport, practicing as often as he could between schoolwork and tennis practices to improve his skill level. He began competing last year, finishing third in the Junior Division of the Tampa Bay Kitemasters.

Throughout his first competitive season, Christianson received sponsorships from Mutiny Kites, Hyperflex Wetsuits and Kite Hero.

Most recently, Christianson spent two weeks last summer training for the upcoming season and competing in Hood River, Ore., where he reached the semifinals in The Bridge of the Gods Kite Festival, which is an amateur competition for kiteboarders hoping to turning professional.

Christianson plans to continue practicing and competing. On Jan. 14, Christianson once again will compete in the Tampa Bay Kitemasters race, and later this spring, he plans to compete in the Jupiter Invasion, which is a kiteboarding trick competition.

Additionally, Christianson teaches with Sipes at KTS Kiteboarding near the Sunshine Skyway, hopes to travel around the world and has his sights set on kiteboarding in Brazil, and Cape Town, South Africa.

“Those are spots where you can count on the wind,” Christianson said. “It makes the sport easier. You don’t have to hunt for the wind — it just shows up.”

And if all goes well, Christianson has aspirations of competing in the 2016 Olympic Trials, where kiteboarding is scheduled to make its trial debut into the Olympic circuit — and eventually turning professional.

“I’m just kind of having fun with it and seeing where it goes,” Christianson said. “I just want to keep having fun. I love the places it brings me and the people I get to meet. There are so many things I enjoy about it.

“There are so many disciplines to the sport,” he said. “I can go out and ride the waves one day and then go out off the Skyway where it’s (calm). You never get bored, and you can never outgrow the sport.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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