A Glimpse into the Kiteboarding Culture of Charleston

Sponsored kiteboarder Emily Collins getting some air in Charleston
Sponsored kiteboarder Emily Collins getting some air in Charleston Courtesy of Emily Collins
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It’s something all beach-goers have seen before: dozens of neon-colored kites diving and cutting through the wind on the horizon, a massive spray coming from the boards underneath the athletes darting from side to side. We’ve all watched in awe the kiteboarders who catch waves and soar through the salty air. Usually, the kites dot the horizon line—too far off to catch a glimpse of who’s manning the kite above but just close enough to wonder: who is that out there?

Well, it’s time to put a face with a kite.

We chased down some of those silhouettes in Charleston at Sealand Adventure Sports and caught up with kiteboarder and store manager Alejandro Ferreyros and Sealand Adventure Sports team-rider Emily Collins. Both Ferreyros and Collins have been kiteboarders since they were shown the ropes at an early age. After chatting with the two of them, it's easy to see that once you’ve been introduced to kiteboarding, you’re forever hooked.

Silhouettes on the horizon
Silhouettes on the horizon Courtesy of Emily Collins

“We’re basically a really big family. Every kiteboarder has been through the same struggles—a kite that won’t re-launch, the wind dying on you, but we all know what it feels like, so everyone helps each other and you end up becoming really close,” says Ferreyros about the local kiteboarding community. 

So regardless of your skill level, any and all kiteboarders are recognized as part of the kiteboarding community and encouraged to keep improving. And in Charleston, it's the crew at Sealand Adventure Sports that's largely responsible for introducing people to the sport and keeping them fully engaged.

Once you get the hang of the sport, you'll likely never leave it
Once you get the hang of the sport, you'll likely never leave it Courtesy of Emily Collins

One key (and relatively new) member is Emily Collins. Emily is one of the few local female kiteboarders in the Holy City. She is a team-rider for Sealand Adventure Sports and rides an F-One board and kite because the board is light, quick on the water, and holds the edge when she cuts up-wind “just like a sailboat on tack.” Both her kite and board have helped her improve and refine skills, but the riders on the water are the best instructors. “I don’t kite alone,” says Collins, “kiting is a team sport and I learn from everyone out there.”

Emily has been riding alongside her brother and dad since she was in middle school, and just this year she added the Sealand Adventure Sports guys to her kiteboarding “dream team.” As a team-rider, Collins is the ultimate ambassador for the shop as well as the sport. Not only is she a killer kiteboarder, but also as one of the few female athletes on the water, she’s a great example for younger girls in the community who are interested in learning how to kite.

“I think it’s extremely important to have someone to look up to in the sport. I’m out there to meet people, share what I know about kiteboarding, and show them that it’s not just a guy’s sport or too difficult for women.” (After all, she does use the hashtag #girlskitetoo!)

When trying to grasp why, once you’ve begun kiteboarding, you become obsessed with the sport, Collins compared it to riding a horse. When you’re preparing to ride a horse you have to approach the horse to get to know it, understand it, and then fully trust it when you’re riding. And once you establish that trust, everything just feels inherently right. It’s the same with kiteboarding. Patience, understanding, and trust are involved, not only when it comes to your equipment, but also with your natural ability. And of course, you have to trust that Mother Nature will take care of you on the water.

Sealand Adventure Sports Shop at Station 22 on Sullivan’s Island
Sealand Adventure Sports Shop at Station 22 on Sullivan’s Island Conley Crimmins

For the two locals, both Ferreyros and Collins get out on the water as much as possible—and well, as much as the weather will allow. Ferreyros explains, “If the wind is right, you drop everything and go kite boarding. The adrenaline rush is unlike any other feeling—it’s simply the best feeling in the world.”

Even though the summer season is winding down in Charleston and the days are getting shorter and cooler, these hardy kiteboarders aren’t planning to slow down. If there is wind, you can bet you’ll find Ferreyros and Collins hauling out their gear to get in an hour on the water. Out at Sealand Adventure Sports, the crew is already thinking ahead to the spring and summer and planning for a great year on the water filled with lessons, clinics, and events that bring the kite boarding, paddling, and surfing community together.

To learn more about gear, lessons, or general information about the kiteboarding culture of Charleston, head to SealandSports.com.

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