Foil captivation

There are very few people in the sport today as involved at such a high riding and business level, who can also reach back into the dusty vaults of their memory to the time they were one of the very first World Champions. In 2006 we asked Mark Shinn to start a column in which he would have free reign (more or less!) to discuss various hot topics from behind the scenes in the kitesurfing industry and bring them to the interest of every day riders. While he may often have pushed the boundaries of how far a deadline could actually be extended before an editor’s head imploded, we are incredibly grateful to Mark for his continued commitment to producing his Mark My Words columns. He has entertained, taught and inspired us each and every issue. Two days before final cut off (which is historically early for Mark), Mr Shinn succeeds in being both the most consistent contributor to Kiteworld (with 98 consecutive columns), but also the last contributor to submit to the magazine. Here’s his final send

WORDS: Mark Shinn PHOTOS: Robert Hajduk / Shinn (unless otherwise stated)

August 9th 2006 – it might not seem a particularly important date to many of you, but that was the first time I opened a word document on my computer and typed the heading, ‘Mark My Words’ for a new, regular column I’d been asked to write by Kiteworld editor, Jim Gaunt. I’d be lying if I told you I remember writing it, but on re-reading it the thoughts and feelings come back with clarity and leave me wondering where the last 16 years have gone? In that first piece I discussed the phenomena of bow kites, which had recently been introduced into the market. I predicted a future where some kind of hybrid was going to dominate which, to be honest, was no Nostradamus-style feat. The writing had been on the wall and the brands were already committing. Here is the last piece I’ll write for this esteemed publication and I would have to declare that, while the bow kite was not the most influential product ever released to the kiteboarding world, it’s impact is probably rated as the most significant. There isn’t a kite in the air today that doesn’t have some of that early bow kite DNA in it (and yes, I include all the modern C shape kites in that statement). The improved safety offered by the bow design surely gave us the largest step towards kiteboarding gaining mass appeal.

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Ruben Lenten, still at it! Photo: Ludovic Franco

Fast forward a few issues to column number four and my attention had drifted to Ruben Lenten and his first renditions of the Megaloop. Ruben had been ripping for years but the clip he dropped in November 2006 gave us a glimpse to a future that few, if any, believed would become prevalent and mainstream. Hardcore freestyle was still very much the flavour of kite competitions and showed no sign of diminishing at all. While the bow kite ushered in the beginning of kiteboarding for all, Ruben had almost simultaneously initiated the most extreme form of kiteboarding; that was most definitely NOT for all. Number five involved a discussion about the arrival of serious wave riding in kitesurfing, along with a prediction that riding strapped and unhooked with a C kite was never going to be the future. This wasn’t a popular opinion at the time but, as I was one of the few riders dedicated to strapless riding in 2007, I could see the benefits. Fast forward to 2022 and straps are banned from World Tour competitions and the only unhooking to be seen is when Airton is doing handle-passes. You might be reading this and thinking, ‘This is going to be a very long read if he is going to positively review every one of his almost one hundred columns!’. Thankfully, you can relax. In reviewing those first editions I realised that we’ve come so far and yet the truly pivotal moments in our sport were made many years ago. The introduction of safe, high depower kites, the development of truly extreme big air kiteboarding and the acceptance of kiteboarding as a legitimate way to ride waves are topics that are as relevant today as they were 16 years ago.

Kiteloop Raley – remember those? Shinny on the pull

In summing up my thoughts in relation to this being the last issue of Kiteworld, I can’t help but feel a sadness for the way we now consume information about the sport. In my early kitesurfing days, magazines were the source of nearly all information about material, riders and the direction of the sport. We relied on the journalistic integrity of the contributors and editors to guide us (and the sport) forwards. We now live in a world where information is king and the speed of delivering it over-rules any reservations over suitability of the content and reliability of the source. Perhaps today all that most kiteboarders need is pure inspiration and entertainment to fuel their interest in this sport which is much easier to take-up than it ever has been. I have deep doubts that many of the myriad Facebook, WhatsApp or IG group admins truly have the sport’s best interest at heart though, as many of the stories I see seem to be pure clickbait rather than the result of any investigation or research. However, I don’t want to end on a downbeat note because kiteboarding is fantastic and today’s performance levels would have been unbelievable for any of us to imagine 20 years ago! Whilst interviewing me a week or two ago, Jim asked if I’d enjoyed writing this column for all these years? It’s not an easy question to answer, though! Jim will quickly attest to the fact that I’ve often needed several chase-ups to produce my column and I’ve no doubt that my name has become synonymous with the setting of earlier and earlier deadlines in the Kiteworld office!

Mark has been reflecting the kiting world in this magazine with the scope of oversized spectacles since 2006!

While I have very much enjoyed and appreciated the platform that’s been given to me and it’s been an honour to contribute to a sport that’s given me so much, I’ve never had a burning desire to be a journalist and I don’t particularly enjoy typing. Contributing my column hasn’t therefore always been what I’d call entirely ‘enjoyable’, especially as I have a reasonably busy schedule and also very much enjoy riding, eating, drinking, sleeping and... well... many other things more than sitting down to eek out 1000 or so words. (Incidentally, this is why so many of my columns were written on a plane; when kitesurfing wasn’t an option and I could at least combine the task with free food and drinks!) That said, there have of course been many times that I’ve been on an inspired mission and enjoyed every keystroke in the effort to get my thoughts down, too! I started kiteboarding in 1999. A newly born sport had inspired me, supported me and then allowed me to support it. All of the above continues to be the case. Of all the sports I have ever participated in, kiteboarding remains the one that captivates me the most and is why I check the forecast three times a day. Kiteboarding is the reason I procrastinate making family commitments until I’ve seen the 48 hour forecast and my bucket list of holiday locations is exclusively filled with spots that have their own Windguru page. I started this journey writing the words, ‘I’m lucky’, and I’ll finish the same way. I have no idea where the future of this sport lies, but I have no doubt that it will be a long and exciting journey and I’m going to enjoy watching every moment of it. I guess I’m (still) just lucky!

The good times will continue to roll!