Humour may be a matter of taste, but it’s ever present! Photo: Robert Hajduk / Shinn

J: Tell us another tale! M: I first met Jaime Herraiz when he was working for the Naish distributor in Spain when the first four line kite, the Naish AR5 arrived. I was already riding for Naish international and I remember telling him about the depower line. Although it isn’t politically correct to do so now, I told him that real men don’t use it; it was just for women and children. I told him that I removed the loop and tied it off so I could use the kite like a fixed four line. He goes, “Yeah, yeah, okay.” and I remember seeing him about six months later, by which point we’d moved on to using a snap shackle to permanently clip into the depower line. Jaime saw it and said, “What’s that? You told me you never use the depower loop.” I said, “You’re crazy. I snap shackle into it and never unhook from it!” Ha ha. J: While World Champion, you also said in an early issue that handle-passes would never catch on with the public because people don’t want to be pulling their shoulders out on a weekend. You predicted that board-offs were far easier and that’s what everyone would be doing. Why do you think board-offs never really caught on with the masses? M: If you look at when the big explosion happened in kiteboarding, around 2008, we’d already gone to bridled kites with high depower. Those more modern generation designs make keeping the kite still over your head with one hand really difficult because of the bridle. You could send the early kites, like the ARX, AR 5 and the X2, above your head and they’d stay very still. You could do your trick, put the board back on and then pull the kite forward to land. So if you’d asked me in 2002 I would have said board-offs are really easy, but if you ask me now, the board-offs I can do these days are the ones that I wouldn’t even bother to have done in a heat back then because they were so simple. J: What do you think of all the board-off mega loop combinations that we’re seeing drop in the King of the Air now? Young riders are starting to land them with seeming ease. M: I have to say that I was most impressed by Janek Grzegorzewski, who did this crazy off-axis spin with a mega loop board-off in this year’s King of the Air. For me that was one of those Vari double handle-pass moments because it was the first time I saw the rider’s rotation not following the kite’s rotation and pull in a loop. It was really new and innovative, not just a predictable, linear progression. But you can’t compare a board-off with a kite loop to what we were doing in 2002. The riding is more extreme now, but the safety is much less extreme. But yeah, I still like to watch everything.

Quiver supplies, 2002 Photo: Christian Black

J: Speaking of developments, your own focus moved on to waves around 2005/06. Elsewhere in this issue, Patri McLaughlin brought up the PKRA Matanzas event in 2007 that was an inspiration for him, having seen the event video. Do you remember much about that event? It was a hell of a left hander and there were so many big names competing. M: Yeah, I hadn’t done an event for years but decided to go to that one. I remember it very well because I was the only rider with strapless boards. Everyone told me I was crazy and should put foot straps on, but I didn’t even have inserts in my boards. I was the only rider who competed strapless and got eliminated in the first round. Ha ha ha... J: Vari also won that event and was doing 360s; handle-passing in the wave. It was very much a strapped-up and unhooked time in the wave riding game. M: Actually, what you don’t see in the video is how insanely fast that wave was. There were sections where you pretty much just had to straight line it, but then it was hard to get rid of the speed. You couldn’t stop. J: It seemed like it was a very pivotal event in terms of wave competition. It was the first one everyone went to that was well run in challenging waves and was very competitive. Did wave competition really take off from there? M: I think so, but to be honest, that event kind of reinforced to me that I didn’t want to do competition anymore. I enjoyed it, but being there for a week I felt resentful of not getting enough time on the water. I was already then, and certainly am now, at a point where I really value my water time. When off the water, I have other things to do. We were actually just about to launch Nobile Kites at the time and I was riding there testing the last prototypes for the range. J: Tell me about some of your best memories from the last 20 years. M: Well, obviously after two years of being second, winning the world titles in 2002 was pretty satisfying. Winning the two world championships was exciting, but actually being King of the Air at Ho’okipa in that same year was even better. I windsurfed for a long time before kiting and Ho’okipa is really special to any windsurfer. At the time, you weren’t allowed to kiteboard the spot unless it was in a competition. I remember my heroes, Dave Kalama and Mark Angulo – huge names in windsurfing history – were driving the rescue skis. Robby Naish was competing as well as some really legendary riders, like Elliott Leboe, who we never saw outside of Maui. So I have to say that winning the Red Bull King of the Year would probably be my single biggest highlight in kiteboarding. Beyond that, in 2005 / 06 I worked with a guy called Sean Nolan and we made a DVD called Funk, which ended up being a really long process. We wanted to show a variety of styles. No one was doing strapless freestyle in 2005 and I think it took ten years before strapless became a thing. So I can’t say me doing it was groundbreaking because it took ages to catch on, but I enjoyed being one of the first to really do that discipline.

Early doors for strapless, 2004... and check out the length of the depower. Mark's bar is pushed up against the fixed stopper ball, where he'd set it in position with a screw... because beyond that the kite wouldn't depower any more anyway! Photo: Flo Ducate