Jetlagged, teenaged, and legally not allowed to drink...in the USA - 19 year old Sam Light stumbled into Flatbread, Paia, Maui. I didn't know him and didn't really care to at that time as the party I was with was in full swing. Somewhat dazed after a huge amount of travel, Sam had just been picked up from the airport by the then Naish International team manager Jon Malmberg for some photoshoots and Naish 'orientation'. This being the last port of call after his contest in Leucate, France on his way back from Australia...hardly a direct flight but hey Naish headquarters in Maui is hard to resist!
Somehow during the evening, I got to chatting with this young guy. A chilled, British kiter, powerfully emerging from the shadows, and rapidly making a name for himself in the kiteboarding contest arena. Before heading out that night. We exchanged details and agreed to chat again.
I managed to catch up with Sam a couple months later by phone before he headed for Fuerteventura. He had just arrived back from his recent win on the BKSA tour and before that, an invite contest in France where he got third.
Hailing from Hayling Island South Central England - a small popular kiting island "actually attached to the British mainland by a bridge" as Sam defends! is the where he resides when he's not chasing the British tour (BKSA), the PKRA or the next photo shoot.
So what got him into kiting? It seems it was a natural progression in his watersports and sailing life. He'd started off as a wakeboarder, but as his cousins' interest in kiting grew, he was thrown the trainer and left to almost kill himself being dragged down the beach! With his cousins already pulling the tricks on the water, this meant Sam was going to figure it out himself and he sure did.
Sam already had some wakeboarding experience to kick start his kiting career, but with his dad was a windsurfer... Sam's kiting career could have gone either way! Fortunately for Sam as he tells, his dad and in fact his whole family have been really great, encouraging his kiteboarding and whatever he wanted to do. With his dad as a bit of a coach for Sam, he's is quick to acknowledge his dad coming down to the beach to give him technique tips. Before Sam could drive, his parents got him to all the local UK events and really helped out during the early part of his kiteboarding life.
Sam's own sheer devotion to kiting is also demonstrated in the vehicle he drove as soon as he was able to get behind the wheel. A 50cc, 3 wheeler 'Paiggio Ape' he commandeered between getting his learners and his drivers license was his mode of transport which got him from "college to the beach" with his kiting gear. Anyone who would risk life, limb and reputation in one of these things is definitely dedicated to his kiteboarding!
As soon as he could drive, the cable park an hour and a half away was also his stomping ground when learning the skills of board riding, handle passes and so much more. Watching and being inspired by other riders pushing themselves, drove his skills to the next level. The cable park seemed to really be something Sam enjoyed and its shows in his powerful and stylish kiting approach.
Competing: What got him into competition? "The British tour has been really good at nurturing up-and-coming riders, so when the BKSA came to my local beach..." Sam remembers, "I entered as a junior." He got third. And that got him going and was the start to more competitions.
Now in his gap year, he tells that he didn't start travelling to compete and didn't start to compete for the sake of competing. Rather he competed to gain exposure for his sponsors. Competing was a great way to give his sponsors what they were looking for and at the same time fund his travels in a way he loves. How many can come out of college, travel, earn money and do something they totally love to do while they see the best parts of the world? "Competition also is a great way to step my game up by competing with great kiters."
"Who Inspires you?" I ask. There's a bit of a silence, "Aaron (Hadlow) has always been a real inspiration...but as a good mate it seems funny to say now..." he pauses, "but on the progression side and technically any move out there that you do has been done by Aaron - somewhere on the internet you'll find a video Aaron pulling the move you have just done." There's respect here, in more way than one - for good friend and rider developing kiteboarding's new limits.
Sam Light: rigging for a Maui Session.
Sponsors: He started with RRD and seemed to heading with them as they offered a good deal to their teamriders, but not a lot to the junior riders. So looking at Naish and the support of the reps in the UK, Sam Light opted to move to Naish for the focus they were putting on their juniors at the time and he now rides for Naish International.
Photoshoots: He's been doing a lot of them - from Perth to Maui to Fuerteventura, fitting them in between competing. Since he enjoys filming too, it sounds like its been great to take advantage of meeting experienced photographers like Eric Aeder Steven Whitesell and others. All of them give Sam great exposure to showmanship and working with like-minded wind, water and camera driven people.
The future... With top 3 results in recent comps, Sam Light is rising. He's got his goals, but Sam is quick to point out that his focus is really to keep enjoying his kiting. Win the British tour which he got second on last time round and get into top 10 on PKRA are targets he is aiming for. But its not all about competing which makes this mellow guy so admirable. His passion for kiting has given him a way to travel and make some money competing. And all build on his love for this great sport. While others are bar tendering he's out putting cash in his back pocket developing his skills kiting.
His enjoyment performing for film and photo shoots, and actually enjoying being behind the camera doing the filming and video editing himself means he has other interests which balance his kiting life; an important part to his kiting life which he points out makes it fun.
And while he's meeting great people from all parts of the kiteboarding industry and living the dream life kiteboarding - its a great way to be living and not many could ask for more...