Kiteboarding Adventures – with Ryan Levinson

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I started kiteboarding when the big debate was still whether kites should have 2 or 4 lines. Twin-tips hadn’t been “invented” yet (it was wakeboard or surfboard), all kites were “C” shaped, and there were no leashes or quick releases. There was no effective de-power, in the gusts you just edged harder. Or got destroyed. Often both… It was a wild, somewhat dangerous, but exciting period of rapid progress and discovery. I was in my late 20’s and like all early kiters, I came from a surfing and windsurfing background. But one difference was I had been recently diagnosed with a genetic muscle disease called FSH Muscular Dystrophy that causes muscles throughout my body to continually weaken. There is no known treatment or cure. To me kiteboarding was more than just a fun new sport, it represented the hope that I’d still be able to ride waves and wind even after I lost the strength needed to paddle a surfboard or hold a boom.

Now, 20 years later, I can no longer do a single sit-up, push-up, or pull-up. I can’t hold my arms over shoulder high. I can’t stand on my toes or walk more than relatively short distances. My shoulders round forward (weak back muscles), my belly rounds out (weak abdominals), my once-muscular arms and legs are now abnormally thin, and it continues to get worse.

Plus I’m in my mid-40’s and am dealing with the normal physical impacts of aging.

Four years ago my wife and I bought a small sailboat, grabbed our kites, sailed crossed the Pacific Ocean, and began looking for wind and waves amongst the remote atolls and islands of the tropical South Pacific. We have now sailed over 15,000 nautical miles, visited and kited dozens of incredible places, many for the first time, and we still base our navigation decisions largely on the kiteboarding potential of a destination.

With limited space onboard we’ve learned how to choose the most versatile and durable gear and then maximize its use in a huge range of conditions and locations. We regularly go days (or even weeks) without seeing another person and have learned a lot about self-sufficiency, assessing conditions and locations, solving problems on the water, reading weather, launching and recovering kites in a wide range of situations (including from various boats), and of course finding the best places to ride when exploring virgin territory.

The effects of age and my disease prevent me from getting stronger but I’ve become an expert at adapting technique and equipment to continue progressing at the sports I love while minimizing the potential for injury and maximizing physical endurance and recovery.

Adaptive Kiteboarder Ryan Levinson riding Cabrinha Switchblade

I’m grateful Cabrinha Kiteboarding and Adventure Sports Miami have offered this platform for us to connect. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned and to learn from you! Please comment below and share your thoughts, experiences, questions, things you’ve learned, goals, dreams, or whatever else you want. Mostly I want to know what drives you to continue happily skittering across the water and flying through the air connected to giant kites. That’s the glue that binds us, no matter our age or physical ability, whether we’re in our home spot or thousands of miles away on a small tropical island in the middle of the ocean. Let’s go ride!

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Ryan Levinson has been kiteboarding for over 20 years. He is currently on an extended sailing voyage seeking wind and waves in the tropical South Pacific. Over the years he worked as the Instructional Editor at Kiteboarding Magazine, owned a successful kiteboarding school, and was the EMS/Rescue Team leader for the Big Wave World Tour. He also worked as an Emergency Medical Technician, super yacht captain, professional athlete, and as an instructor for Kiteboarding and Sailing. You can follow his adventures at TwoAfloat.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. Ryan you are a hero to me – you know how to live life to its fullest with determination, courage, and strength. You are an inspiration! I hope to have many more years of anchoring near you and watching you ride that kite!

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