Kiteboarding: How boyhood hero sparked an obsession

"I always liked flying, was always into things to do with flipping," says kiteboarder extraordinaire Marc Jacobs. Photo / Brett Phibbs
"I always liked flying, was always into things to do with flipping," says kiteboarder extraordinaire Marc Jacobs. Photo / Brett Phibbs

When interviewing sports stars I like to ask them if they had a childhood hero.

Why? Maybe it's because as a kid, Bryan Williams - the greatest All Black who will ever live - loomed so large in my life that his posters were the bedroom wallpaper.

Some sportspeople um and ah. Others unconvincingly conjure up a name. A few instantly reveal a hero, or maybe a few. But until now it has never sounded like a real sports hero, the type who overtakes your life. And then along came Marc Jacobs, freestyle kiteboarder extraordinaire, a 23-year-old some say is the world champion in waiting.

Jacobs, 23, from Mt Maunganui but now living with his girlfriend in Mt Eden in Auckland, is second after two rounds of the world tour after finishing second at the Mondial du Vent in France last week. He was fifth overall last season, and third in his debut year.

When you think Marc Jacobs, think Dave Edwards, a kiting legend from the Mount. Jacobs' world turned in a moment, on a day when the 12-year-old was riding home from school and saw Edwards flipping off the waves. Kiteboarding instantly became Jacobs' life.

"I saw how high Dave was going and how much fun he was having and it got to me straight away - the first time I saw him it was such a good show," says Jacobs, whose freezing-worker dad, Peter, was a surf lifesaver.

"I'd always had a few obsessions like with toys ... when Spider Man came out, and Jurassic Park, and Pokemon. But they were little obsessions compared to kiting."

"Mad" Dave Edwards was a true-life superhero, and no cheap toy. The gear cost $3000 because there were no second-hand deals. Thus began obsessive saving from a paper run. Jacobs got a kite to start mastering when aged 15, and a board a year later. But he had plenty to take in before then.

"I was so addicted from day one that I went to the beach every day, hoping to see Dave out there. I became a bit of a stalker. I knew his car. I knew where he lived. I would wait outside his house, figure out where he was going. I'm good mates with him now ... Dave goes, 'Yeah, I remember you, that little kid who was always there. What the hell?'

"Most kids hang around with their mates but I quickly left that behind - I was so committed for kiting. I would just travel, go to kite spots with Dave, sleep under the van. That was my childhood."

Edwards is still at the Mount as Jacobs takes on the world. We talked about Jacobs' hopes of becoming the world champion, the art of kiteboarding, and the worst accident, when he was saved from drowning by another boarder. He ran through the names of moves, all taken from wakeboarding, such as Blind Judge Five, KGB Five, S-Bend Three, and the change in styles over the years.

Fifteen knots, Jacobs says, is the ideal wind, but kiteboarders operate in up to 40 knots, and there were dangerous gusts of 62 in France. Competition involves low wakeboarding skills but on a wild and stormy day, Jacobs can fly a staggering 20 metres above the waves.

Jacobs makes his living out of boarding and will up the ante before the next event in Italy, having joined a sports academy where he will use gymnastic training techniques and link with a sports psychologist.

Hobbies? There's a theme - paragliding, wakeboarding, trampolining, cable wake parks, and the business of free running, which is gymnastics in the streets.

"I always liked flying, was always into things to do with flipping," says Jacobs, whose rare, explosive style gives him the edge and gets him into trouble. Guess who is responsible for that?

Jacobs says: "That's from Dave Edwards actually. He pushed me to the max when I was a kid, made me ride the same-sized kite as he did when I could barely hold on.

"That's what I'm into - big and powerful. There is a lot more risk because landing is harder and if you aren't landing clean you get points deducted.

"Dave was one of the most aggressive riders in the world. How he used to ride was insane. He's the guy who pretty much taught me kiting."

Now that's a sports hero.

- NZ Herald

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