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From Obscurity to Olympic Fame in Two Decades

Kiteboarders at San Francisco Bay

Twenty years ago very few people knew what kiteboarding or kitesurfing was, and for good reason. Two decades ago the sport was still in its infancy, with just a handful of people practicing it and fewer still who were familiar with it.

Things have changed considerably since then, and they changed for the better. Kiteboarding is now an internationally renowned sport, there are international and national organizations that run and manage it, records have been set by talented kiteboarders, the media took notice and presented the sport to the public, and considerable efforts have been made to include kiteboarding into the Olympic Games.

You will get proof that kiteboarding is more popular than ever by taking a look over San Francisco Bay. The location offers consistent and strong thermal wind as well as protection from large open ocean swells – consequently it has become a genuine Mecca for kiteboarding as well as windsurfing enthusiasts.

Current IKA (International Kiteboarding Association) Kiteboard Course Racing World Champion Johnny Heineken comes from San Francisco Bay and spends much of his time out on the bay’s waters, training for future competitions or just having fun. Even when he’s not out kiteboarding, he’s still on the water. You see, he spends much of his time on a boat, the same boat on which he spent many weekends growing up.

Johnny Heineken, just like 9x Kiteboarding World Champion Kristin Boese, supports the development of the sport and supports its efforts to go Olympic. In May 2011 the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Council decided that either kiteboarding or windsurfing could be selected to be part of the 2016 Olympic Games that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. Then in May 2012, the Council voted and kiteboarding was selected as an Olympic sport.

“Kiteboarding has proven to us that it is ready to be included into the list of prestigious ISAF Events and it is a fantastic addition to the sailing programme for the 2016 Olympic Games,” said ISAF President Göran Petersson.

The fact that kiteboarding’s popularity grew, and now, twenty years later, the sport became an Olympic discipline, is certainly a good thing. What’s not good is that kiteboarding had to go up against windsurfing. There’s no room for both sports in the Olympics, so by including kiteboarding, windsurfing is kicked out – and windsurfing has been an Olympic sport since 1984. That's a decision that didn't go down well with many kiteboarders, including Kristin Boese. Kristin and many others want kiteboarding to be an Olympic sport, but consider it a big shame that windsurfing has to be sacrificed in the process.

As mentioned above, the media took notice and presented kiteboarding to the public. In the related videos section below, to the left, there’s a CNN Mainsail video that presents the sport’s history and its efforts to be included in the Olympics. The video to the right presents the close friendship between John Heineken, Adam Koch and Bryan Lake, the fact that kiteboarding was selected to be part of the Olympics, and how kiteboarding going Olympic stunned the three kiteboarders. They expressed their confidence that more and more people are going to take notice and get involved with kiteboarding now that it became an Olympic sport.