Issue 80: Colorado Landboarding

The lifestyle, the energy and the excitement!

On the edge of kite-world, and on the edges of our fields lie the folks that are pushing the boundaries. Combining the power of kiteboarding with the reckless nature of downhill skateboarding are the ‘Kite Landboarders’. A fringe group in the United States that is hardly troubled by bad weather, bruises, or even what to call themselves. Within this ragtag bunch lies a special group that reside in possibly the worst flying conditions on the continent. These are the riders of the Colorado Front Range. Most can be found at the Dove Valley soccer fields South of Denver, and most take a special pride in riding through other kiters worst nightmares.

This group of kiteboarding orphans has no leader, no rules, and no requirements to join other than a respect for the grounds and for the other riders. I watch these guys throw bigger and bigger tricks as the storm front rolls in, and while I know I can’t ride as hard or as fast; I feel just as capable. This group of boys and their toys are ready to rub it in your face that you crashed the past ten attempts on a simple trick, but they are also quick to slap you on the back and cheer when you finally land it. It’s a simple system that some might find intimidating, yet if you throw yourself headlong into it, you find that you go bigger than you ever thought you would.

What does it take to ride like this? Start off with a good kite and a working mountain board. Throw in a good helmet, a few pads, and some crash worthy tunes, and soon you find yourself picking grass and dirt out of places it doesn’t belong. Perhaps the most important need to be successful is a good location with good wind. The ideal location for this discipline is on the long sandy packed beaches of the coast or the dry lake beds of Nevada. But, for the rest of us that live to far from these ideals, we find solace in open soccer fields and sod farms. These location have their own hazards -goals, children, balls, and angry parents- but they are the ideal learning ground.

This sport is not without its dangers. Bruises, cuts, scrapes and road rash are common, but the more serious injuries can generally be avoided with prudent planning, basic safety, and a good understanding of first aid. A full helmet is an absolute must. One that is rated for skating or snow sports is preferable, however any sports rated helmet is better than none. Additionally, a set of skaters’ knee pads and elbow pads save joints for later. Often times riders will ditch one of these elbow pads as they find that they have one side they always land on. As with any other sport proper stretching and warming up are an absolute must, as is a hefty sense of caution. Those of us on the Front Range believe that the faster the wind is blowing; the slower you move to set up.

Fighting that eagerness to get out and ride right away means that you are more likely to catch an equipment malfunction or a change in the weather. Bigger weather means bigger chances of bigger accidents. Therefore, landboarders that are just starting out tend to wait around for those perfect condition days; steady 10-15mph, dry, clear, and free of soccer kids. This caution is the greatest piece of safety gear any rider can have, and making it the focus of a riding routine from the start has saved many people from serious injury. Accidents do and will happen, even with the best safety plans, so it is always safer to ride with a buddy. Not only to share the stoke, but to share the pain and help if something does happen to go wrong.

Currently the most prominent landboarder in the Front Range is Kyle Bauer, a MBS sponsored rider. This goofy looking skater punk designs oil pipelines in his other life. Yet, at the end of the day when he takes off the button up shirt and tie, out comes the studded belt and NOFX t-shirt. I have had the luck to ride with Kyle here and out in the desert, and I have seen him take a fair number of crashes. When asked why he continues to punish his body he didn’t respond with the usual line about passion for the sport. He simply shrugged his shoulders and went back to replacing a blown binding. This is the common response, usually followed with a chuckle and a side note about “chicks dig landboarders.” A statement I see as particularly amusing as I am the only chick around participating, let alone watching.

The truth is we don’t ride because it’s cool or there is money in it. Most of the guys on the field have forgotten about dinner, have forgotten about their bills, have forgotten for a few precious moments that humans can’t fly. It’s a combination of freedom and bragging rights, something that has always existed in the skater culture. It’s a feeling that teeters between reckless abandonment for bodily safety and the need to be something greater than physical limits. It can’t be explained, only experienced.

Nic O’Neill

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Author:Nic O'Neill

Nic O'Neill grew up in Washington. Spent years on the road and seas, but rediscovered the beauty of kite flying one day in front of the palace in Abu Dhabi. She is currently a team rider for HQ Powerkites and a founder of the North America Snowkite Tour, but enjoys spending her time developing her stunt kite and indoor flying skills.

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