During the second week of May 2008 Susi Mai and California Bay Area kiter Bill Tai held their annual “Mai Tai Kite Camp” on Maui. Almost 100 riders of all skill levels participated this year in a week long event featuring tech execs and start up founders - mingling with local and international kiting professionals from Cabrinha and Naish.
Over the past several years, kiteboarding has earned a reputation as ‘the new golf’ amongst tech savvy entrepreneurs in the silicon valley. Every year, an increasing number of start up entrepreneurs, tech executives, and their venture capital backers take up the sport. With the sport’s growth, the “Mai Tai” has become a premier event amongst the digerati that make up the technology community in Silicon Valley and beyond, serving as a fun, adrenaline-filled event to share ideas, talk tech, and ‘do deals’ on the beach while learning to kite and / or improve skills on the water. The “Mai Tai” has been covered to some extent in major publications such as Fortune, Bloomberg, and recently CNET News.com and the LA Times.
The event has become a one of a kind opportunity for riders of all skill levels from the hottest tech companies in the industry to mingle day to day with some of the best known professionals and riders in the sport. Dozens of youthful execs from tech companies like Facebook, Google and Second Life, had a chance to meet and ride with industry legends including Pete Cabrinha, Robby Naish, and professional team riders including Susi Mai, Tom Court, Clarissa Hempel, Jeff Kafka, Ben Meyer, and Jesse Richman among others.
With help from local kite schools, 30 new riders got on the water with Rudy Achberger of Aqua Sports and Kiteboarding School of Maui’s Martin Kirk.
Several days of solid Maui trade winds early in the week allowed the early arrivals to ride hard, try out new gear and new tricks, or simply improve on basic skills. Impressive moves by Susi Mai, Ben Meyer and Tom Court inspired experienced riders to work on improving basic skills, and others just learning to kite to keep at it. Mid week, the wind gods disappeared and most of the group took up stand up paddle boarding and worked on long boarding skills while some of the experienced kiters led by Jeff Kafka and Clarissa Hempel conquered light winds with large kites and surfboards. Jimmy Lewis also dropped by to talk about board design and his ever popular line of kite boards. Late in the week the winds returned, allowing Jesse Richman to show his award winning freestyle moves.
The enthusiasm of the Mai Tai attendees and momentum behind the trip’s growth every year make it increasingly clear that there’s a natural fit between kiting and the ‘silicon valley lifestyle’, summed up in the phrase “work hard, play hard”. This group was full of inspired entrepreneurs who live their tech junkie work lives taking calculated risks every day, on the water and off. The Mai Tai provided a healthy environment for the individuals in the group to share their experiences and build community around this sport that we all love so much. The intersection of start up techies and kiting is clearly going to grow and we are all looking forward to next year’s event already!