Paul Menta is one of the pioneers of Kiteboarding and this year, he's celebrating his 20th year in the sport. The perfect occasion to sit down with Paul, dig out some old pictures and talk story. From the inventive and fearless early days to mastering, teaching and promoting the sport for two decades, Paul has a lot of stories to tell...
Hi Paul! This year marks your 20th anniversary in the sport as professional. How are you doing these days?
I am doing amazing, life just keeps getting better and my passions are now in a synergy together which makes everyday an adventure!
With 20 years of kiteboarding experience you have seen the sport evolve. What was the vibe like in the oldschool days and how do you look at how the industry changed over the years?
That could be a long question :) but here is the short: In the mid 90’s you had people coming from all sport background to see what they could do with a kite. Maui became ground 0 for kiteboarding as the internet was becoming popular and the few people in the sport could communicate by email. The sport grew on a daily basis, people like Flash, Lou, Elliot, Laird, Rush and Maurico all had different styles. We were all on 2 lines, you rode hooked in or unhooked powered up to the max, deposed was your board or crashing. Ram Air kites had the market and Wipika came with inflatables and people said that foils where the future but we knew this was not true. Major divisions in styles when 4 line came with a chicken loop, sides were taken it was the war on progression which finally adapted in to better wind range, safety and more surf ability in waves. It was super competitive and at the same time a great group of people who pushed each other. At kite beach Maui, you sat on the picnic bench or the log for kooks... More people pushed the industry to give more features, especially safety and light wind. When there was a huge surge of kite companies in 2009 the vibe weakened as it became survival, but after the dust settled it went back to the same bunch of people globally who were prepared to sit on a beach for hours till wind came and swap stories.
What is your history with Cabrinha and do you have a special story to share with us?
I have been with Cabrinha 16 years after I was with Wipika. I met Pete Cabrinha at Kite beach in 2000 I think, supper humble guy for a big wave riders, I always remember that. Doing a tour around the U.S. soon after I met Kent Marinkovic, the Cabrinha guy for USA. He said I know you're with Wipika Kites, but we have had bladder issues with Cabrinha kites. He asked me to take boxes of bladders with me in my RV and give then to anyone with Cabrinha. I was seriously impressed by a company say we have a problem and want to fix it. Nine months latter I joined the Cabrinha team as I saw an amazing company of people that were in for the long haul.
How would you compare the gear used back in the day and the gear currently in the market?
Believe it or not in the beginning we had most stuff that is popular now that didn’t make it then. We had super high aspect inflatable kites on bridles, but didn’t relaunch. Surf boards with straps, but broke on jumps, so we got rid of the starts and surfed the waves but it wasn’t popular because of lack of spots. Pickle fork wakeboards that would split your head open if your weren’t careful and needed to be powered up a lot, now we have light amazing boards that make wake style tricks even better. Last we had foil boards, Laird Hamilton made them look cool and easy. We rode them with snowboard bindings, feet went numb hard to control...why do this, now is the light wind sport and growing huge!
With the Kitehouse, you offer not only kite lessons but the whole kite experience. Can you run us through what your guests can expect at the kite house?
The Kite House is a mobile state of mind. For the last 20 years, I had locations in Maui, Key West, Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Turkey and Venezuela. I am now transitioning to “Kiteboarding Key West” same logo but focus on my home in Key West for riding freestyle, wake and foil with board rentals, boat trips and Key West lifestyle. Special wave camps will be held in Ecuador in summers. I answer lots of questions online and I feel giving back to this sport is where I still want to be.
What are the conditions like in Key West?
Flat Flat Flat with miles and miles of open space for downwinders and adventures. Wind goes from October through March and is great for all levels.
Besides kiting for over two decades and being on the water for all of your life, you are also a chef by trade and also have your own legal rum distillery. What do your passions have in common and how do you manage it all?
As a Chef I have traveled the world and then did it again Kiteboarding so I knew what to expect in areas and now revisit and always have a new meal to try and some wind. I love making Rum, I cure my rum barrels in the ocean to have it 'Salt Cured' and I am even releasing a Kite Rum to show my thanks for the sport. Kiting, Rum and cooking make you friends world wide and helps you see and understand all of my passions and the Rum when shared gets me insider info on the latest and greatest things coming.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment your kiteboarding career?
I think that would be having an effect on the sport changing by input of R&D, traveling to see all conditions, teaching over 10,000 people, trying over 1000 instructors, writing manuals for the sport for insurance or in magazines and pushing the extreme, but with a sense of responsibility. I say effect because no one person takes credit, it’s a group of people and the sport that work together forth same goal, getting a session and sharing the stoke!
What’s your most memorable kite sessions and do you still dream of a spot you want to kite at?
Being the first to Kite Lake Atitlan in Guatemala in between 3 volcanos at 6,000 feet. Having a session with the god of wind in Tulum Mexico in front of the ruins and then climbing up to them and the care taker saying with that kite you would have been royalty with the Aztec people. Getting barreled in a wave on a kite after trying for years and relight before it closed completely pushing out the back of the wave, was like being born again..lol. Last meeting amazing people because of the sport, some have passed on and others are here, it’s a serious blessing especially still being with Cabrinha after all these years.
You are fully living your passions. What is it that keeps the fire alive, and what is your advice for people that want to live their dreams?
Never take no for an answer unless your life is at stake. If some one calls you an idiot (this happens a lot to me) ask why and if they have no answer it means your idea could end up being genius. Never have an ego, just have drive and release inspiration comes in the least likely places. Finally enjoy the wind and ocean, it keeps us alive!
One of your quotes is: “I'm the guy you want to be stranded on a deserted island with a roll of duct tape because I can make anything happen.” That sounds pretty good! Can you make a kite out of duct tape for self rescue?
In the past I have repaired so many kites with duct tape and even made one for some kids on an island with palm fronds and duct tape bamboo and old line....anything is possible and will live my life to the end with that attitude.
Where do you see kitesurfing in 20 years time?
Thanks for sitting down for an interview with us, Paul. We'll see you on the water!
Find out more about Paul HERE.