An interview with Sam Medysky
Sam Medysky is no stranger to the pages of Mountain Life. He first appeared here in 2006 at the age of 16, as an up-and-coming grom with tons of promise. Add to that spark of natural ability lots of hard work and Medysky is well on his way: he’s the first Canadian on international kiteboarding teams and to have his own signature model kiteboard. He’s won both freestyle and race competitions around the world in prestigious events including the Triple S in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. With a yearly travel schedule that includes Brazil, Maui and Sauble Beach, this Oliphant local is absolutely living the dream.
Mountain Life: How did you get into kiteboarding?
Sam Medysky: My entire life has been filled with sports. As a child my parents had me in all sorts of sports programs including windsurfing, soccer, hockey, baseball, wakeboarding, snowboarding. I tried to keep up with all these sports, but after a while I realized that team sports weren’t for me. I didn’t like depending on others. This was tough since I’m a very competitive person. In 1997 I was heavy into board sports – snowboarding in the winter and windsurfing and wakeboarding in the summer. The summer of 1997 my Dad brought home a windsurfing magazine and there was an advertisement titled “Kiteboarding, the sister sport to windsurfing – latest and greatest wind sport.” There were photos of guys riding waves and jumping huge. After that my Dad picked up a kite online and we learned together on the sandy shores of Sauble Beach, and that was it. Kiteboarding took over my life from the age of seven.
ML: How did getting into it so young influence your life?
SM: Since I can remember, kiteboarding has been a dream of mine. When I was young I used to tell my parents I wanted to be a pro kiteboarder and shape boards for a living. I was a bit of an outcast in school. Growing up in Orillia, once I quit hockey I slowly became more and more foreign to those I went to school with. In a small Canadian town, hockey is the way of life. All through school, I knew as soon as I graduated grade 12 I was free. As free as the wind. That’s exactly what I did. When I graduated high school I took off and started to travel and train. If I hadn’t gotten into kiteboarding at such a young age I probably would be in university or chasing after some hockey dream.
ML: What’s a year like for you?
SM: Every year is a little bit different. Generally, I spend from October to April on the road chasing the wind and training. I have spent four winters in Brazil. Also after the season in Brazil (September–January) I spend some time in Maui, Mexico, St. Lucia; pretty much anywhere it’s windy. In the summer I attend some of the larger invitational events in North America. The Triple S which takes place in Hatteras, North Carolina at the end of May, Ro Sham Throw Down which is mid-July in Hood River, Oregon and Kite Jam in Sauble Beach, Ontario which is the third weekend in September. Between these events I spend a lot of time at home in Sauble Beach working with our kite school Kiterider.ca. It’s a nice way to spend the summer and take a break from riding and competing.
ML: How often do you kite?
SM: Tough question. I spend from October to May 1 riding almost every day but when it comes to May through October I don’t get to ride that often. The summers are busy for me, filled with lessons in Sauble Beach. So most of the days it’s windy I’m actually teaching lessons. Sometimes it gets tough watching friends ride around me while I’m working but sometimes it’s good to take time off and build that stoke up.
ML: What motivates you to keep kiting?
SM: Some days I lose motivation. It’s been 13 years of kiteboarding and sometimes it’s really frustrating and I’m fed up with it, but once I hop in the water and get wet it’s all good. When I’m teaching I go back to the basics and I see the stoke in those who are just getting into the sport and it reminds me of how I was when I first learned to ride and that keeps me motivated and smiling throughout the ups and downs of kiteboarding.
ML: Why are schools integral for people interested in trying the sport?
SM: Taking a lesson from a certified school is important. Kiteboarding can be dangerous if the proper safety measures aren’t taken. It’s similar to sky diving and most people – actually let me rephrase that – all people interested in sky diving take a jump with a certified dive school before going out and doing it on their own. It’s the same with kiteboarding: if you don’t know what you’re doing you can put yourself or those beach goers around you at serious risk of injury or fatality. With a lesson from a certified instructor you have nothing to worry about. They will get you up to date with all the latest methods to keep you and those around you safe on and off the water.
ML: You have a pro model board now, right?
SM: Yeah, in 2009 and at only 19 I was fortunate enough to receive my first pro model board from Balance Kiteboards.
ML: How did that happen?
SM: I had been riding for Balance boards for two years and suggested to them to make a larger board to accommodate my style of riding. They replied with, “I like where you’re going with this, how do you feel about calling it the Medysky?” So I began to help with shapes, size and graphics.
ML: Are you the first Canadian to have his own board and make the international teams?
SM: As of right now I’m the first and only Canadian kiteboarder that I know of to have made an international team and to have a signature board on the worldwide market.
ML: Why have you been successful at kiting?
SM: To be honest I have to give credit to the people around me. I ride hard, train hard and work hard but I’d be nothing without the people who helped me. My parents always support me and my dreams no matter how crazy or dangerous they may be. My sponsors (Best Kiteboarding, O’Neill, Dakine, Rogue Wave, Kiterider.ca, Spy Optics and Long Collective); and last but not least, all the guys I started kiting with – they know who they are. The crew I started riding with back in the day were in their 20s and early 30s and pretty much taught me everything I know from riding to women, to partying and traveling.
ML: How can kiters overcome access issues at local beaches? What are those issues?
SM: Since kiteboarding has grown so rapidly there are more and more issues raised about beach access. The issues vary depending on the location but some of these issues are related to swim zones, parking, safety and overcrowding. A lot of these issues can be resolved by working with OKA (Ontario Kiteboarding Association). Also using common sense is a big one. If it’s a windy day and you don’t see anyone else riding at the beach a lot of the times there is a reason for it.
ML: What are your competition plans for the upcoming year?
SM: At the moment, I’m focusing on a little bit of everything. I believe to be a well-rounded rider and make a name in any sport it’s important to compete and shoot lots of photos and videos. On October 1, I plan to head to Brazil for two months to shoot with Josh Pietras photography (jpietrasphotography.com). After Brazil I will head to the Wind or No Wind event in The Philippines and then travel Asia for the rest of the winter, shooting and competing at some of the KTA events (Kite Tour Asia). After the winter months I’m not 100 percent sure, possibly join the PKRA (world tour) for a season or continue with the invitational events through North America.
ML: Are you focused on learning new tricks or dialing in existing ones?
SM: At the moment I’m working towards getting a lot of my tricks back. This winter I had a tough time with injuries. While living on Maui in January I had an accident while riding and lost about an inch of my middle right finger so that was two surgeries and about two and a bit months off the water. After that I found out I had a hernia in my lower stomach from off-water training (squatting at the gym). Then I was out for six weeks after having my hernia repaired. So I haven’t actually had a ton of training time on the water; it’s been either riding in an event or teaching in the kite school, so I haven’t had much time to myself to free ride and train. On October 1, training begins in Brazil.
ML: As a progressive-freestyle rider, what are your thoughts on kite racing and the Olympics?
SM: Even as a freestyle rider I’ve done some racing and have respect for it. At the moment I’m not focusing my attention on racing as a lot of it has to do with gear rather than actual skill. Once racing goes to a “one design” where all riders race on the same size board and fins then I’ll be more keen to get back into it. I think if kite racing were to go to the Olympics that would be huge for the sport. I’d be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon to join the Canadian team.
ML: Is kiteboarding making you rich yet?
SM: I wish I could say I was rich from kiteboarding. Unfortunately kiteboarding isn’t yet like golf, hockey, basketball or football so until it gets more attention from the general public – it’s tough to get rich from kiteboarding. I still work a regular minimum wage job when I’m back home to help pay for food and accommodations while on the road and traveling.