I had been chasing the wind for a few weeks, yet something was always askew. The wind was coming out of the wrong direction. It was too weak. It was too strong. There was always something keeping me from strapping a board to my feet, grabbing a large, inflated kite and heading out into the waves to go kiteboarding. As a life-long surfer, I have ridden surfboards, bodyboards, stand-up paddle boards and even tried a kneeboard once. Naturally, kiteboarding beckoned. I reached out to Tiffany Layton Oliser, co-owner and program director over at Jax Surf and Paddle in Neptune Beach, hoping that she could get me up and riding by noon. “It’s not that simple,” Oliser lamented. “We can facilitate lessons with an instructor, but it could take a while before you actually get on the water.” No biggie, I thought. I had a few hours to spare. img_1775-copy Nate Schue prepares his kite for a day of kitesurfing. img_1728-copy   img_1764-copy     Turns out, due to the mood swings of mother nature, I would need a few weeks. Oliser put me in touch with one of the godfathers of Jacksonville kiteboarding, Nate Scheu. An affable guy with a permanent smile on his face, Scheu is the personification of the eternal grom, or for those not familiar with the verbiage, someone who is perpetually in a good mood and stoked about getting out on the ocean. The lifelong waterman grew up on a surfboard and 14 years ago, picked up kiteboarding when it was still in its infancy here in America. “I was out surfing one day and saw a guy with a kite doing huge jumps out on the water and zooming in and out of the waves. I chased him down the beach and asked him where’d he get that kite-thing and how could I get one too,” Scheu says. Kiteboarding was just getting a foothold in the mainland U.S. in early 2000. A pair of French brothers, Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux, had pioneered surfing with a kite back in 1985 in response to the consistently windy coast in Brittany, France, which coincidentally, wreaked havoc on the waves they loved to surf. From there, the sport made its way to the island of Maui in Hawaii and then onto California and Oregon before migrating to the East Coast. Scheu says that, at first, he didn’t really understand the wind or how to sail when he began to kiteboard, making him the perfect instructor for me because neither did I. I listened to Scheu talk about being in the wind and surfing and being overwhelmed by an overall sense of flying across the ocean surface. I was brimming with anticipation. Then, Hurricane Matthew skirted a tad too close to Northeast Florida, battered many of the beaches across the region, including Huguenot Memorial Park, which happens to be one of the favored kiteboarding spots for beginners and experts alike. My determination was not deterred, and I pressed Oliser and Scheu for an opportunity. We met on a windy and rather frigid December morning at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, one of Jacksonville’s premier city parks and another favorite spot for kiteboarding. Scheu’s cousin, Andrew Crane, was the first to greet me with a smile. He, then, provided me with a reality check. I would not be kiteboarding that morning, or for that matter no time in the next month or so, because I first had to do my sand training. I pictured torturous initiation rituals in the sand, or worse yet actual, rigorous exercise, neither of which was true. It was a lot of fun.  img_2350-copy It takes a few lessons to get out on the water kitesurfing, and a starter kit can run about $2,000.   Kiteboarding is not a one-day event and getting to the fun part takes hours and hours of preparation, and some investment. Crane shared that the sport does have a higher entry price point. A starter kit can run about $2,000, including kite, board, pump (the kite is filled with air) rigging and harness. The harness is worn around the waist and allows the rider to use his body weight as counter-balance to the wind-filled kite. Along with the start-up costs, kiteboarding requires a much longer learning process than other water sports, as the rider must not only know how to harness the wind and be comfortable in choppy seas, but also must learn how to tack upwind while strapped to a large kite. I watched Scheu and Crane prepare their gear for close to 30 minutes in the crisp morning air and asked them why they kept coming back to the sport. Crane answers that, “looking for waves to launch and land on is a feeling like no other.” Scheu says that being able to be out on the water on days when he does not want to paddle out a surfboard keeps him stoked on the sport. “I doubled my water-time when I started kiteboarding, and what’s better than that.” As for me, I began my training later that day by learning more about the equipment and how to handle a sail full of wind. I have a few more lessons planned and am currently looking for some used equipment, just in case anyone is looking to get rid of a perfectly usable kite.   Want to knock kiteboarding off your bucket list? Visit Jacksonvillesurfandpaddle.com for information on lessons.