From Issue 1 – you can buy it here!
Written and Photos taken by WOLCOTT
It’s been said, ‘you gotta pay to play’. It’s never a fun thing when the piper shows up with an open palm demanding payment in pain. As athletes, we’ve all been through the bumps, bruises, lumps, and breaks. We know we will all get a turn to sit it out on the beach and heal up. But some of us are just so damned lucky! Some can ride giants with impunity, slay dragons without consequence but even the best of us cannot escape the laws of probability forever. An ounce of flesh for an hour of joy, or however that goes…
Injuries are never fun. They always take time to heal and are just a part of the game. Sitting in bed, watching the trees blow outside as you lay there unable to do anything sucks. Enduring the ‘dude, where were you? It was so good….’ texts and phone calls. But hey, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Right?
Freedom’s associate editor Jason Wolcott took time out of his busy schedule (…umm yeah, busy…) to sit down and chat with 2-time KSP World Champ, Keahi De Aboitiz. Jason was the right guy for the job – he’s previously suffered a similar injury. However, his was caused by the inability to gauge proper distance whilst overtaking on a motorbike in busy Bali, Indonesia. Dumb ass….
FKM: How did you get into kiting?
Keahi: Luckily for me my dad was always into water sports. He got me into surfing when I was about 5 and was one of the first people to get into kiting in Noosa. He started a kite school when I was about 11, so naturally I picked it up because by then I was obsessed with all water sports. From then on I haven’t looked back and still love it just as much today.
FKM: Who are your biggest influences?
Keahi: When I first started riding I drew a lot of inspiration from guys like André Phillip and Ben Wilson. They were both really pushing their respective styles and that’s how I wanted to kite. Once I really got into waves, guys like Ian Alldredge and Patrick Rebstock pushed me a lot. I remember seeing the first few videos of those guys doing strapless rotations and found it hard to believe. That really made me push my riding and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come now.
FKM: Tell me about kiting in Australia, what makes it so amazing?
Keahi: I guess the biggest thing is the variety of conditions that we get, especially in Noosa where I live. We have everything you could possibly need to become a good kitesurfer. We have pumping waves for surfing and amazing flat water spots for freestyle but I think the biggest thing that shaped me into the kiter I am today, is our beach breaks. Depending on the time of year, we get wind from both directions for both port and starboard tacks and everything from side shore to straight onshore. I think this really helped shaped me into a diverse rider.
FKM: Who is the next great Australian kiter?
Keahi: That’s hard to say. There are a few guys pushing it but a few guys kinda lost interest in the sport as well, which is a shame. For Freestyle, I think Ewan Jaspan is still definitely someone to watch out for. He was starting to have some decent results on tour but is dealing with some injuries at the moment.
Once he recovers I think we could see him do pretty well still. With waves, unfortunately the contest scene has kinda died down a lot and I think that’s affecting the motivation of some of the guys. Lucas Hearn from the Sunny Coast has come a long way in the last few years and if he stays with it, I think he could do well in the future.
FKM: So, you are into flying; what else are you flying besides kites…?
Keahi: Haha yeah, who doesn’t like flying? What’s not to love about it? I actually started para-gliding a couple of years ago and spend a bit of time doing that when I’m home. There’s something pretty relaxing about cruising along the coast in the air – I have a lot of fun doing it. The best thing is it doesn’t really take away from kiting or surfing because it fits into that time when the surf is wrecked and it’s not windy enough to kite. I’m also into the RC gliders and just recently got a drone to muck around with as well. I’m having a lot of fun chasing my mates around with it getting footage at the moment.
FKM: Do you believe in any of the following: UFO’s, ghosts, Big Foot, drop bears, Chupacabra, the Loch Ness Monster, America?
Keahi: Haha seeing as I’m not a tourist, I’m not really afraid of drop bears. From what I hear they like to target foreigners. Remember, “look up and live”.
FKM: Who is really pushing the sport right now?
Keahi: There are definitely a few guys I draw some inspiration from; guys like Ian and Patrick are still killing it and it’s always good to see what they’re up to when they post vid’s. Riding with Reo is good cause he’s not afraid to charge and pull into solid slabs with a kite. It’s always good to ride with people like that as it really pushes me to charge as well. Then there’s Airton. He’s a bit of a freak and seems to be able to do anything pretty good if he spends enough time doing it. It’s always good to watch videos of these guys and see the latest stuff they’re doing. It really pushes me to try new things as well.
FKM: Why does Jason’s wife always make your bed with pink sheets when you stay with them in Bali?
Keahi: Good question. I’ve always wondered that myself. Maybe you can tell me??
FKM: Favorite places to kite?
Keahi: Indo, Mauritius, Fiji and Hawaii are all pretty up there, in no particular order. I’ve scored some of the most amazing kitesurfing conditions at those places and would go back in a heartbeat. They all offer some amazing barrel potential for kiting, which can be rare to find in some places.
FKM: I’ve seen you surf, kite, and SUP for 12 out of 12 and a half hours of daylight. Where do you find the passion and energy?
Keahi: Haha I think the biggest thing is I don’t want to see those conditions go to waste. Sometimes with a swell you might only have a two-day window where it’s gonna be pumping so you really have to make the most of it. Otherwise I’m kicking myself when the swell’s over thinking, ‘why didn’t I go out for that session’. It’s one of those things; if I’m watching pumping waves go un-ridden I can’t stop myself from going out. You just have to find that energy to do it because you’ll regret it the next day if you didn’t go out. I think last year in Indo was the most I’ve ridden though. I think that was like 8-10 hours a day for a week straight. I still don’t know how I got through that.
FKM: Tell me about the injury?
Keahi: Just unlucky and I guess – it was bound to happen sooner or later. I remember every time I got to the injury question in an interview I always thought how lucky I was to have not to have done anything too serious yet. I suppose I have something to put down now… Basically I was surfing down at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast and took off on a pretty solid double-up drainer behind the rock. The sand is amazing there at the moment and the bank is super shallow. I’m still not 100% sure what happened but I’m pretty sure I just free fell from the top of an overhead one, missed the board and landed square on my right foot. It felt bad but it wasn’t super painful so I wasn’t too sure what I did. As I washed up on the beach I lifted up my leg and could see my ankle flopping around and at that point I knew it was pretty bad. Turns out I broke the tip of my tibia and fractured the fibula as well, so not the best outcome.
FKM: You got some new hardware installed?
Keahi: Yep, all that fun stuff. After an operation I’m now sporting two screws in my tibia and a plate with about 6 screws on my fibula.
FKM: How long are you out for?
Keahi: It’s hard to say, but I’d say at least a few months. I’m 8 weeks on at the moment and should be able to walk again any day now. From then on it’s just all about strengthening it up and not re-damaging it. I think I’ll be able to slowly get back into it but I’m going to take it easy for a bit. I’ve heard some horror stories about people coming back too early and re-breaking it much worse. That’s the last thing I wanna do; I don’t want to go through this again. I’m hoping by 5 or 6 months I’m relatively back to normal.
FKM: I’ve shot with you on many days where you could have gotten hurt but came out unscathed… Talk a bit about luck and pushing limits?
Keahi: Yeah, I guess sometimes you just get lucky and sometimes you don’t. It seems like most of the time you end up hurting yourself worse doing something when you would least expect it. I guess it was just my time and you just have to move on and try not to let it affect you too much. If you do, you start hesitating, which can put you in an even worse situation a lot of the time.
FKM: How does it affect you mentally, going from doing what you love everyday to recovering?
Keahi: It’s hard but it’s one of those things you just have to deal with. It’s amazing how good it feels to do some of the things you just took for granted before the break. Every little progression feels great and I can’t wait just be able to go for a swim in the water again right now. Luckily I still have a few things to keep me occupied at the moment. Flying RC gliders is a good way to pass the time and luckily I have good mates that will go pick it up when I crash. The drone has also kept me pretty occupied as well. If I had to watch pumping waves with nothing to do it would be torture but thankfully flying the drone and filming a session makes it still feel like I’m part of the session. I’m still looking forward to swells coming so I can film rather than just watch and wish I was out there.
FKM: What plans did you have to cancel?
Keahi: It definitely wasn’t the best timing. Unfortunately I managed to do it the day before I was meant to leave to Rodrigues for a kite jam and then onto Mauritius for the Cabrinha dealer meeting after that. I ended up spending the night in the hospital scrambling to get it all cancelled and get whatever money I could back for the tickets. It sucks, but sometimes that’s what happens. Apart from that, I probably picked the best time I could to do it. It’s summer in Hawaii so it’s flat there and it’s winter at home so the waves are fun but not amazing like it is in autumn. In terms of comps, there’s not too much on right now. Though it looks like I’m going to miss a standup event in California but I might be OK for the events toward the end of the year.
FKM: What’s an average day like right now?
Keahi: It’s getting better and I’m starting to be able to do more and more. It usually involves eating and watching TV series on my computer but I try to get out of the house and at least do something semi-physical every day. Whenever there are waves I’ve been flying the drone and shooting my mates and that’s definitely keeping me occupied.
FKM: Do you have any regrets?
Keahi: You always think, ‘why did I go on that wave? Why didn’t I pull back?’ But if it didn’t happen then, it could’ve happened another time. I’ve done the same thing so many times and had wipe outs where I should have gotten way more worked so I guess it was just my time. I’m thankful that at least that’s all I did. I didn’t do a knee or anything else at the same time. I’m sure I’ll get through it and learn from it in the future.