Watch: Keahi de Aboitiz // Tunnel Vision
“Kitesurfing is a pretty diverse sport and people get into it for different reasons. Some people are more into cruising or jumping, but there are also surfers who kite.”
Keahi de Aboitiz is the latter, a surfer who kites. He looks at the conditions the way a surfer does, picturing certain moves in certain places, noting the lip that’s looking for attention, the wave that's doubling up, or the wide section that’ll allow a full-blooded carve.
Make no mistake, Keahi has a surfer’s eye.
The difference between you and I, however, is that the kite allows his eyes to roam much further. Wind power shrinks an expansive lineup. Allows him to join distant dots.
“I've always seen it like driving your own jetski in a way,” says Keahi of using a kite while surfing. “When the current is too strong to paddle, or you're dealing with wash throughs, a kite is an amazing tool to have.”
“Also, in shifty, heavy waves you can position yourself exactly where you want to be before it breaks and you're already on your feet to navigate steps or heavy drops too.”
Born in Noosa to Hawaiian parents - well, Mum was Hawaiian while Dad was born here but raised there - Keahi’s first love was longboarding. Unsurprising, with the soft-topped peelers of the Noosa points on tap for six months of the year.
And for those other six months? Keahi stayed wet by kiting, using the conditions to his advantage. Through his teenage years he increasingly concentrated on kiting, and this had the about-face effect of getting him into shortboarding - fella likes to go fast on small equipment.
“Generally, anyone riding a surfboard is looking for that same feeling,” says Keahi, “but adding a kite gives you an extra dimension. You can hit a section with added power or use the wave as a ramp.”
Look down and you’ll note Keahi is often riding what looks very much like a surfboard. So what’s the difference between his kiteboards and surfboards?
“It depends on the waves really. In less powerful surf and for airs, something shorter and wider works, but in bigger slabs something more pulled in and a touch longer works too - I guess you could say it's similar to a small wave tow board.”
“With the added power you can get away with the volume you always wanted to surf,” says Keahi, adding, “that’s means a few litres less for me.”
“And extra glass is needed since you're always on your feet and boards don't last that long otherwise.”
So in short: Similar shape, less volume, more strength.
Anyone who’s seen Keahi surfing Boiling Pot at size, or watched his Wave of the Winter entry at Backdoor, knows the old boy goes OK in the barrel. So it should surprise no-one that he’d push kitesurfing in that direction. Yet that kite? Those lines? How does it work..?
“Although it comes with some challenges, it's a lot more possible to get barrelled than people realise,” explains Keahi about getting barelled on a kite. “Sure, you can't get a ten second barrel but you can get a lot deeper than you think.”
“For the most part, since the lines are thin and tight they actually just cut through the lip - though longer barrels or thicker lips can create a little bit too much drag.”
“The biggest challenge is finding the right wind angle and keeping your kite positioned in the right spot so that it doesn't hinder you too much. It’s a crazy visual watching the lines slice through when you're getting barreled!”
Questions about which equipment he’d prefer to get barrelled on cause Keahi to shake his head. It’s just not how he looks at it. Says Keahi, "all I want to do is maximize my time in the ocean and get the same feeling in different conditions.”
“Kitesurfing doesn’t replace surfing, but in the right conditions it’s the perfect extension of it.”