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Kiteboarding and entrepreneurship are two seemingly distant concepts. However, if you dig a little deeper, there are stunning similarities between the two. Both force you to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Both involve equally intense moments of fear and reward. To grow and get better, you will have to take a hit every now and then. Both require you to push the limits towards what is humanly possible. And as such, an event that combines the two is point blank genius. It’s the perfect synergy. The mental clarity, flow and mindfulness you achieve through kiteboarding is the perfect breeding ground for disruptive, creative ideas. Fortunately, I am not the first one to discover this. Bill Tai and Susi Mai founded MaiTai a while back, and the event has yielded a lot of great business since. Now, bring this event to the paradise of Necker Island, the private island of Sir Richard Branson, who himself proclaims that kiteboarding and entrepreneurship are his two biggest passions in life. And then add WOO, which is a startup that like no other matches these two concepts – kiteboarding and entrepreneurship. And as such, I was beyond excited to learn that we had been invited to join MaiTai Necker for a few days at the end of May. Even better, my partner in crime and WOO team rider Nick Jacobsen would join as well. All in all, a recipe for a ton of awesomeness, and quite frankly, also a lot of fun and trouble.
When I arrived at Necker, I was blown away by the beauty of the island. As with everything Sir Richard touches, it is full of beauty and radiates a fun, warm and entertaining vibe. While exploring the great house, I walked up to the jaccuzi on top of the roof. An instant flash hit me as a stiff easterly breeze sheared across the brim of the roof – this is the perfect setup for Nick to jump off of! Of course, when Nick arrived an hour later and the first thing I said to him was “dude, the roof”, he said “yeah man, I’ve been eyeing this thing from the boat. Done deal”.
As nights and the event went on, and Sir Richard gave the occasional visit to the group, I was more and more in awe by how friendly, kind, warm and humble he stayed through all of his success. He is as accessible and down to earth as anyone, and seemingly has an inner child that might just be bigger than mine. Always up for a joke and a little trouble. It was beyond inspiring seeing a man of his caliber blend in with a group as if they were his high school buddies, and it was mind blowing to witness the impact a single person can have on everyone around him. He has been my hero since the roots of my entrepreneurial journey, and my admiration for him has only grown since then.
And so, when Nick proposed the idea of jumping off the roof to Sir Richard, the latter was all fired up about the concept and urged to be present when the jump would happen. Fast forward, one of the most epic stunts ever done in kiteboarding has gone down. Nick mastered the jump with his usual calmness and control. I reckon that the 30 spectators were more nervous than Nick himself. The tension that built up over the days and with all the camera crew and spectators around was seemingly cutting through the air. We had a WOO on his board, and measured a 40m (130ft) drop from the roof! There was a section of almost free fall as the kite stalled out in the wind shadow of the island, and Nick got thrown out of balance due to the lack of tension in the lines. But Nick managed to get far out enough to catch a gust in a kiteloop, and recover his fall to a smooth landing, riding off like nothing ever happened. It was a truly inspiring moment and a glimpse into what is to come from the crazy, creative and genius Danish dare devil.
The one thing missing on the island was wind. I managed to get two short sessions in with a few jumps as squalls moved through the area and brought some wind gusts up to 16kts, so I managed to get myself on the Necker Island leaderboard. Beyond that, there was plenty of time to meet the awesome individuals that came to the MaiTai event, have plenty of drinks, and join the occasional party. Needless to say, sleep was rare, which is a testament to the close knit and fun crew of MaiTai people.
I left the island with an impression and awe that would not leave me until this day. It might just be one of those times that you look back some years from now, and realize that you hit a complete crossroad in your life. Experiencing the energy Sir Richard and the whole MaiTai crew radiates plants a seed in your mind that will hopefully grow into something that changes your life and the lives of others for the better! – Leo, WOO Co-Founder & CEO