Whether it’s in the ocean, on land or snow-covered mountains, kiteboarding is an activity that can be enjoyed in any climate, anywhere in the world. Just ask local expert, Mike Kratochwill, owner of Lakawa, a kiteboarding equipment stop and kiteboarding school in White Bear Lake.
“It's not age or gender-specific, and it can be done on land, water and snow. It's a year-round activity. You can jump on a plane and do it anywhere,” says Kratochwill.
Kiteboarding is the blanket term used for the activity, which includes kitesurfing, land-kiting and snowkiting. Whether the boards are being used in the water, on land or on snow, they all use various length lines connected to harnesses and kites which use the power of wind to propel forward.
“The kites come in different sizes and each kiter usually owns a few kite sizes to best manage different winds and conditions like the waves of Lake Superior, powder snow, backcountry kiting up mountains, freestyle tricks and flat water lakes. There are lots of ways to play,” says Kratochwill.
Lakawa’s roots go back to 2002, beginning as a website designed to bring the kiteboarding community together, with a forum for participants to talk about experiences and share pictures with fellow boarders. Website creator Tighe Belden taught Kratochwill how to board in the snow. Kratochwill then bought the website, and opened the brick and mortar shop in 2009.
“As the first and only of its kind, the forum is dense with thousands of stories … intensely descriptive with everything from ride reflections, humility, how-to, kite adventures from around the world [and] photo galleries,” says Kratochwill.
Lakawa sells boards and other gear like kites, helmets, wetsuits, and custom boards. The Ozone Kites brand has 20 different types of kites available which can be tailored to the size and skill level of the owner and conditions. Lakawa also carries OneWheel, a brand that includes electric boards.
Along with equipment, Lakawa offers two to three-week kiteboarding trips to different locations with lessons to teach proper technique and safety procedures. “Lessons begin on the ground so students can learn how to steer and get comfortable with the technical elements needed to handle a kite. In the next lesson, they begin practicing drills and developing strength, starting with small kites to learn steering and power management, and progressing to larger kites as skill and surfaces demand,” says Kratochwill.
“Instruction simply keeps you in play, safely, without wrecking your kite, yourself or hurting others in the process … Our community of kiters works hard to communicate the joy of it, but also to caution about the learning curve,” Kratochwill says.
Kiteboarding has become an activity that Kratochwill, his wife and four daughters, ages 9, 12 and 20-year-old twins, enjoy as a family, which shows that anyone, no matter their age or skill level, can be successful once they learn the proper techniques.
“It is a wonderful life activity for individuals and families alike,” says Kratochwill.