Whether it's in the ocean, on land or over snow-covered mountains, kiteboarding is an activity to be enjoyed in any climate, anywhere in the world. Just ask Maple Grove’s Mike Kratochwill, owner of Lakawa Board Shop 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,” he says.
Kiteboarding is the blanket term used for an activity, which includes kitesurfing, land-kiting and snowkiting. Wherever the boards are being used, they all use various length lines, which are connected to harnesses and kites that 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,” Kratochwill says.
Lakawa’s roots go back to 2002, beginning as a website designed to bring the kiteboarding community together with a forum for participants to write about experiences and share photos 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,” Kratochwill says.
Lakawa sells boards and other gear, including kites, helmets, wetsuits and custom boards. Brands, such as Ozone Kites, have 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 (The program features IKO certification, a worldwide accreditation style of lesson that incorporates safety and progression). “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,” Kratochwill says.
“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 age or skill level, can be successful once the proper techniques are learned.
Kratochwill snowkites around the area, including on Eagle Lake, and has raced internationally in Montreal and Norway, where the five-hour race included summiting five mountains. (Uff da!) In addition to other area lakes, he can also be found kitesurfing on Plymouth’s Medicine Lake. “It is a wonderful life activity for individuals and families alike,” Kratochwill says.