Riding With The Wind
by Constance Helstosky
photos courtesy of Juraj Bencat
It is the middle of December, the air temperature is hovering just above freezing, the wind is gusting at 40 knots and the waves ocean side are becoming deep swells.
For Juraj Bencat of “KiteTucket”, these conditions are not the typical image of a person’s playground, but it is where his heart and skills thrive. Most Nantucketers have seen these colorful sails handled by one person that cruises around the harbor or off the south shore in all seasons.
Harnessing the wind for movement in the form of traditional sailing has a long history on the island and in the world. Kitesurfing and kiteboarding on the other hand, have only been around since the 1970s. These relatively recent extreme sports combine the surf or kite board with the technology of a personal kite for propulsion and more power. Kitesurfing differs from general kiteboarding in that it is a more focused sport, primarily centered on riding waves. These sports are ones that not many have tried, however through people like Juraj and his business “KiteTucket”, it is becoming more accessible, especially for those that live or vacation on Nantucket.
Juraj arrived on Nantucket a decade ago from the landlocked country of Slovakia. He had grown up skiing and later went on to be a ski instructor. Never kiteboarding before did not stop him from self-teaching this dangerous extreme sport. Juraj was able to excel due to previous athletic strength, flexibility and endurance begun as a skier. He also had the mental fortitude to enter the sea in a novel way in order to experience the thrill and exhilaration kiteboarding had to offer.
“KiteTucket” was formed in 2012, after Juraj became a certified instructor, to fill the niche of a teaching school for Nantucketers and tourists wanting to learn, or to deepen their skills in the sport of kiteboarding. “KiteTucket” offers group or private sessions, camps, and foil boarding lessons, as well as more advanced instruction. When asked if turning his passion into his vocation has lessened his enthusiasm for the sport, Juraj was quick to point out how fortunate he is. He gets to spend his days teaching others, but it invariably improves his own skills. Teaching also allows him to spend as much time as possible on the water. When he teaches the conditions are also vastly different from those that he rides, with calm seas and gentle winds being the best to learn under. Lucky for Juraj and all aspiring and veteran kiteboarders who spend time surfing the island of Nantucket, all sorts of conditions and sites are available.
He also had the mental fortitude to enter the sea in a novel way in order to experience the thrill and exhilaration kiteboarding had to offer
We all know Nantucket as a very windy island, surrounded by ocean with varying personality as you move east to west or north to south and these attributes make it an ideal kiteboarding destination. It is almost always possible to locate a beach where there is wind from open ocean, and if one location is not windy enough it is just a short jaunt to the next possible spot. The weather may feel brutal to most of us during the grey winter, but for experienced kiteboarders this is a wonderful time to hone skills and have fun. The summer is the busiest time for “KiteTucket”, especially from June – August to provide lessons, but the entire season from May – October Juraj points out is beautiful with wonderful conditions to learn and ride.
When prompted what skills, or characteristics make a good kiteboarder, Juraj announces the willingness to learn and have fun is the biggest trait for success
All Instructors at “KiteTucket” are certified by the International Kiteboarding Organization, which means they have gone through a training course especially geared toward safely learning and practicing the sport of kiteboarding.
Whatever brings somebody to the sport of kiteboarding, they will forever be affected by the experience. Once the basic skills are mastered and the joy of riding the waves and wind can be realized a place of complete harmony can be reached. Removing oneself from the daily distractions of modern life brings you to experience the beauty of the open sea in an authentic setting like no other.
Article edited. Full version available in NOW NANTUCKET GUIDE 2017.