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Northern Ireland's Best Kitesurfer?

 

Currently ranked joint #2 on the Woo Sports Leaderboard with a 25.2m jump and arguably Northern Ireland’s most talented kitesurfer, Pete Jakobsen and his Blade Trigger can be seen out every weekend when wind allows. We catch up to find out a bit more about the man behind the big jumps… But firstly, a big thank you to Michael Shaw for some of these action pix. 

"I bought a bunch of How-to-Kitesurf DVDs. I watched them, I studied them, and then I took my new equipment out and I just went and gave it a go.”

It was Summer 2008. Northern Ireland’s beaches were used to seeing surfers and windsurfers, but kitesurfers were still few and far between (and given the DVDs, we’re guessing the internet hadn’t quite fully realised its full potential at that point, either).

As a kid, Pete Jakobsen had grown up in Odense, Denmark, and was an avid windsurfer. He started around the age of 14 after watching it on TV and seeing it live when staying at his family’s seaside holiday house. Until then he had been football-mad, like everyone else, but Pete was soon chasing the adrenaline rush of the wind and water.  When he wasn’t windsurfing, he was at school or working in a local supermarket to save up the money he needed to maintain the sport. He was often told he should compete, but there was no such thing as a free hand-out. His buying power was 100% informed by his after-school wage, and so he found himself with one board and two sails and that was that. Unless the conditions were absolutely mint for his sail sizes, then he’d have to spend the day watching everyone else from the beach.

It didn’t deter him. His passion continued as he travelled to live and work on a Kibbutz in Israel, here he managed to borrow some kit for a few windsurfing sessions on the Sea of Galilee. He met his now wife, Tracey, whilst on the Kibbutz and followed her back to Northern Ireland. And that’s where the fun really started…

 

Kitesurfing – a lesson in how to have fun

It was a particular day during that summer of 2008 when Pete found himself on Ballyholme Beach, struggling to get a good windsurfing session in the fluky winds. He was out on the water with another local, Bryan. Whilst Pete struggled to windsurf in the weak conditions, Bryan was on a kiteboard having a terrific time. He was getting plenty of air, cutting quickly through the bay. It looked so class, Pete remembers thinking. They both came to the beach at about the same time. Pete made the comment that Bryan looked like he’d been having way more fun. Bryan just laughed. The deal was sealed.

Within days Pete had sourced equipment (two kites and a board), found some kitesurfing magazines, and ordered those DVDs. Everything arrived at about the same time and he had absolutely no idea what to do with it all. Bit by bit, he got his head around everything.

Warning - don’t do this at home

Kitesurf Warehouse doesn’t recommend anyone teaches themselves how to kitesurf. Instead, seek out lessons with an accredited, insured instructor. They can teach you not only all the technical skills you will need to get up and going, but also the etiquette of kitesurfing.

Kitesurfing – the beginning

Sensibly, Pete was a little concerned about power in the early days, so he took the kites out only in light winds. He flew them on the beach for a few hours. He sat down, put his feet into the board bindings and got a feel for it all. He decided it was all going pretty well and so he headed into the water. That first time he managed to kite across the entire bay of Ballyholme. That was in part due to the fact he had absolutely no idea how to slow down. He was hooked, for sure, but that initial three hour session was not without its stress. He spent the most part feeling fairly out of control and concentrated on giving an extra wide berth to the windsurfers who were also out. His skills and strength from boarding and windsurfing came in handy – they could be applied to kiting – but depowering was an entirely different kettle of fish! But he managed, and that was the day he retired from every other water sport and became completely, absolutely in love with kiting.

Kitesurf tricks

In those early days Pete just wanted to jump like Bryan. He wanted all that air. That’s part of what keeps him so interested in kiting – the learning is never over. Just as soon as you’ve perfected one trick, another is then within reach. Of all the tricks now in his repertoire Pete still remembers that very first rotation. By then he had been jumping for a few months. He was out on Tyrella and he recalls thinking he might just be able to give this a shot and pull it off. He did it. He couldn’t believe it had worked, so he did it again. It wasn’t a fluke. He was hooked.  

The growth of kitesurfing in Northern Ireland

It wasn’t too long after before more kiters started to appear on the shores of Northern Ireland.  A school opened. A genuine kiting community began to develop. In Pete’s opinion, one of the best things about the sport in Northern Ireland is the fact there is so much space, and so much wind. To have all that water for just a handful of kiters at any one time is pretty unique. It means you’re out there having your own session rather than being constantly preoccupied with the traffic around you. It’s pretty special.

 

 

Northern Ireland’s next gen of kiters

Pete’s teenage kids have also caught the passion. His 18 year old son took a sabbatical and has just recently sparked renewed interest in the sport. His 16 year old daughter however, has been hooked for years. We joke that she and her boyfriend are part of the new breed – the young kids rising up through the ranks who will soon be kiting rings around all the oldies on the block. Whilst some kids are gaming and coding and drowning in social media, these kids are watching Kevin Langeree on Youtube and planning their post high school trip around the world, a chance to leap frog from one amazing world-class kitesurfing destination to the next.    

It also means Pete gets to share some pretty quality time with his daughter. Whenever they go out together they always try and high-five on the water. She still calls him “Cripps” (short for cripple) after a particularly nasty accident he had a year or so back. You can be the best, sure, but you can also rely on your kids to bring you down a peg or two…!

Quick Questions with Pete

What do you love about kitesurfing?

The pure adrenaline rush.

What has kitesurfing done for you that you maybe didn’t expect?

It’s introduced me to a really nice community of locals who share the passion.

Has kitesurfing prevented you from doing anything?

Wearing skinny jeans. I tried once and got them to my knees. Those days are over.

Best local kitesurfing spot?

Rossnowlagh, County Donegal. The waves are perfect, they don’t break too fast, and it’s a beautiful beach.

Number one kitesurfing destination on your bucket list?

One Eye, Mauritius. The kids told us a few years ago they didn’t want to go on holidays with us anymore. I thought, fantastic, I should be able to get there a lot sooner, in that case. But then they changed their mind. So it’s probably still a few years away…

Why the Blade Trigger?

It is by far the best kite I have ever tried. It gets big air - the boost is phenomenal. Nigel from Kitesurf Warehouse had a few out one day and I asked if I could give it a go for 20-minutes. After the 20 minutes, I didn’t want to hand the kite back! It looped super smoothly, which was (and still is) perfect for my riding as many of my tricks incorporate a kite loop or a down loop. I also went twice as high as I was going that day on my previous kite. I called him later and bought three – I changed my entire kite quiver after that one session and I haven’t looked back. The fact that it is also perfect for foiling and for teaching my teenage kids shows just how versatile the Trigger is. 

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