Picture yourself alone on the Grand Cul de Sac amidst the beauty of St. Barth's. You’re gliding across the crystal clear water when suddenly your kite catches wind and you go soaring into the sky.
This experience is what pro kite surfer Rod Mackeene is fortunate to live out on a daily basis. Dubbed “Mr. Style,” Mackeene travels the globe to surf the best kitesurfing spots. He doesn’t pride himself in over-the-top tricks, but rather graceful moves and elegant style as he dances on the waves all caught on film. We spoke with the kitesurfing expert to find out what about the sport draws him in and keeps him coming back for more.
What is it that you love about kitesurfing?
RM: The whole feeling with kite surfing is about freedom, there are no limits on what I can do: kiting, surfing the waves, riding long distance, flying in the air. You’re not always stuck on the water since you do both flying and surfing. All the time I can do something different. You have both the waves and the wind to rely on. What I like most about my job being a pro kite surfer is it gives me the opportunity to travel and discover new beautiful places and new people. It’s my way of discovering the world while doing what I love the most.
How did you become interested in kitesurfing?
RM: I grew up with watersports, so naturally when kiting became popular (15 years ago), it was something I had to try. My family always loved the ocean, and I was raised with an ocean education. I came to vacation very often to St. Barths, so I had the opportunity to almost learn my entire kiting here in St. Barths. After years of learning, I became an athlete within kiting in 2003.
How does it compare with other watersports, like surfing and windsurfing?
RM: You have a unique combination of wave surfing, riding and the wind. Kiting definitely takes a lot from the other sports: body surf, tricks from wakeboard, wind knowledge from the sailing and windsurfing. Take a bit of all of these sports and put it into one sport - there you have kitesurfing. Also as a kite surfer it’s easier to travel with your equipment since they don’t take as much space as with a regular surfboard.
What sets your style apart from other surfers, and do you have a favorite trick?
RM: People in the kite surfing network/world usually make fun of me by calling me, “Mr. Style.” When I do ride, I like to do it with style and I’m more fluent in all of the parts and not specified in just one thing. I don’t necessarily do the hardest things; I’m more focused on doing it in a stylish way.
What are the ideal weather conditions for kiting?
RM: There are two types that I love: either storm condition with very strong winds and big waves so that you’ll fly higher than ever; Or 20 knot winds, sunny and flat water in a lagoon, for learning and improving tricks and style.
What makes St. Barth's such an attractive kitesurfing destination, and what is the best spot on the island?
RM: Best spot is right in front of Le Sereno because it has a shallow water lagoon, nice steady winds and some of the best waves to surf. St. Barth's is St. Barth's, a beautiful island with great kite conditions.
Where are the best places you have ever been kitesurfing?
RM: I have three favorite spots:
North Brazil – because of the constant steady and strong winds combined with the white sandy beaches.
Western Australia – because of the beauty, really good waves, and the many options for kitesurfing.
Venezuela/Los Roques – flat water and beautiful scenery (it’s like skiing on new powder snow).
Also one amazing kite experience was when we went kiting in the red sea; There were so many wild dolphins so you actually kited along with them.