2015 Kiteboarder of the Year – Brandon Scheid Interview

Over the past ten years Brandon Scheid has become a household name in the US kiteboarding community. He’s unquestionably one of the sport’s top park style riders. He’s a two-time overall winner at the prestigiuos Triple-S event in Cape Hatteras, NC and most recently won this summer’s Slider Jam in Hood River, OR. This past fall Kitesurfing Magazine was part of the AWSI committee that selected Brandon Scheid as the 2015 AWSI Kiteboarder of the Year. Here is an interview with Brandon Scheid from the Fall 2015 issue of Kitesurfing Magazine.

Where did you grow up, and what sports were you into as a kid?
I hail from the Great Lakes State (MI). I grew up in Grand Rapids, a middle-sized city about 45 minutes from the lakeshore. When I was a small kid I played a plethora of team sports as most American kids do. In my teen years I was introduced to board sports via skateboarding and snowboarding during the action sports boom of the late ‘90s.

How did you get into kiteboarding?
Kiteboarding as a sport came to me by sheer accident. A lot of things I did in my life set me up for that strange collision. First, my Dad was into stunt kite flying. We spent plenty of nights flying kites in a field by the house when I was young. This early relationship to the wind ended up driving me towards the sport of kiteboarding. Next, I was al- ready riding boards of all sorts and spending a lot of time jumping and flipping on my home trampoline. I also had the desire to pursue some kind of action sport and I was quite good amongst my childhood shred- der friends. I left high school in Wy- oming and headed across the state to attend Michigan State University. Over winter break I randomly got a chance to buy a used Wipika Hydro. I took it out and on the very first day did a massive snowkite downwinder thanks to the help of pops. From that very first day I was hooked. I spent the rest of my time trying to figure out how I could kite all the time. I ended up spending a summer at Real Watersports, then Real Kiteboarding, and my life has never been the same.

What was the local scene like back when you started? What was your favorite local spot?
I actually never kiteboarded on the water in Michigan before I learned at Real. That being said there was already a big scene in Michigan fueled by Steve Negen at Mac Kites. I flew my first inflatable with him at one of his demo nights in Grand Haven, MI. Michigan has more coastline than any other state and has great wind conditions most of the year. However, we have a thing called winter, so the scene is full of hardcore people. They are willing to drive hours to chase a session, or wear 6mm of neoprene to enter the water.
After learning to ride I have had some chances to kite in Michigan and I have to say there are some amazing world-class spots. Plenty of piers to create lots of flatwater, beautiful backdrops, and great wind conditions. However, my absolute favorite is in Muskegon, two massive jetties stick out and make a big pool of butter flatwater, plus it’s river water and a lot warmer than the surrounding lake water.

What’s the scene like now?
The scene in Michigan is alive and well. There are plenty of kiteboarders that make the most of the great spring and fall winds. There are also plenty of people enjoying the great snow kiting conditions that the state gets in the winter months. With the expansion of the hydrofoil into kiteboarding, I think a lot of new places are going to open up across the whole of the Great Lakes.

Was your family always supportive of your kiteboarding?
Being the only child has some perks, but by far the best one is that your parents will support you
in anything you do. My mom and dad have been nothing but helpful in making me the kiteboarder I am today. They got me my first quiver, they got me my job at Real, and they have put up with me through all the time I was chasing the dream of becoming a pro athlete. I think like most parents they just want their kid to be happy and doing well with what they choose to do. Love you mom and dad.

You started teaching kiting at Real almost ten years ago. Did working in Hatteras help or slow down your progression?
Moving to and working at Real fast tracked my progression 100 per cent. From the moment of my first water start I was thrusted into the epicenter of kiteboarding on the East Coast. I was surrounded by all the top riders at the time, I had access to the kite park and the flat- water playground of The Slick, and I had nothing to do but to kite. For a time there it felt like I learned ten new tricks every session. I definitely would not be where I am today if it was not for my time spent in the waters of North Carolina.

How has your perception of life as a pro rider changed since you were a wide-eyed new instructor?
My position in kiteboarding has changed a lot over the last ten years. I started as a frothing grom eager to live kiteboarding. I tran- sitioned into a full-time instructor, which gave me a great insight into the world of kiteboarding. I was able to interact with fresh students daily in a learning, retail, and social capacity. I think this gave me priceless experience in the industry. Then I started down the path of a professional athlete supported by the industry. This has led to a lot of insights into the production and marketing side of the kite world as well as how kiting is perceived and participated in worldwide. Ultimately, nowadays I have a glowing appreciation of the industry and kiteboarding as a whole. We are an amazing weird group of adrenaline junkies, and I’m so glad to be a part of the global family.

What were the biggest on-water influences there?
At the time I was able to rub elbows with the greats of kiteboardings youth. Jason Slezak, Sammy Bell, Andre Phillip, Moe Goold, Aaron Hadlow, just to name a few. I would argue that during my time at Real I have ridden with almost all of the kiteboarding superstars. However, I think I was the most heavily influenced by Jason. Not only as a rider, but as an ambassador. He has always carried himself professinoally both on-and- o the water, and that was something I always strived for. He really showed me that it’s what you do o the water that makes you a marketable and helpful rider, not how many 360s you can do.

If a grom expressed interest in becoming a pro-level rider, what advice would you give them?
I get this question a lot from people and I am not really sure how to answer it. I think timing had a lot to do with my rise to professional athlete status. There are a few things that will go a long way for an upcoming pro. First and foremost, be the nicest person at the beach. Launch and land everyone, talk shop, interact, this will not only give you a great rep a the beach, it will also help you improve your social skills and those are essential for making it in this industry. Bad attitudes get you nowhere. Next thing is to work on your on-water skills. You need to be pretty proficient on the water. You may need to win some local or international events so make sure you can ride with the best of them. When on the water pursue what makes you happy. Don’t ride wake style if it’s not for you, if you love to jump huge then make that your specialty and fol- low your happiness. It is way easier to stand out if you are already doing something di erent. Lastly, start to try and make some good promotional media. Start to work with photographers and videographers, take some time to understand good photo composition and maybe how to operate a camera. The more media savvy you are the easier time you will have creating original and good content. So there is no formula to become a pro, but there is plenty of oppor- tunity if you want to work for it.

Brandon Scheid 2015 Kitesurfing Magazine and AWSI Kiteboarder of the Year. Lance Koudele photo

Brandon Scheid 2015 Kitesurfing Magazine and AWSI Kiteboarder of the Year. Lance Koudele photo

You are one of a handful of riders to have a pro-model board. How is your Liquid Force Echo di erent from PKRA rider Christophe Tack’s board? Why did you go with higher rocker in your board?
The Echo was built to help bring a high- performance board in a package that was more a ordable for the average kiteboarder, whereas the Element was created to win a world championship. Christophe’s board spares no expense to make it the highest-popping, no-compromise, fast-planing, heat-winning machine. On the flip side, we tailored the layup of the Echo to have a more forgiving flex and ride, while still generating explosive pop and lively turns. I think the board rides a little softer and easier in a wider variety of conditions. Plus the flex and rocker com- bined make the board ride better on rails than the Element. The biggest thing I would like to share with the Echo is how well it rides in straps. I know being marketed as the wakestyle board may make people think you need to ride boots and unhook to ride it. However, with its e cient bottom shape and forgiving ride the board performs amazingly in the straps. I think a lot of riders would appreci- ate the extra grip from the channels and the lively feel of the all-wood core. Of course, I highly encourage everyone to get out there and feel the Echo.

Brandon Scheid doing R&D work on Maui for the Liquid Force Foil Fish.

Brandon Scheid doing R&D work on Maui for the Liquid Force Foil Fish.

We interviewed you extensively in the summer issue about your involvement with the Foil R&D at Liquid Force. What are the biggest changes in the range this year? How has your pro- gression in kiting changed what you look for in a foil board?
I am pleased to say that the foil fever is still strong at Liquid Force Kites. We have had great success with our current Foil Fish and we are really excited about the upcoming products for 2016. We are adding a few new things moving forward in all the categories. We will be releasing two new boards to the range, as well as an updated mast and fuselage. We will also be releas- ing a medium and high aspect wing. So really we will have two fully new foils for the market. As the foil market grows, so does the knowledge base and market demand. We have been watching the foil leaders and the trends and we are making what we think will be homerun products. The great thing is that we are committed to the interchangeability of our parts, so anyone with the current setup can upgrade any or all of their existing kit. I am so excited for the boards and foils to come to market.

You are in a relationship with fellow Liquid Force team rider Sensi Graves one of the top US women’s riders.
100 per cent yes. Almost six years strong.

With a name like Sensi her parents must be interesting to hang out with?
She grew up in the Northern Califor- nia woods with some very open- minded parents. She has three brothers, so hanging out with the family is amazing. It’s like you’ve always got a massive group of friends for everything. The grocery bills are always high, but so is the level of laughter and fun.

Do you help out with Sensi’s bikini company at all?
Her business is growing by strides every year and there is always a ton to do. I help where I can, but really between her and her assistant they handle most of the important stu . When she first started I used to help in the manufacture and shipping departments. Nowadays she has it pretty dialed, so I get to spend my time kiteboarding.

Do you guys always agree on where to go on trips and when to ride?
There is always a lot of discussion and plenty of compromise, but we do tend to agree on where to go. We love warm, tropical beaches, I mean who doesn’t? Most of the time we work together with Liquid to make the most of the travel that we do.

A lot of riders wonder what it would be like to have a girlfriend that kite- boards. What’s the biggest advantage and the biggest challenge of having a girlfriend that kites?Well the biggest advantage is we have every kite size and we get to spend our time on the water together. Really when everything is good it’s amazing. However, that also means you can no longer use kiteboarding as an escape from your relationship. We are riding together a lot and sometimes relationship issues carry over on the water. It’s usually amaz- ing, but like anyone with a wife or girlfriend knows, it can be stressful for sure. Good rule of thumb: happy wife, happy life.

You made a name for yourself with your park style riding. How much of that comes from training when you coached at REAL and how much is from the sports of
your youth, and how much from riding at the cable parks?
I’ve always been a park rat, whether I was snowboarding, skating, wake- boarding, or biking. So I would say
it has always been in me to pursue the features-side of riding. But being able to hone my skills in the Real Park over the years has solidified my park style of riding. There is just something about features that call to me. Maybe it’s the adrenaline, or just the sheer fun of it all, who knows?

This issue is our travel issue. What is the best trip you have ever been on? What made it so special?
Sailing around the BVI with Real was one of the best I have ever done. There’s something about pulling up to a empty flatwater spot or wave, and jumping o the boat to ride. Just having the mobility is amazing. I also got to spend time with Sensi on the same trip and surf my first true point break it was just a magical two weeks in paradise.

What destination is on your bucket list?
I would like to explore the Mediterra- nean someday. From Morrocco and Italy to the Greek Isles and Turkey. I think there is a plethora of amazing spots that I would love to kite and shoot. Hopefully I’ll be sailing on a mega yacht with bottles of Dom. We can dream eh?

What are your long term goals for kiting and for your future?
I have been getting more involved with the marketing and R&D side of the industry so I would love to contin- ue to pursue those avenues. I can’t keep riding at the high level forever; eventually I’ll have to bow down to the next level of riders. However I’m still going strong so I just want to keep riding and enjoying our amazing sport.