This issue we asked Billy Parker’s friends, and fellow pro-riders, to help us expose this top Florida ripper. Billy Parker is sponsored by Eleveight Kites, and Axis boards.
Sam Medysky: What do you do to stay in shape and injury free? It seems like you’re one of the older guys competing in Triple-S and still making podiums.
Billy Parker: Enjoying sports on a regular basis and training at a high level in order to reach certain goals can be and usually is strenuous on the body, so staying in shape and preparation to avoid injury should be a huge part of this practice. I do okay at eating a healthy diet, working out, stretching etc. You never really know when an injury is going to happen until a few seconds and in many situations, milliseconds before it actually does. What I believe helps to avoid injury and keep you in shape better than anything is mental strength and mental preparation. Going through the motions in your head is perfect for all aspects in life because it gives you a glimpse into the future of what is possible before it actually is achieved. If you can mentally prepare yourself for something your possibility of success will be greatly increased rather than just hucking it and hoping for the best. Even still, injuries can happen and when they do we know it can be harder to get back into shape after because both physically and mentally you are being challenged while dealing with pain and discomfort. Questions and doubts can haunt your mind; will I recover? Will this happen again? Is this worth it? Mental strength is going to help when this time comes and injuries happen. Know your goals, fuel your passion and repeat to yourself your reasons and your purpose time and time again, reinforcing the mental strength and drive. You need to take things seriously in order to avoid injury and stay in shape so having a focus and planned mindset is a great start. Know your body and pay attention to its needs, constantly practice your stretching and core strengthening, maintain a healthy and diverse diet as well as exercise routine. And most importantly practice and visualize your goals daily because it is about how long you can do what you love.
Colleen Carroll: What are your thoughts on the KPL and where would you like to see it go?
Billy Parker: I think they are doing a great job with the KPL tour. This just makes sense to have a way to incorporate park style events into one mega tour for everyone to benefit and not just individual event hosts. Also it gives the riders a fair chance at earning the right to claim season champ for park style kiteboarding which so many board riding enthusiasts enjoy and relate to. With the development of the KPL it is widely increasing the growth and popularity of kiteboarding. I believe they are on a great path and hope they obtain support from more sponsors and find more great locations to become available to enjoy in the future.
Kevin Wade: You’ve been involved in the sport for the better part of its existence, yet you manage to stay stoked and continue to evolve. What about kiting keeps you excited?
Billy Parker: It changed my life and outlook towards what is important as well as how to live and enjoy the planet I am a part of. Kiteboarding is constantly evolving, it is limitless to the potential of what can be achieved with the power of wind, from traveling across land, flying through the air, crossing small and vast bodies of water. It can help bring awareness, inspire change and positivity to a individual and even a country. Kiteboarding can help poverty stricken areas grow, it can bring a new energy to places that have been overlooked and left behind because they choose not to industrialize but to live simply. This ideology, as well as the fun, exciting, active lifestyle along with many other reasons is what keeps me stoked on kiteboarding.
Craig Cunningham: What’s your favorite part of kiting and what could you do without?
Billy Parker: Flying of course. Many of us dreamed as kids about flying like a bird or having the ability to jump really high and far. Well dreams come true and the first time I saw a kite I realized this was it. What I have been dreaming about and searching for; a way to travel and fly through the elements around me while spiking my adrenaline, keeping me active and connecting me to my environment. Even though I practice freestyle and ride a lot of rails and kickers, it is big air still for me that really gets the adrenaline flowing. When I explain kiteboarding to people I always try to give them a feeling of what I get from it and that it’s like I’m attached to a fighter jet that I steer and then follow around on my board. I’m not really sure if it scares them or not but this for me is a way to explain the power and manoeuvrability of the kite itself. It’s crazy to me still after 17 years of kiteboarding, seeing what is possible with a kite and how it feels to actually control the simplicity, power, acceleration and hang time. I absolutely love it and look forward to every time I get to send it.
Kevin Wade: Other than kite and wake, I know there are tons of other things that you do that require strength and coordination. Which alternative activity would you say helps out most?
Billy Parker: It would be hard to pick one so I will share two: wakeboarding and swimming. Wakeboarding would be the most important because that is where I develop my skills for kiting and is a great crossover sport that gives you a more consistent platform to learn and practice on. Strength, technique, endurance and style will be greatly improved with the addition of riding behind a boat but not without a few major drawbacks. One, you need loads of gas money to run a boat. Not cheap after you consider fees, registration, taxes and maintenance. Two, you need a driver and in most cases a spotter just to have a session. Which means you have to calculate time and daylight between each rider to make it fair and still people are sitting around waiting for an opportunity to ride and someone usually gets the short end of the session. But with the addition of cable parks all over the country we now have a way to train without destroying and stressing the environment with petroleum products and pollutants that we use to run these boats. You and friends can ride at the same time for as long as the day provides and train on countless styles of rails, ramps, boxes etc. This is the way to the future and kiting is at the forefront of extreme sports with a very small carbon footprint left behind. My second alternate activity is swimming, this takes the impact right off the body and the spine reducing joint stress, increasing circulation and exercising the lungs along with many other invisible health benefits. If you asked me what is the ultimate extreme sport with no impact on environment that is sustainable and never changes I would have to say swimming. You need absolutely nothing to swim and will get pushed to your limits by water. I love it and we all need it to keep us healthy. There are so many ways to stay active and cross train for the sports you love and I can’t say if one is better than another but I can say that as long as you’re out in nature and active, being good to the environment you will notice improvements in everything.
Kevin Wade: I always think of you as the guy who will shred an obstacle when others won’t. That type of fearlessness comes with great success, but also guarantees some gnarly wipeouts. Are there any hits gone wrong that stick out in your mind?
Billy Parker: Countless. Kiting is one thing but when you start doing freestyle, approaching obstacles and hitting kickers and rails attempting Kiteloops you will have some catastrophies. I remember a good one during the Triple-S Invitational a few years back when we still had freestyle as part of the event. It was late in the day, getting dark and storm clouds were moving in on the Slick. We were trying to finish up the heat. I did my first trick in the start of my run, made my tack right and just as I popped off the water for a KGB I got hit with a massive gust. It stretched my legs back and yanked me into the water chest first. The impact was so heavy it instantly knocked the wind out of me and I was disoriented in the water, not able to call for help as my airway was closed. I remember the first person to me was Davey Blair and I was so thankful to see him there. It took a minute but I was able to regain my composure, shake it off and finish my run but I was spitting blood for a couple days after. It was definitely a moment of trauma I will never forget. This wasn’t the first and won’t be the last injury I have sustained.
Craig Cunningham: Looks like you’re having a blast with your toddler! You’re a pretty inspiring father, how’s life changed since having Lincoln?
Billy Parker: It has been the best thing that has happened for us and something we have longed for. For us to be able to share, learn and adventure with each other as a family makes being here and enjoying life that much more meaningful. It can be a big change, having a child, but I enjoy teaching and know kids are filled with curiosity and happiness and I truly love being around this type of energy. When you have a child all of a sudden your goals and finances seem to double, your time feels cut in half, but it is just you really wanting the most for your child and feeling that pressure upon you. Life has changed in many more ways than I can explain but the biggest thing it has done is to remind us of the best things in life; simplicity, patience and being thankful. I am truly honored and thankful to have such a loving happy and caring family.
Colleen Carroll: You are now kiteboarding’s favorite dad. What’s it like to have your son already showing interest in the sport you love so much?
Billy Parker: Fully stoked. I can tell you that I never would have imagined the progression and ability that he has achieved so far with a sport that requires extreme patience, dexterity and practice in the beginning. It feels like yesterday that Tiffany was kiting with him at Fort Desoto while she was pregnant, and now at 27 months old he is controlling the kite and riding the board practically on his own. I am blown away and totally excited for him. We have practiced and played with kiteboarding props and equipment since he was born with the goal being that it would help him understand kiteboarding and increase his coordination very early so we all would be able to enjoy this lifestyle together safely. For me, the best part has been his personal drive and enjoyment in flying his kite. Truly he has a blast and asks a lot to go kite. It’s not that I am pushing to make him a world champion or something, I just want him to enjoy what he is doing and be great at it so he can share the stoke and journey with everyone. My dream was to one day share this amazing sport with my kids so they can enjoy it and share it with others too.
Sam Medysky: What’s the number one lesson you’re teaching Lincoln as he grows up?
Billy Parker: Love and protect all that provides for you so you can enjoy your time here for as long as possible with respect for the simple things. If we do not instill these values in our children at an early age than how do we expect to have a happy, healthy society along with a healthy planet? Yes it is great to have technology and do so many amazing things that inspire and thrill us, but at what cost and how much do you need to consume or abuse to reach your goals or desires? What do we really need to stay alive and be happy? These questions are what I ask myself constantly to prepare myself to guide Lincoln on the right path. It is about happiness and that comes from caring, sharing and a healthy lifestyle.
Craig Cunningham: Lincoln is charging it. Bike, kite, wakeboard, he’s getting involved! I think he might be the youngest kid to ever fly a kite. What do you say to people who think that it’s dangerous for a toddler?
Billy Parker: I say when I was a very small child I flew a kite, as many of us did, a one-line, traditional kid’s toy kite and this could simply be the first step. Next you can purchase a small two-line stunt kite that has very little pull at almost any beach store and switch the handles out with a small bar. Boom. You have a very inexpensive way to learn the steering and movements of a kite. Obviously these will not hold up as well if you’re constantly crashing them, but you will save a lot initially and will get the effect your are looking for. When they are ready for a little more, shop around and purchase a trainer kite. Eleveight makes a 2.5 meter trainer kite that is very stable and perfect for teaching and there are many more sizes and styles on the market to choose from. Weight is very important in kiting and for children it can be a tough thing to handle because they weigh very little. The smallest of kites can provide way more power than you might expect. A simple way to adjust the power to make it more manageable for your child is shortening the lines, and don’t be afraid to take the lines away completely and attach the kite bar pig tails right to the kite bridles/attachment points. This will not only greatly reduce the amount of power the kite generates but also keep them engaged and excited because the kite is so close, and it’s much easier to deal with launching and landing while being right next to the student. This is fantastic for young kids which we know can have short attention spans and can easily get frustrated with complicated tasks that require advanced dexterity and coordination. The most important things besides all of the above factors is to know the sport, the equipment and your own abilities. If you are unsure and lack confidence in yourself when involving others, then you should not try to teach them on your own. Always consult with a professional first or better yet hire one. Make it fun, not frustrating, keep it simple and safe, limit the sun exposure, keep them within arm’s reach or with a hand on them. Start them young and always give them positive encouragement and support.
Billy Parker is sponsored by Eleveight Kites, and Axis boards.