Saturday, June 22, 2024
Editor's ChoiceThe Jesse Richman Story

The Jesse Richman Story

Since the first time Jesse Richman had a kite in his hands at the age of 9 years old he knew that he wanted the wind and waves to guide him into the future and he has never looked back since. For over 15 years he has devoted his life to kiteboarding and at only 24 years old he says the journey is just starting to get interesting. Jesse has become one of the most renowned and well-rounded riders in the world; with no shortage of accomplishments or awards in big wave, big air and freestyle. We’ve followed Jesse’s journey for years and today we are lucky enough to share that journey with you. We will take a look into his past to see what it took to build his amazing foundation in kiting and see what he has done differently to set himself apart from the crowd. We will look at his present day endeavors to see how he plans to revolutionize the kiting industry, the status quo and continue to push the limits of kiting. We will then take a glance into the future through Jesses eyes to see what overcoming the impossible might look like in the years to come.  

Growing up in Hawaii gives you an advantage at becoming a well-rounded athlete. Legends like Robby Naish and Pete Cabrinha grew up in Hawaii and did their part to set the stage for the next generation. This time around we see the likes of Kai Lenny, Niccolo Porcella, Patri Mclaughlin, Reo Stevens and Jesse Richman, all of whom are exploring new possibilities in kitesurfing. That’s not to mention the many world-class surfers that have come out of Hawaii.

Jesse Richman - Quincy Dein photo
Quincy Dein photo

Maui has a special knack at breeding a particular type of Athlete. With huge waves and strong wind, it makes for interesting conditions year round and typically it can get very gnarly. If we look at the scene of Maui charger’s, they were raised on what many riders would call sub-par conditions or just flat out crazy. Something to take note of, if you ride in perfect conditions regularly you’re probably going to have a difficult time when the conditions get out of control. Where, if you ride in crazy conditions frequently then you are more prepared for the randomness that mother nature can throw at you. If you’re like these Maui boys, then you go out searching for the craziest of conditions.

Jesse Richman at Jaws. Pierre Bouras photo
Jesse Richman at Jaws. Pierre Bouras photo

This ocean lifestyle started for Jesse long before he knew about it. Joel Richman, Jesse’s father, was a windsurfing lawyer living in Cape Cod Massachusetts. One day out of the blue, he decided that he wanted to move to Maui to windsurf more than practice law in MA, soon after Joel arrived and set anchor in the summer of 1982. The island scene was a lot of different back then, and it was a wild ride for Joel, windsurfing all day and occasionally working law on the side to support his relaxed island lifestyle, he then met Elaine. Together they started a family and had three children, Shawn, Jesse, and Eva. From a young age, Shawn and Jesse were drawn to the ocean, they got into surfing, windsurfing and then discovered kiteboarding. What quickly went from a hobby to an obsession turned into the boy’s passion. Both boy’s soon signed endorsement deals in 2003 with legend Robbie Naish of Naish Kiteboarding. The boys traveled with Joel to compete in events, and over time they worked their way up the ranks. They learned how the competitions worked and saw what they needed to do to win. In 2006 they were getting the hang of it, Shawn won the world title for kite racing, and Jesse was close behind and soon to make his mark on the scene. Jesse won his first overall world title at 16 in 2008. He didn’t stop pushing and won many more events over the next few years and received a second overall world title in 2009, solidifying his place in the sport. Shawn went on to take the noncompetitive free ride path looking for new ways to have more fun with a kite while Jesse wanted to be the best rider in the world and did what he needed to strive for greatness.

Jesse Richman Table Top jump. Jimmie Hepp photo
Jimmie Hepp photo

After years of competing and various injuries, Jesse looked into his future and saw a different path than others had once traveled.  Seeing the legendary wave Jaws (aka Pe’ahi) break on only the biggest days of the year was something he watched his entire life. Laird Hamilton ruled the scene at Jaws throughout Jesse’s childhood and told Jesse to never give up. After seeing Laird out on the huge waves ripping it up with no fear, Jesse knew he wanted to one day be out there himself and accepted in the lineup.  The chance for this didn’t come to him due to a hectic travel schedule on tour. Until 2011, when Jesse stopped competing full time and switched his focus to riding big waves to follow his passion and for the first time Jesse kitesurfed Jaws as did his hero’s before him. Mind blown by the size and power of the wave, he had found his new obsession.

Jesse Richman kiting at Jaws. Pierre Bouras photo
Pierre Bouras photo

Jesses new vision was to get barreled at Jaws and that was now his top priority. His vision gave him the motivation to spend years training for it. The first step to success was learning about big waves, freediving, and water safety. Then it came to making sure he was out on the water every chance he could get. For years his big wave partner Patri Mclaughlin and he would be out at Jaws every windy swell. Then there would be days with no wind, and they still wanted to be out there, so they joined the surfing scene and went paddling into these monsters on ten-foot guns. Ultimately they found a great and humbling appreciation for behemoth they call Jaws. In 2015 Jesse was the first kitesurfer in history to get barreled at Jaws and this chalked off  a significant accomplishment for Jesse in his life however, like any driven athlete his first question to himself was what’s next. Now he has his eyes set on the massive wave they call Teahupoo a dangerous wave that has been known to break in a mere 5 feet of water. His new vision will take him to the other side of the globe to kitesurf the wave like no one else ever done before.

Richman... Jesse Richman. Forrest Dein photo
Richman… Jesse Richman. Forrest Dein photo

Jesse finds Maui as the ideal place to train his mind as he feels that it has the largest collective of world class athletes that share this passion and drive for the ocean, life and sport. Jesse finds drive from the fear he encounters in intense situations and uses it to fuel himself every day. Turning fear into fuel is a skill that takes a long time to develop and takes a lot of commitment to continue to push through personal limits. This trait may be what brings all of these athletes together with such crowds like that of Silicon Valley. Many revolutionary entrepreneurs kitesurf because they too love taking calculated risks and thrive off the feeling of going for it. Jesse has worked with Silicon Valley executives, VC’s and entrepreneurs, showing them tips and tricks to kite better as well as sharing ideas about fear/risk management.

Jesse Richman gets pitted. Mark Thompson photo
Mark Thompson photo

A frequent topic amongst extreme sport athletes and silicon valley entrepreneurs is Flow State; a state in which one is fully immersed in a single activity with absolute focus and an almost bliss-like state of enjoyment. Understanding flow is extremely useful regardless of what you are doing, Jesse is one of the many that lives to experience flow. Finding flow in business is not always easy, but it’s a skill that some have mastered and gone on to become incredibly successful. Finding flow in sports is something that most successful athletes have experienced at one time or another when they performer at their best. Flow is a topic that you could have interesting conversations about with Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Jesse Richman. All three can find flow, they just do it in different ways and probably for different tasks. Jamie Wheel from the Flow Genome Project spends his life researching, better understanding and brining the world of flow to life for others. Jesse and Jamie have been on stage together and dove into details about this crazy phenomenon and how we can learn to harness it, control it and use it to our advantage. One of the events they spoke at was the MaiTai; a tech/kiteboarding networking event based out of Silicon Valley started by legendary VC Bill Tai and female kiteboarding phenomenon Sui Mai. Jesse has been a part of the Mai Tai community for over eight years, kiting with and learning from incredible minds; Many in this group believe that there isn’t anything we can’t do if we have the passion; Jesse has embraced this lifestyle and taken a lot of knowledge from the MaiTai community. We have the capacity to change the world, all we need to do is be focused, committed and smiled upon by fate. The MaiTai community has influenced Jesse in a positive way leading him to partner with technology firm Lufelive to bring the world of kiteboarding to life like it has never been done before.

Jesse believes working with specialists is a way we can move farther, faster. For three years Jesse has worked with world famous film director Thierry Donard of Nuit De La Glisse Films. Jesse starred in three of his movies: Addicted to Life, Don’t Crack Under Pressure and Don’t Crack Under Pressure Season 2. These films took Jesse all over the world and gave him a chance to connect with a diverse group of passionate and driven extreme sport athletes that have some of the most fascinating minds you could only imagine to explore.

As we know kiting at extreme levels can be a very demanding sport on the body and the mind. Jesse has had his fair share of injuries as have many of the top professional kiteboarders. This year Kevin Langeree and Jesse were both sidelined at the Red Bull King of the Air due to injuries. These guys know what happens when you push the limits, and there is no avoiding it altogether. However, they show us that you can do a lot to minimize risk and give yourself the best odds of success; this is achieved through extensive training, both mentally and physically. There is no offseason for a kiteboarder, they are always on the go, searching for extreme conditions, never really knowing when the next big day will come. Jesse spends an average of 4-5 days a week in the gym cross training for the unpredictable turns that lie ahead. He works with a world-class training team to forge a healthy lifestyle. He focuses on being powerful enough to maintain control throughout any trick, flexible enough to take a hard landing, zen enough to get held underwater in huge waves and centered enough to do this on a daily basis while traveling to the far corners of the world at the drop of a dime. Jesse believes that you can have whatever you want if you are simply willing to do whatever it takes.

Jesse and most young athletes saw the top pros before them on TV made out to be superstars. Watching these guys gave Jesse something to dream about. Seeing Shaun White win the Olympics and Travis Pastrana do the first ever double backflip on a dirt bike pushed Jesse to stick with it, even when times were tough. It’s not always easy, but the riders that never give up are usually the ones that make it where they want to go. Now with a few good friends Jesse known globally as one of the top kiteboarders in the world and has the privilege of traveling with all sorts of interesting people to exotic locations in search of inspiring others to send it.

Forrest Dein photo
Forrest Dein photo

Many high profile athletes and entrepreneurs do what they can to push the world in the direction they see would benefit people in need. Not all are born into ideal living situations and a common belief is that people with influence have a responsibility to do what they can to help others live a happy and healthy life. In this world of athletes, there is a substantial population of ocean protection advocates. We live in an interesting time with so much progression on a daily basis and not enough attention to the world around us. We kite and play in the ocean; it would be unbearable  if we polluted it to the point of no return. Great events have transpired, and amazing people work tirelessly to do their part, but it’s a hard push. Jesse has been a part of the Ocean Gala for two years and helped raise money for Ocean Conservation. Richard Branson and Ocean Elders among others attend the Ocean Gala all with the mission of expanding protected areas in the oceans everywhere they can.

Forrest Dein photo
Forrest Dein photo

Rob Stuart, an anti-shark finning advocate who produced the film Sharkwater, spoke at the Ocean Gala. He has taken action to protect the sharks more than almost anyone on the planet. His film empowers the world to get behind the cause. Unfortunately, Stuart passed away in a diving accident in January; his work, however, lives on. Rob’s message resonated with Jesse as they both are very familiar with the ocean’s real beauty. Rob and Jesse, both avid freedivers and ocean explorers; dive to the sea’s depths to see what is down there and travel through the inward spiritual journey that comes with freediving. They both know that the ocean needs our help to maintain all life.


In August of 2015, Jesse set a new world record with a team of six other remarkable athletes. Together they kitesurfed 736 miles across the Great Barrier Reef to raise money for MND research. This is one act where athletes made a difference in the world by doing what they love.

Jesse who want’s to give back to the world that has given him so much, believes that if we all leave the world better than we found it, that we will live in a beautiful place. This year Jesse has partnered with the Thirst Project to raise money to bring clean water to areas in need. Many communities around the world suffer because they don’t have access to safe drinking water. Through kiting we can make a difference and Jesse will do that this year by raising enough money to build a well with the Thirst Project; one well can support hundreds of people for many years to come and all it takes is a little action in the right direction.  

Living the waterman's lifestyle. Mark Thompson photo
Living the waterman’s lifestyle. Mark Thompson photo

In all aspects of life, Jesse want’s to send it. He see’s the world as a radical place full of opportunity, and he want’s to take us all along for the ride. Last year Jesse partnered with sports technology firm Lufelive to help bring his dream of evolving the world of kiteboarding and philanthropy to life. The partnership will bring together some of the greatest minds in sports, technology and kiteboarding in a collaborative effort to provide the next generation of kiters with the tools and resources they need to succeed in the world of kiting. The web platform will strive to provide its community with front seat access to tips, tricks, training tools and some of the most innovative gear in the industry all provided via the driver’s seat of Jesse and some of the top male and female riders and industry professionals around the globe.  

Jesse’s stoke level is through the roof, and you can see that in what he does, he currently resides in Maui with his eyes set high on the next adventure – far or near, he is ready to do what others have not. Shawn resides in Kenya with his wife Anna; they are focused on wildlife filmmaking for conservation and doing everything they can to protect the endangered animals in Africa. Eva, a talented artist is currently studying biology at the University of Portland. Joel and Elaine live in Haiku, Maui and are loving the island life, Joel still practices law and gets out kiting regularly.

 Jesse Richman at the Whistler bike park. Whistler Bike Park photo
Jesse Richman at the Whistler bike park. Whistler Bike Park photo

As for Jesse if he is not in the gym training, barreling in a 60ft wave, traveling the world competing in major events, launching off the world’s largest snow caped mountains or crushing the trails at the Whistler bike park, you may find him behind the scenes of his next film, working in LA on his new technology project or sharing a sunset kiting session with the likes of Richard Branson. Wherever he goes, he takes his stroke and passes it out at will, and he is always seeking to take the rest of us along with him for the ride.


We look forward to seeing what the young 24 year old Jesse Richman has in store for us next.


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