Maui-born professional kiteboarder Jesse Richman had only four hours on the North kites under his belt before going out in the 2019 RedBull King of the Year, the biggest competition of the year.
“At first, I thought I would use the kites I had been riding for many years - I knew them like the back of my hand. But once I tested the new North Kites, I felt the lift, power and height of which they’re capable,” says Jesse.
The King of the Air prototypes were early versions of our now refined North Orbit - the kite Jesse claims is the best Big Air kite he’s ever ridden.
“The perk with this kite is that I can still unhook on it; something I’ve never experienced before. I need gear that I can trust with my life. I need to know that my equipment will work not just some of the time, but all the time. I’m with North because I know the brand will have my back.”
Jesse’s choice to put his trust in the prototype version of the Orbit in 2019 saw him take out the ‘Mystic Most Extreme Move’ award with his powered Kung Fu 1080 handlepass, on day one. He then battled it out with winner Kevin Langeree and 3rd place winner Liam Whaley, to place second in an extremely close final on day two.
Jesse started kiteboarding at the age of 9, and by 13 kiteboarding had engulfed his life. He left the traditional schooling system to learn on the kiteboarding road and completed high school over the internet. At 16, he won his first world title and realised that this fun pastime had already taken him around the world and now was going to be his career.
“My ride as a professional kiteboarder has been nothing short of surreal,” says Jesse. “For many years, I looked at the countless compromises I made and was able to easily justify them with the experiences they yielded and the knowledge of life I acquired. Over the years, I’ve soared to unimaginable heights and also experienced intense lows. Winning events, pulling off crazy stunts, riding giant waves - all feel amazing.
“But real character is shaped by the worst hold-downs and the extreme injuries, where recovery is questionable. And by the countless hours pushing to make it in a small, crowded and competitive industry.
“It is our hardships that shape us, and mine have inspired me to live this life to the fullest and go for the impossible/unthinkable.” Photographer Ydver van der Heide
Jesse signed on as a Team Rider with North Kiteboarding several months before the brand’s August launch. He says becoming part of the design process has fuelled his hunger for creating the best gear the world has ever seen.
“It’s been a crazy period of development with North, and such an incredible experience to test gear that feels amazing from the get-go. As a rider, I’ve always been involved in product testing. Going into this with North, I knew this would be a significant component of the dynamic. What I didn’t realise was how epic it would be to work with this crew and how brilliant they all are.
“I’ve spent years learning how to feel the ever so subtle difference when tuning kites and have acquired the skill set to put the gear to the limits. The North design team has the expertise to take all my feedback and apply changes to the equipment within seconds.
Travelling with the North Team Riders in New Zealand
"We have a kick-ass team, and every single individual comes to the table with a vibrant background and character. We are all in our prime and symbiotically have found the project we have always been seeking. Every member is both humble and knowledgeable, which makes for a very smooth and fun collaboration. And there’s a very familial vibe amongst the riders because we’ve all been friends for years, and finally get to work together on a mutual dream," says Jesse.
“Never before has a brand had a better and more capable team to rock the kiteboarding world.”
Jesse’s long term goal is to become a living Buddha (seriously?).
“Over the next several years, I will begin this millennia-old process, by subsisting strictly on berries and shrubs to slowly starve my human form. During this period, I will also be self-administering specific tinctures and herbs that inhibit bacterial growth in the body. After undergoing this regulated diet for a substantial period, I will commit myself to be buried alive underground.
“From a subterranean vessel, I will breathe only through a small stick of bamboo. Every day while interred, I will ring a bell that rests by my side to indicate to my underlings that I’m still alive. On the 162nd day, when I draw my last breath and when the ringing of the bell has ceased, my corpse will be unearthed from the tomb-like vessel to be mummified in accordance with ancient Chinese embalming methods that date back to 1000AD.
“My assistants will proceed to remove all of my organs via a secret technique that remains a mystery to this day and what remains of my material being will be encased in a golden shroud that appears to the untrained eye, as a simple statue in Lotus position. Innocent passers-by will be nescient to the notion that my mummified remains reside within the confines of this effigy. Here I will remain for centuries in the gardens of my Hawaiian estate.
“Or, I may work with North to build the best kiteboarding gear the world has ever seen while riding the biggest waves on the planet, the debate is still up in the air."
Riding Pe’ahi (Jaws). Photographer Brian Solano.