Only 50 people in the world were kitesurfing when Hood River’s Aaron Sales discovered the sport in 1997. Since then, kitesurfing (and its winter cousin, snowkiting) has grown to a quarter of a million participants, thanks in no small part to Sales, who fostered the sport’s popularity as editor of Kiteboarding magazine and founded the North American Snowkite Tour last year. We caught up with Sales to talk about the growth of the sport, life in Hood River, and his next big challenge.
You’ve kited around the world (22 countries, to be exact). How did you land in Hood River?
I came from a snowboard background, started water kiting, and moved to Maui. I came to Hood River to combine my two passions. I had first come here as a spectator for the Gorge Games and later competed as an athlete. Now I’m organizing events to give back to the community and keep sports events alive in the Gorge.
Last year I organized the first North American Snowkite Tour. My new project is MaiTai Global, where entrepreneurs, CEOs, and venture capitalists come together to kite. Think Silicon Valley meets kiteboarding. I’m bringing an event to the Gorge in mid-August with over 100 kiteboarders.
In addition to the great wind and waves, what is so special about the kite community here?
Half the industry is based in the Gorge. I can test new gear, and it’s the best place for photo shoots.
Any secret spots?
My new favorite snowkite spot is in the Simco Mountains in Goldendale. For kitesurfing, it’s the Hood River Sandbar: on a good day we get 100 kiteboarders, with a good swell, kite park, and rail slide all close.
And if you don’t have a kite in your hands?
I’m a mountain biker: Post Canyon trails are right out my back door.
And your next goal?
I want the Mount St. Helens first ascent. I’ve been trying for five years. With a kite, you look at the mountain differently. It’s three-dimensional: you ride up, down, and across the mountain. The power of the wind can pull you up the mountain faster than a high-speed quad [ski lift]. I’m budgeting 45 minutes for ascent.