About Jeff Kafka
About Jeff Kafka
Jeff Kafka, founder of Wind Over Water Kiteboarding, grew up in the Bay Area and developed an early passion for the ocean. Jeff was already an accomplished surfer when he first took up kiteboarding in 1999. In those days, kiteboarding was pretty much a “learn by doing” proposition, with little or no instruction available. The sport was still largely experimental; knowledge was scarce and disorganized. Riders learned from one another, hanging out together, telling stories, and comparing notes. “I got some nice pointers in New Zealand,” Jeff recalls.
Kiteboarding equipment was crude at the time. Early kites were brutally powerful, tricky to fly, and difficult to relaunch after a crash. Pioneers in the new sport endured riotous, ridiculous, and occasionally ruinous rides. Wrecked and lost gear were common occurrences. It was also considered normal for new learners to spend an hour floundering in the surf for every minute up and riding. But early kiteboarders knew they were on to something, and they pursued it with a will, with an attitude of “mind over matter”.
Mind over matter would lead to Wind Over Water in April of 2004. Jeff was hooked on kiteboarding and wanted to share the experience as widely as possible. Knowledge and equipment were improving. From being the obsession of a handful of extreme athletes and adventurers, kiteboarding was almost ready to go mainstream. Jeff was there, ready to share. “The biggest reward was not financial, it was in the community and the connections we made.”
Kiteboarding turned a corner in 2005, when several manufacturers began offering a new style of kite, the inflatable bow kite. These new kites were easier to fly and much easier to relaunch from the water. Most importantly, a bow kite flyer could control the power of the kite by adjusting its “angle of attack” into the wind. An overpowered kite could be instantly depowered in an emergency or when power was not wanted. Suddenly there was a whole new performance envelope to explore, an envelope with a more reassuring safety margin. What unknown techniques and styles would the new kites make possible?
As Jeff puts it, kiteboarding today can be as mellow or as extreme as you want. Anybody can learn in a few hours what it took Jeff years to figure out.
“We want to make kiteboarding instruction as effective, safe, and quick as possible.” For ten years, Wind Over Water has refined its teaching methods. Technological innovations, such as radio helmets and Personal Watercraft support, help to make Wind Over Water an unsurpassed experience for learning kiteboarders.
Jeff continues to push the boundaries of kiteboarding, to innovate and experiment. In a new partnership with Linden Boards, Jeff will oversee the design and production of a signature Jeff Kafka Series of boards. As an experienced shaper of boards, and one of the world’s most accomplished riders, Jeff brings indispensable knowledge to the project. Jeff also does extensive testing and response with all kinds of kiteboarding gear from all manufacturers, so Wind Over Water remains on the cutting edge of technology and technique.
For Jeff, though, the main focus is still on the people: his students and fellow kiteboarders. “The greatest thing is sharing the huge stoke that comes from kiteboarding.”