We first came across Louis Gomez in an online video. He contacted us recently and was happy to tell us his story - here it is.
Who are you, what do you do, how old are you?
I am Louis Gómez a 79 year old retiree from Miami, Florida. I retired at 55 from Chase Bank where I worked in IT.
How long have you been involved in Kitesurfing? How did it begin?
I learned to kiteboard when I was 70 years old and I am currently foilboarding also.
What do you like/love about it?
I liked the challenge of learning at 70. I love the sport because of the rush, the travelling and that as I got older it made me stronger instead of becoming weaker.
Would you say that you're still improving your kitesurfing?
There is always something new to learn in Kiteboarding, it never gets boring. Jumping is the best core exercise I have ever had in my life and fun - although it beats you up. Recently I began learning to foilboard and now I can ride with masts of different sizes. It took a while but I am doing it, although it really is tiring for me but I get better all the time.
Were you always interested in sports / fitness? Did you do any other sports / activities?
I have always liked sports and played European squash, racketball, tennis, snow downhill skiing, diving, SUP, kayak, sailing, rollerblading, trekking. Although the last few years all I want to do is kiteboard and foilboard. Also I no longer have the energy to kiteboard and then do some other activity the same day.
What inspires / drives you to keep in good shape?
I began taking lessons at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, FL when I was 69 years old. It was very difficult for me at first, but after a while i learned to get up on the board. Then when the heat of summer came, I did not kiteboard for four months. Then I had to have a total right knee replacement, so by the time I kiteboarded again nine months had gone by. I pressed on and began again taking lessons for three mionths at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, FL with Adventure Sports Miami. However, another obstacle surged and I found out that i had to get another surgery, a Colectomy. After a couple of months of recovery, I remained very determined to learn because of my love of the sport, I once again began kiteboarding for about three months. After that, yet another hurdle, I had to have back surgery to remove a benign lump.
I remained determined and after another couple of months i began kiteboarding yet again. Just as I was beginning to go upwind, an exhilarating milestone, the hot Florida summer came adding another four months of no wind before I could kiteboard again. By that time I was 72 years old, but, being better and stronger, i was able to kiteboard an entire season. I then began at last to really enjoy kiteboarding as the difficult part was over, more difficult than for most people by far! In the 10 years I have been kiteboarding, I lost about 30 lbs, improved my balance, put on a little muscle, got rid of most of my arthritis and even though 10 years older, I am appreciably stronger than when I was 70 years of age.
I recall that at first when I was good enough to kiteboard going upwind, I would get tired after 30 to 45 minutes. But then I began kiteboarding even longer, two hours nonstop and sometimes staying out three hours. My record is four hours nonstop.
This is an endorsement of the sport of kiteboarding which I call my Fountain of Youth. I travelled to kiteboard to Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Turks and Caicos and Playa Blanca in Cancun. I have been taught to kiteboard by many and helped by many more having my butt saved more than a couple of times by good kiteboarding friends. To anyone who has to get OLDER but doesn’t want to get OLD, I recommend taking up kiteboarding!
Does the fitness you have for the sport enable you to enjoy other things in life more?
Kiteboarding has become my life, after my beautiful wife, it makes me wake up with enthusiasm and looking for the right wind and conditions and traveling to other places to kiteboard. It keeps me strong to keep up with my wife who is a dynamo and never stops. She works, plays tennis, sings at two choirs, plays classical piano and line dances. Actually, I can’t keep up with her.
What sort of training regime do you have (if any)?
When there is no wind I do treadmill, Indo Board and Wall Sit exercises, or I just rest one or two days in order to kiteboard three or four days in a row.
Given the age of people we interview we often ask them about ailments etc. You definitely win that game? Is there anything you want to say about how that affects you, how you deal with it etc?
I used to kiteboard almost every day now I can do three to four days and then I have to rest one or two days and maybe get a massage. I have to pace myself and listen to my body. If I don’t feel like Kiteboarding I am either sick or exhausted and take a break.
This summer I had a left knee replacement because arthritis was painful while Kiteboarding, although i could walk and do treadmill pain free. I had the right one done 8 years ago.
Because of a great surgeon and better technology in medicine I was back foilboarding/ Kiteboarding on my 65th day after surgery having no pain at all. The knee gets swollen so then I go home, ice it a lot and go out next day. Pain free.
Being passionate about what I do helped me heal faster and look forward to the fun and adrenaline of the sport to get back on the board faster.
What have been the best/most rewarding aspects of your Kitesurfing?
The most rewarding aspect of Kiteboarding is having a passion for a sport which allows me to wake up thinking of how much wind there is and if the weather is good enough to go out and enjoy the ocean, the sun and nature in general and hanging around young people that enjoy the sport also and keep me energized and learning from them how to do things they learn so much easier than me.
We have seen foil-boarding on surfboards, but not on a kitesurf. How does that work?
Foilboarding is also done with a Kite but with a foilboard instead of a twintip kiteboard. The foilboard has a mast with wings attached to the bottom of it. Once you get up on it and gain speed the board rises out of the water and the mast cuts through the water and it is like flying on a cloud, no resistance. Once one goes through the pains of falling while learning, foilboarding is more gentle on the knees and the body in general than Kiteboarding.
We notice that you are a team rider for Cabrinha kites? Are you involved in any competitions etc?
I am an honorary senior Cabrinha team Rider, I do not compete. I am told by the instructors that many new kiteboarders have learned because they see me doing it and decide that in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they are not too old to learn. Some people take their young children to learn Kiteboarding and when Instructors ask them to take lessons with their children they claim to be too old. Then the instructors point at me and say “If he can do it everyone can”.
We feel strongly that doing demanding exercise really contributes to keeping your brain alive. Do you agree?
Yes, one is always engaged and learning something new which makes one use the brain while having fun.
You mention in the video that you won’t accept the word “old” as a description of where you are in life, but will accept “older”, as old implies the end of adventure, the end of learning anything new whereas older is purely a statement of fact - we think this is a great way to describe the Silver Grey attitude to life! Please expand!
An example is that after learning to kiteboard , which took me a long time , I decided to learn to foilboard. Friends asked why I was putting such pressure on myself learning that difficult and slightly more dangerous form of the sport. My answer was that if I stayed in my comfort zone even at my age I would get settled into a routine and loose the sense of adventure instead of embracing change and the challenge of breaking a new frontier for myself. Even if I never become a very proficient foilboarder , I told them, I will still be trying something new which would allow me to practice the sport in very light winds 7 to 9 knots. Experienced foilboarders can do it in 3 to 7 knots with the right type and kite size. Learning new things keeps the brain working and old age at a great distance.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Taking on the challenge of learning to kiteboard opened up a new world of possibilities for me. A sport that keeps me in relatively good shape for my age, gives me a sense of adventure and accomplishment, opportunity to travel to other places to practice this sport which is done worldwide. I’ve met many people from all over the world and meet more everyday. A rush of adrenaline every time I get on a kiteboard or foilboard.