North Sails NEWS


Tackling Challenges One Kite Loop At A Time

Story by Ryan Levinson

When I wrote my last Waterlogs post four years ago, Nicole and I were just getting our sea legs after sailing over 10,000 nautical miles since leaving our homeport of San Diego. We explored Mexico before crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, a 21 day crossing that was our first “blue water” passage. Now we have a lot more experience and many thousands more miles of tropical ocean water under our keels. There have been some profound changes since that last article.

If you live on a boat long enough there is a threshold you cross where life at sea becomes “normal” and land life is “different.” Sailing is no longer something you go do, it is your daily reality. If you make it that far you realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing. No matter how tired, wet, salty, frustrated, sunburned, or any of the other countless challenges you face from life at sea, the water is your foundation, the winds and waves define your flow. You realize that when you are at sea you are home.

Another change since my last Waterlogs post is the extent that FSH Muscular Dystrophy has robbed me of physical strength as muscles continue to atrophy throughout my body. At the time we had an incredible little sloop named Naoma. When she would heel from a gust or swell I would often end up violently smashed against various parts of the boat because I no longer have the strength to balance or to brace myself from “falling.” For a while I compensated by installing extra handholds, carefully planning my movements, and sailing more conservatively but the writing was on the wall. If we wanted to keep sailing we would have to leave our beloved boat for one that was more stable and accessible. That is what ultimately led us to buy Kiapa Nui, a NEOS/Looping 48 catamaran.

Switching from an older 38’ monohull to a much newer 48’ multihull is a huge leap in comfort and performance, especially because Kiapa Nui was custom built to be simple, light, and fast. She’s not a race boat but for a cruising cat she is well on the performance side of the spectrum. Sailing with that much speed and power is a huge change, but a fun one. Familiar passages are now hours or even sometimes days shorter. During gusts instead of finding myself smashed against a bulkhead in a heeling sloop I stand comfortably at the helm in a stable cat watching the knot meter climb solidly into the double digits. Kiapa Nui is the fastest, funnest, most comfortable wheelchair in the South Pacific!

Once the anchor is set we often break out the kites and continue the fun. Kiteboarding is sailing in three dimensions because with a kite you’re no longer restricted to the ocean’s surface. Kiteboarding is fun, easy to learn with a few lessons from a good instructor, and the gear is small enough to easily stow on a boat. You can kite almost anywhere there is wind and water. All over the world kiteboarders and sailors form like-minded tribes of people sharing a primal love of dancing with the wind across the water.

Ryan Levinson, North Kiteboarding, Sailing though Change, North Sails

Before leaving on this voyage I had a rewarding career in ocean rescue and emergency medical services. I was a proud member of the US Sailing Team and was captain of a beautiful 120’ luxury ketch. But I was also rapidly losing muscle, a powerful reminder that we are all losing time. So I made some decisions, one thing led to another, and now I’m writing this while anchored off Mo’orea, buzzing with passion and gratitude. Each moment is a gift!

Having the courage to embrace change is not always easy, pleasant, or fun, but it is the foundation of all adventures. It is the difference between being a passive or active participant in life. We are sailors and kiteboarders, we are seekers, we are lucky because we know what moves us. Now more than ever it is clear that we can not choose every change or challenge we face in life. But we all have the freedom to choose how we respond. I’ll see you on the water!

Read more about who Ryan Levinson is and check out his Q&A with North Sails!

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