WIND POWER | David Labistour, CEO of MEC, has kiteboarded off the coast of Vancouver Island, in Baja California and on Italy’s Lake Garda

For Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO David Labistour, kiteboarding is his ticket to travel

In terms of time, it’s not my main sport, but it’s fun. I normally do a couple of kiteboard trips a year: Nitinat on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and we try and get down to Baja once a year. We’ve just come back from Italy and we kiteboarded on Lake Garda. It’s an excuse to travel.

I’m South African originally, and when I left South Africa I said I would not do any sport that I used to do there. I lived right on the ocean: I surfed, I windsurfed at least four times a week. I decided to do new things. Snowboarding brought me here: I spent a lot of my holidays in North America or Europe, and through snowboarding discovered Vancouver. Subsequently I’ve learned to ski, I’ve learned to mountain bike, I learned to kiteboard and a whole bunch of other things, such as whitewater kayaking, that I’d never done.

I started missing water sports, so the one that seemed new and exciting was kiting. The sensation of the water and the wind and the waves is something that is part of my life, and it’s a pretty special feeling. And kiting is that same thing. It’s like wakeboarding, but you’re holding the motor in your hands. It’s a brutal learning curve. It’s probably a three- to four-day learning curve, and you drink a lot of water in that time. It’s getting to learn the kite. There’s a term “being rag-dolled,” which is being pulled like a rag doll across the water. Once you have control of the kite, the rest comes very quickly, but it’s getting control of the kite. 


Outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op, with over four million members across Canada and 21 stores (three of which were slated to open fall 2016), promotes active outdoor lifestyles, especially for youth. Its Outdoor Nation program looks for opportunities to encourage 18-to 30-year-olds to re-engage in sports once they leave school.