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Posts Tagged ‘Kiteboarding’

Ascending Athlete #7: Marek L. Biestek

February 6th, 2010

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.

Marek L. Biestek

Marek Biestek

Marek flying high

I met Marek L. Biestek through Jessica Valenzuela and the auspices of the social media networks. Marek is yet another great example of an Ascending Athlete taking his athletics to the next level through kiteboarding, as demonstrated through his kiting adventures and avid support for Just Kite It dot com, a content website and community dedicated to the kiting lifestyle, launched on January 13, 2010. Marek is also the General Manager and Principal of a startup hedgefund in New York City, MSMB Capital Management LLC.

Marek was kind enough to answer a few questions and help explain what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

Fitness has always been important to me since my mid-teens. I think everyone knows or at least accepts the fact that athletics has a positive impact on one’s life mentally, physically and emotionally. Getting a great workout in, whether it’s at the gym, or an outdoor individual/team sport is very rewarding at the end of the day. It helps you get a great night of sleep, feel better about the physical shape you are in and makes you feel successful in different ways than a career and money do. Some people are happy with a sedentary lifestyle, but I can’t comprehend how sitting in front of a television and snacking could be enjoyable when there is wind and snow to tend to outside. Staying athletic during your life will also extend your enjoyable life by many years, make you happier, and keep you on less on those pharmaceutical grade supplements your doctor might otherwise recommend.

What sports do you participate in?

I have been snowboarding for probably seven to eight years and kiteboarding for almost three. I was very much into mountain biking for at least a decade but less so in the past five years. I enjoy running and weightlifting at the gym when I can’t get out to something more active.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in for this year? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

My main goal for this year is progressing at kiteboarding to an expert level. I’d like to start to comfortably doing kiteloops and riding unhooked and doing unhooked tricks. I love the sport and would like to maximize my potential while doing it. It is easy to get complacent in terms of progression at any sport once you are over the learning curve. When you begin learning kiteboarding, you are forced to try to get up on the board and ride with many failures in between. Once you have acquired riding skills, the push to get to the next level doesn’t feel as pressing as you aren’t constantly failing. I sometimes have trouble with hesitation and taking things to the next level. Imperfect riding conditions in my area do not make it easy to progress, but they are a challenge rather than an impasse. My secondary goal is to begin training for a distance running event, beginning with a half marathon, eventually leading up to a full marathon within the next 1-2 years.

What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?

My future goal at some point is to complete and Ironman. It will take some great challenges in terms of training and time management but it will happen somehow. I intend to start small with some half-marathons, then marathons, triathlons, etc. Once I can complete a marathon in 3 hours I will continue to raise the stakes, and hopefully this happens within 3 years from now. If I happen to progress in kiteboarding much more rapidly than I think I can, I would love to enter some sort of amateur competition, perhaps something local.

Marek always seems to be flying!
Marek always seems to be flying!

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?When someone accuses me of not being able to sit still and it is in reference to sports, I take it as a compliment. The direct impact of my athletics on some of my friends has been their conversion into the same passions I share. I have never been a kiteboarding, or snowboarding instructor but I have mentored some of my friends when it comes to these sports. It is a nice feeling to be asked, “When are we going snowboarding (kiteboarding)?” after it was me who was the first to ask them “When will you try snowboarding (kiteboarding)?”

Sports have also had a positive impact in the people around me in terms of motivating them to be more active in their lives. Sometimes it’s not anything they may say, but small changes that you notice in the way they behave around you. It may be as simple as talking about it or actually enjoying a sport that they before did not really think was for them.

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting

Ever since I was little I was a thinker and a problem solver (maybe more of a problem creator at first). I always was curious about figuring out how the world worked. For example, whenever I received any new toy as a child, instead of playing with it, I picked up a screwdriver and I took it apart to figure out how every little piece inside fit together to make the package work. My room looked like a five year old’s mechanics garage. Anything new and exciting grabbed my attention and still does to this day. For some reason when the automatic transmission failed in my car a few years ago, I refused to have a mechanic fix it and instead I got a hold of all the parts required for a manual transmission that I retrofitted into my car in 25 degree weather in the middle of the winter in my yard (which I eventually broke and I had to fix as well, luckily in the summer). I guess some people might think that is a little extreme (especially my neighbors with me making noise at 3am outside) but despite the cold weather, I found the challenge quite fun and a few weeks later one of my friends had me convert his transmission from automatic to manual.

Kiteboarding and snowboarding are an extension to me of my own curious personality to the partially adrenaline driven interest of pushing myself to the edge of what I can do. It’s about being in control and making a calculated bet on the next decision, whether it’s approaching a jump on the snow or kiting in 40 knot winds, knowing that majority of people out there would not be comfortable doing such things…outside of course…us kiters and snowboarders…

Thanks to Marek for his spirit of adventure and for sharing his story!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit www.ascendsportsconditioning.com

Ascending Athlete #3: Jessica Valenzuela

October 5th, 2009
Jessica getting ready to rip it up on her kiteboard

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.

Jessica Valenzuela

Ascending Higher is a conversation on multisport, and few people define the word multisport better than Jessica Valenzuela. Whether it’s ripping it up on her kiteboard (something even I haven’t tried yet, but would like to!) or cruising on her bike, Jessica is a multisport force to be reckoned with. I met Jessica through social media: I would see these super-cool updates on Twitter and Facebook of how she just finished a day of kiteboarding, or just got back from shredding some new snow on her snowboard. Those would be followed by updates of other adventures in her life– whether it be with her digital advertising agency, her life in the Big Apple, or reaching out to help her people of her native land, The Philippines. From those updates, I knew she would definitely qualify as an Ascending Athlete.

Recently, the Philippines was devastated by Typoon Ketsana and Jessica is helping to raise money for relief through The Point: Project Phillippines. If you are interested in donating, please visit the Project Philippines website.

Jessica also is an entrepreneur and has a fascinating professional background. When not kiteboarding, snowboarding, hiking or actively pursuing extreme sport, Jessica is a digital advertising visionary with a flair for creating and marketing global brands. She founded, and now serves as chief principal of Mavin Digital, Inc., a fun, nimble NYC boutique specializing in inspirational digital branding. Built on a 12-year career with well-known agency powerhouses like Y&R Wunderman, Tribal DDB and OgilvyAction, Jessica understands how to deliver meaningful brands from creative concept to execution and measurement. More importantly, Jessica brings industry know-how and virtual tenacity together to lead brands successfully into the digital world including online go-to-market strategies, digital advertising and marketing communications, as well as overall brand messaging. She offers a mobile “spitfire” team customized to fit each client program; and has worked on a variety of creative projects and ongoing branding campaigns ranging in size and scale for Kaplan Inc., Schering-Plough Inc., Novartis, Pfizer, Chevron, Philips, Hewlett Packard, Forbes.com, Cantor Fitzgerald and Accenture. Personalities have also turned to her insightful digital approach including well-known pop star Gwen Stefani. Jessica takes brands beyond traditional marketing boundaries with ease, and strategically maps brand approach to audience and successful outcome. The result is digital branding on a dime. Mavin Digital. Jessica also keeps an ongoing blog, Mavin Digital Mashup and recently released a new corporate reel for the brand. Check it out!

Jessica was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

As a child, the great outdoors and athletics were very much part of growing up. I recall flying paper kites, climbing haystacks and running with my boy cousins in the rice fields. Yes, I was the only girl in a family of nephews and was very much a little tomboy with Beatles style hair and freckles. Unusual to have a Filipina with freckles, then again I am not your typical Filipina. On the weekends, my stepdad and uncles would take us to the forest for hikes and to hunt wild birds. Our backyard was a source for big adventure! I’d climb this big tree called “aratilles” and harvest the tiny and sweet juicy fruit by popping them in my mouth before descending. When I learned to ride my bike at age 9, and after my homework and chores, I’d be gone for long hours and return at sunset. Summer camps during my teen years in the mountain region of Baguio City meant I was sent away for weeks to ride horses, play tennis and basketball, as well as mountain bike with fellow summer campers.

I’m a cosmopolitan girl with a sports heart! Today, if I were presented with the choice of kiteboarding, snowboarding or a long bike ride versus a visit to the Hamptons and laying poolside, or shopping in Soho, I would likely still choose my sport. Like my work as an entrepreneur, my outdoor adventures are a top priority!

What sports do you participate in?

I’ve tried more organized sports including tennis and softball. None of which appealed to me for the long-term. Somehow, free-form outdoor sports with the opportunity to travel to new places and meet new people is my cup of tea.

Kiteboarding is a very new sport for me. I started in July, clocked in at least 15 days in the water, with five of those days in poor wind conditions for a beginner. Kiteboarding is the most difficult sport I have ever participated in, but also one of the most rewarding. The sport requires a lot from you, including knowledge of equipment, wind conditions and environment, as well as the focus, patience and practice, practice, practice. The valley of tears can be long and will seem never ending, yet it is the best feeling of fulfillment once you’ve gained the skills to perform the basic tasks and consistently repeat it, then progress to the next level. I still recall the moment I first got up and ride. It was beautiful! I owned that moment. It is almost like being an entrepreneur, you learn something new every day, and the reward is exhilarating. This is why I find the sport so attractive and appealing.

jess-mtns

I am entering my third season of snowboarding. I am a natural tropical person, yet somehow I love playing in the snow! It is such a magical element I can’t get enough of it when winter comes. I learned to ride in the East Coast mountains, which in itself is challenging due to icy conditions. I took at least five days of lessons and on my fifth day was taken at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to ride down a green. It was the longest two hours of my life, falling on my behind, pushing up and lifting myself out of snow as I tried to connect on turns. It paid off! By riding with more advanced snowboarders, I pushed my boundaries and learned to ride double blacks in my first season. By my second season, I was riding moguls with confidence and ease. I also learned to weave in and out of trees. The most memorable ride last year was a hike up back of chair 9 in Breckenridge, Colorado. It gave me a taste of semi-backcountry with the winds howling and riding in deep, deep virgin powder felt like gliding across clouds.

Road biking is my city sport and when it works out logistically I bike to my appointments around Manhattan. I do love riding around Prospect Park for a few laps which could be from as little as 3 miles or 12 miles.

Last year, hiking was big on my list. I hiked Whiteface Mountain and a number of smaller yet challenging trails. It was my first biggest mountain to hike ever and was thrilled I had the opportunity to do it. I hope to hike a big mountain this fall while the leaves are changing, though my passion for kiteboarding seems to take precedence over my road biking and hiking adventure these days.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in for this year?

Kiteboarding is a sport that you can practice all year-round depending on how willing you are to travel for it. Consistency and building my confidence level handling a kite in high winds while riding the board is what I am aiming for right now. To advance, I need to work on transitions, going upwind and then hopefully have an opportunity to do a downwinder with my fellow kiter friends! Perhaps add a few jumps to the list. It all sounds simple on paper, but it is not especially since this is my first water sport. The most I did prior to kiteboarding was swim in a pool. So this is a pretty major step for me.

For snowboarding, this season, my goal is to ride backcountry and try a few new mountains including Jackson Hole and a few notables in the Rockies.

As far as events go, perhaps in my fourth season of snowboarding I would like to free ride for a charity. For kiteboarding, I have far bolder plans beyond participating in an event. With a partner and co-founder who is also a kiter, I hope to help launch a platform that will support the kiting movement and its community members. We’re at the very early stages of planning at the moment.

Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

I believe in giving back and sharing my passion to those who will take it to the next level and pay it forward. I find so much joy, freedom and blessing in being an entrepreneur and in my sports. I believe that investing my time to snowboard for a charity and to create a platform that supports the kiting movement will help influence women from any ethnic background, culture and age to push beyond their boundaries. There are no boundaries. The only limitations are the ones you set for yourself.

What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?

I’m working on that now, and currently I am considering the Mai Tai snowkite camp in Utah in February and the original Mai Tai camp in Maui in May. The camp is hosted by VC and kiter Bill Tai and professional kiteboarder, Susi Mai. Majority of the attendees are tech entrepreneurs from the San Francisco area, though the event is gaining momentum and recognition outside of the Bay Area.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

The passion I have for learning and indulging in my sports strengthens my tenacity as an entrepreneur. I am full of new ideas, creativity and drive. My sport interests teach me to be a consistent, strong finisher. This is an important lesson we all have to endure in any of the choices we make in our lives. When a mountain bend turns into an unexpected steep filled with moguls or when the kite all of a suddenly crashes in the deep water, you don’t give up. You take a deep breath, focus and carry on. Learn and have fun while doing so!

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting

I think that my diverse ethnic background, cultural experiences, gender and age speaks volumes of my point of view and the recognition that everyone has potential regardless. Give people the opportunity to screw you, they will. Give people the opportunity to blossom, they will.

I am a strong independent woman who immigrated to the United States. I am of strong will, character and mind, and it’s what has carried me this far today. It is about finding the people who will appreciate and genuinely be there to support the change that you believe can happen.

I am a woman that doesn’t shy challenges, especially in a male dominated world of extreme sports. In fact, I am used to it since I led and am growing an organization that is predominantly supported by talented and creative men.

Thanks to Jessica for all her dedication, hard work and inspirational story– she truly is an Ascending Athlete!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit www.ascendsportsconditioning.com