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Ascending Athlete #4: Craig Austin

October 19th, 2009

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.

Craig Austin

Craig getting ready to shred some snow.

Craig getting ready to shred some snow.

One of the reasons why I love participating in sports is the social aspect and connection you share with others– it truly is a community. Nothing is more rewarding than sharing your adventures with close friends, family or just someone you met who you instantly have a social bond with due to the sheer fact that you’re both out there sweating it out and sharing an adventure. I’m reminded of this fact vividly when thinking about our next Ascending Athlete, Craig Austin. I met Craig through my social media connections (through fellow kiteboarding and Ascending Athlete, Jessica Valenzuela), and admire not only his love of multisport, but his ability to relish the social aspect of the sport and his enthusiasm in wanting to inspire others with his love of sport– a core quality of an Ascending Athlete.

Craig is a co-founder in a kiteboarding related global web property venture. (He’s currently in the very early stages of the process and is eager to share his venture with the world shortly once they are ready to do so). As an entrepreneur, he’s combining his love of adventure– specifically kiteboarding– with his every day pursuits in hopes of inspiring others to kiteboard and seek adventure.

Craig was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of his thoughts on what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Tell us a little about yourself.

Athletics opens a new dimension to the word social. As much as most extreme outdoor sports can be individual there is a social dynamic among athletes and the spectators. The energy a sporting event can create whether it be a competitive program or social is incredible! I remember one of my first kiting sessions, in Tarifa – I’d just come in for a break, after having been beaten up by the waves, separated from my board, dunked under for what felt like hours at a time – and one of the Naish team riders came up and gave me a few words of encouragement. Something along the lines of: “don’t worry mate, we’ve all been there – but you were looking good (when you were up)”. Now in my mind I had definitely spent more time down than up, but I was inspired that someone that good had taken the time to come and talk to me.

Why are athletics important to you?

When I first heard the phrase “work hard, play harder” I figured that it was simply a marketing cliché – but it is so much more than that, the reward one feels for pushing ones boundaries is so much greater than simply sliding along in a comfort zone. This applies both to work and sport. After a long day in (any) office crashing out in front of the television leaves one feeling empty – however after that same day, if I get out for a couple hours of exercise, life is just so much better.
I have more energy; more focus, and I am definitely a whole lot more inspired.

What sports do you participate in?

I am obsessed with kitesurfing. I love snowboarding, wakeboarding, inline skating and cycling.

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

Getting good at Kitesurfing, with the goal of doing S-Bends (an advanced freestyle trick).

I started kitesurfing 2 years ago, and in my first year opportunity to kite was rather limited, largely due to my commitments to the London Duo skate team – the two of us signed up for the Le Mans 24-hour Inline Skating event. Six months of training six days a week… and it paid off, we achieved a podium finish. Through the course of the event we skated 140 laps in the 24 hours, and that worked out to be about 280km each!

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

Not sure if it counts as an event, but I have put together 3 week kitesurfing trip to Brazil, where we will be doing a 10-day downwinder, this is more kitesurfing for pleasure than a test of endurance. The general idea is to spend most of each day kiting, and working our way along the coast line. I’m also signed up to for a week of coaching in Taiba as part of this 3 week trip.

Snowkiting is set for the coming winter season, after a short 2nd summer in Cape Town.

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

Great question, and one that I am very proud to answer.

Skating: About 10 years ago, I bought myself a set of Rollerblades, and figured it would be a laugh, and it was. A year later, I was still rather rubbish, and could barely make my way around Hyde Park – so I took a few lessons, and improved rapidly – and then went back for more advanced lessons, and found that I had already discovered most of what was being taught… two months later I was teaching for the skate school. My skating progressed from recreational to Speed Skating, and have done several skate marathons, including Berlin, Poznan and my favourite, the downhill race of Engadin.

Snowboarding: I first stood on a board in 2001, and had a very rough start – two of us were left pretty much to our own devices to figure out how best to fall down a mountain… but we stuck with it, and managed to get a few tips thrown in along the way. Major lesson learnt is how valuable a good instructor is for lessons [in any sport]. Since those early days I have gone on to coaching many friends on the slopes, and get deep satisfactions boarding with them now, knowing that I helped get them up and riding.

Craig slicing through the surf

Craig slicing through the surf

Kitesurfing: This year kitesurfing has found me, and as most involved in the sport soon discover, it takes over. Obsessed, Addicted, and thoroughly happy. It takes priority. Kitesurfers don’t know any commitment stringer than 15-knots! The question was how this affects those around me, well, the awesomeness of kitesurfing is contagious – and now several friends are often already at the beach when I “Go Coastal”.

Sport gives me access to the perfect balance of social engagement and personal achievement. It makes me smile, when I am able to inspire and influence a variety of people with my sports. In my opinion, athletics like music, food and wine should be part of everyone’s staple needs. It is a healthy source for a high!

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

I love to travel with / for my sports, and the dynamic friendships one can (and does) make when you meet people through some sporting activity are so much deeper. I firmly believe that like minded people make like minded choices, and so your personal choice of activity, sport, holiday, food will naturally assist with leading you to meet people that you are likely understand, and then of course more likely to get along with. Kitesurfing somehow manages to amplify this. A quick theory on that is the sport is very demanding, not so much physically, but requires a level of patience, persistence, determination, stubbornness, tolerance and overall willingness to have fun. I seem to have twisted around the question, as this definitely doesn’t make me unique – but somehow draws kitesurfers together.

When engaged in an activity that I love, my sports or geekery I have a fair ability to learn quickly, and then teach the same to others. Adapting my teaching approach to a student’s learning style is a trait I can confidently own up to. It is very rewarding to see a learner’s smile when it finally all “clicks.”

Thanks to Craig for demonstrating the importance of making athletics an everyday part of one’s life, his hard work and inspirational story– he 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