Mike Waltze lives and breathes Hawaii. The surfer-filmmaker who directed “That First Glide” was one of the first surfers to take on Jaws and ride the waves using dynamic air kites.
Waltze was born in Port Beach, California, but moved to Oahu, Hawaii when he was still young.
He started windsurfing in 1969 and, three years later, he was already the proud owner of the iconic “Sailboard. “
A few years later, he met Robby Naish and Peter Cabrinha and began sailing with both.
Windsurfing was still in its infancy and there were no professional athletes.
However, Waltze wanted to live out his new passion and became a windsurfing instructor in Maui.
Ho’okipa, my love
Mike was driving along the Hana Freeway one day when he saw something he couldn’t believe – huge waves crashing outside Ho’okipa Beach Park and howling winds sweeping through the area .
Waltze knew immediately that this was his place. And there was no one outside enjoying these pristine conditions.
Back then, the “Windsurfer” was a massive heavy weapon that didn’t match the conditions you usually get on Maui.
So Mike Waltze decided to introduce a few changes – foot straps on a 7ft surfboard.
The idea was to merge the world of surfing and windsurfing. And that was just the start of a hectic period that would revolutionize the sport of the wind.
But for a long time, Mike Waltze was the only one in the back at Ho’okipa.
And he needed to change gear on a regular basis, so he co-founded “Sailboards Maui”, a windsurf shop that is still open.
Waltze’s store sponsored the 1981 Maui Grand Prix, a sailing competition that has grown into one of the most prestigious windsurfing competitions in the world, recently renamed the Aloha Classic.
Mike has won five windsurfing world titles in multiple divisions, and he still considers himself as much a surfer as he is a windsurfer.
In a way, with or without a sail, it’s all about surfing the waves.
During the 1980s, Waltze and Laird Hamilton discovered a wave that both frightened and attracted them.
A place that would forever change water sports for its brutality and magnetic force.
Jaws and the birth of towed surfing
After watching and studying it long enough, Mike Waltze and his friends decided they wanted to start a new chapter in Pe’ahi / Jaws.
âTo successfully ride Jaws, you had to hit the bottom of the wave at full speed, as it gained height and just before it broke,â says Waltze.
“That was my reasoning at the time about the windsurfing business. I was hoping I wouldn’t sink into these huge bodies of water.”
They had to slide the windsurf board quickly across the water and make sure there was enough wind to keep it going.
Otherwise, the equipment would sink and the windsurfer would vanish into dangerous places.
Waltze says it’s hard to describe how he felt after facing the Liquid Beast of Maui.
And that same day, his friend Laird Hamilton opened a new chapter in wave surfing by being towed in a huge wave off Sunset Beach, using a rope attached to a zodiac.
Towed surfing was invented, although jet skis were still not allowed in Hawaiian waters for surfing purposes.
The two watermen talked about their stunts and discussed details that could make the experience better and less dangerous.
And from that moment windsurfing and surfing crossed new frontiers.
The birth of kitesurfing
As Hamilton and Waltze broke new ground in their chosen fields, kitesurfing was making its first appearances in the line-up.
But there were still some issues to overcome, especially in the upwind and safety services.
âOne day in the early 1990s, Laird and I were in Ho’okipa when we saw a hang-glider towing a man with water skis who was able to do it upwind,â recalls Waltze.
“Laird said to me, ‘We need something like this.’ This man we saw was Cory Roeseler. Cory and his father had patented this exciting technology which we quickly tried. “
The equipment was still in its infancy.
The kite bar was heavy, and every time the kite fell into the water, they had to rewind the lines onto the bar using an intricate and delicate disc system.
The improvements were good, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Laird and Waltze wanted a kite that could be relaunched once dropped in the water.
Manu Bertin was excited about the idea and determined to find what they needed to make it work.
The solution was in Europe, more precisely in France.
Emmanuel Bertin brings the Wipika kite from Legaignoux to Hawaii, and it’s immediately the game.
In 1994, the world of windsurfing, surfing and kitesurfing was being pushed forward like never before.
The first kitesurfing competition
Mike Waltze organized the first kitesurfing competitions between 1997 and 1998.
One of the first contests was won by Robby Naish and Marcus “Flash” Austin, a rider from Florida who started out with a ram air kite and a skimboard.
Naish fell in love with kitesurfing, quickly became a benchmark in and out of the water.
His riding skills never stopped evolving, but the new sport also meant a thriving business.
Lou Wainman was also a central figure and introduced wakeboarding to kitesurfing.
Mike Waltze became an accomplished kiteboarder and went on to host the Red Bull King of the Air, which is still one of the most popular kitesurfing competitions in the world.
The story of Mike Waltze and his involvement in the birth of kitesurfing is presented in “Kitesurfing: From Dream to Reality. “