Occupation: Pilot and Certified Kitesurf Instructor and Raft Guide
Mark’s passion for the aquamarine is far more than what appears on the surface. Having spent four decades of chasing wind, water and waves through the nook and cranny of the globe, he is a true go-getter for all kind of water sports, literally!
At what age did you get into water sports? What inspired you to do so?
I started surfing when I was about ten years old. My mother was a single parent and would drop me off at the beach and then pick me up at the end of the day. I moved to Virginia where there was a lack of waves, so I started climbing. But my heart drew me back to the water when I discovered kayaking. It consumed my life for ten years and I travelled all over the world to kayak.
In which countries have you pursued these sports? Out of these, which country do you think is a haven for water sports?
Every place has its own season for different water activities, that’s the reason why I travel so much! I have kited, kayaked and surfed in Hawaii, Ireland, Maldives, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Oman, UAE and many more. In my opinion, Peru is a surfer’s dream place!
What do you think about the UAE as a location for watersports?
Sea kayaking and Stand-up Paddling in the UAE is great! Dubai has great city views from the ocean. You can pull up to some place and have lunch then paddle home. Al Ain has one of the most fun-inducing man-made rivers you can ever play on — nice class one, two and three river runs. The guys there are great and if you have no experience, they give you lessons after which you can continue to practice what you learnt. Of course, they won’t let you on the class three run until you have your eskimo roll (In whitewater, it is called battle roll) nailed down! For kiting, I head to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. I like to kite down there with the F-one guys, Kuba and Julien. And if there is no wind I just head to Yas Water Park and boogie board the flow rider wave.
The good thing about Dubai is that it gets lot of surf during winter (though not big surf). This really keeps me in shape; that being said, I have my secret spot between Sur and Salalah (in Oman), where I surf alone all the time.
Which one do you follow the most passionately?
Kiting, surfing, kiting, SUP, wakeboarding – they are ways of life for me. Each one of them is different, yet the same. The common denominator is the connection with nature and water. Kayaking is like surfing, the only difference being that instead of using ocean waves you use standing river wave and the piles of whitewater that is created by waves.
I would have to say that with the level of kayaking I am running, I will not be able to go on for 20 more years. I plan to go surfing good size waves well into my mid to late 70’s. But in a perfect world, I shall go with the seasons and do them all!I Guess, I just never grew up. My friends tell me I have the Pan Syndrome – I tell them, I am Pan!
How does it feel to be into water sports?
As Kelly Slater puts it, “If I get into the ocean once a day, I feel like I accomplished something.” I can’t envisage my life without water to play on… And as Tom Petty says, “Never slow down, never grow old.” The water has kept me playing for the past forty years or so. I figure that I shall spend the next thirty years, water logged!
Any water sport destination that you yearn to try out?
Kayaking Cherry Creek in California and some sweet whitewater in New Zealand are on my bucket list apart from kiting One Eye in Mauritius and a trip to Madagascar.
I have surfed almost everywhere I wanted, but Fiji has eluded me. It’s a place where I plan to retire if I can ever get there. Once there, I may never even come back!
Do watersports require any special preparation?
Yes, one needs to know not only swimming, but also should learn to keep calm when the water is bubbling up the nose and you have no clue which way is up. You should be able to relax and let the water do its thing and then recover! There is no “time out” in watersports! You have to deal with what happens when it happens! That been said, proper preparation and training covers most of the things.
Interview by: Bandana Jain