Beach winds, challenges fuel dreams of Boracay kiteboarder
BORACAY—It has always been the challenging conditions of kiteboarding, a fast-growing adventure sport that is attracting thousands to this water-locked country, that have drawn the Christian Tio to the sport.
“In the beginning, I didn’t like it because I just tried it out with a small kite, but when I started progressing and I got into the board, that’s when I started to like it,” said the soft-spoken 16-year-old phenom. “I was really small. It was pretty hard because the kite was dragging me everywhere.”
Kiteboarding is literally hardwired into Tio’s DNA. His Filipino mother Liezl and late Norwegian father Chris Mohn were both kiteboarders and encouraged him to compete at an early age. Growing up in this island paradise, whose serene-white beach fronts often get frolicked on by consistently strong winds, made the decision to pick up the sport easy for Tio, who started mastering kites and boards at the age of 7.
“I like being free in the sea; it feels good,” Tio, who stands out on and off the water with his big curly hair, told the Inquirer.
Now he wants to stand out even more.
Tio will try to claim the lone Asian slot for the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, where kiteboarding is being showcased for the first time. He is slated to take part in a qualifying tournament in Pranburi, Thailand, starting on Tuesday. It’s a daunting task, considering every Asian kiteboarder will be going all out for that one spot.
But all his life, the harder the challenge, the higher Tio rises.
“It’s pretty big [if we make it]. It’s the Olympics, everyone wants to be in the Olympics,” Tio said.
And don’t count him out.
Being in the water is second nature to Tio, who lives a yawn and a stretch away from the shoreline here. He is home-schooled and thus has the schedule flexibility to chase winds. And if he catches heavy gusts, he can spend at least three hours on his board and kite.
Tio has competed since he was nine, dropping jaws in a tournament in Camarines Sur by flaunting his potential. But Tio did not want to be just a promise.
“[There were] big winds, strong winds and I was really small. But when I saw everyone doing the freestyle and I watched all these good riders, it really motivated [me] to really push myself and do good. It made me more competitive,” he said.
He flubbed his first out-of-the-country competition in Thailand after getting stung by a huge jellyfish. And that pushed him to try even harder. “I didn’t do well but I made it my motivation.”
Since then, Tio has been a star in the sport. He is one of the world’s best in the juniors men’s circuit since 2014, ranking No. 2 in the world at one point.
He has had podium finishes in the Junior Kitesurfing World Championships, where he competed in the U-19 category because of his advanced skill level, and has topped the the annual ICTSI Philippine Kiteboarding Tour even with older competitors testing his mettle in the elite men’s division.
In February 2016, Tio’s father passed on and the Filipino-Norwegian teen channeled his grief into his sport.
“My father was always there. [His passing] pushed me to do really good… because I want to make his dream happen even when he’s not here,” Tio said.
And the coming week will tell if the winds will take him straight to the fulfillment of that dream.
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