2008 Team Rider Update: Catching Up with Miguel Willis
Although he'll certainly compete in a contest if one gets in his way (Miguel and I kited together in the US Kiteboarding Nationals in San Francisco on our ill-suited-for-the-purpose twintips this past summer), Miguel Willis isn't your typical contest rider out to do the typical kiteboarding scene. Although ranked 7th overall in the 2006 KPWT, he left the competition arena in 2007, drove the RV for a bit, and began to get serious about travelling to off-the- beaten-path locations and making unique kite-travel videos, with the help of his talented film-maker brother, Mateo. With all the positive feedback from the Yemen Diary video, we decided it would be well worth it to help Miguel pursue his passion for discovering unique ... albeit sometimes dangerous ... travel and riding locations. Here, Miguel brings us up to speed on the year 2007 and what he's got planned for 2008.
Miguel, traveling on top of a train in Mauritania
Do people (other kiters) recognize you from your videos? "Hey ... aren't you the guy sitting in the train with coal all over your face?"
Sometimes. I had a few comments when I was traveling around the US from my trip to Yemen and it's very satisfying to hear positive feedback.
Last year, you drove the Best RV for a while. Where did you go, how long were you on the road, and how many miles did you drive?
I jumped on the RV in Corpus Christi and drove up the East Coast to Cape Cod. Then across the US via the Great Lakes to San Francisco, up to the Gorge and flew out of Seattle. It took 3 months and I covered over 11,000 miles. Lots of red bull and coffee.
Was it what you expected, or was the reality completely different than you'd thought?
I spent 6 years living in a Land Rover in Asia and Africa whenI was growing up so living in the RV was luxury in comparison. The demos never seemed a chore as everyone we met was stoked with the kit and very friendly.
What was the most challenging thing you had to deal with,or your most challenging moment?
It wasn't till I actually saw the RV that I realized just how massive it was and it took a few days till I felt comfortable driving it. Turning it around on a single lane dirt track in the mountains of Northern California at 4 o'clock in the morning was a bit of a challenge. However, the RV behaved itself and I didn't have any windscreen caving in or out of control fires.
How was your experience on the RV, overall?
What really made the trip so special was so meeting somany great people everywhere we went. From the shop owners who were so welcoming, people that joined the RV for a time, and the kiters that we met at demos. I also hadn't spent much time in the US before and it was a fantastic way to see the country.
Immediately afterwards, you hopped on the Odyssey ... from rags to riches (unless they stuffed you up front in the one-room hole:) ) Where did you go, and how was it?
Actually I did get the hole at the front for a few days but most of the time had a full cabin with all the trappings. I joined it in Puerto La Cruz and we sailed to Los Roques. I had never been to Venezuela before and it is a beautiful place, amazing turquoise water, and some incredible spots to kite. Highlight of the trip for me was the hurricane passing by that produced some great waves.
What was your favorite Neco meal?
Every meal was a full banquet but his ribs were something else.
Kiting in one of the world's largest ship graveyards, in Mauritania
Your 'paying job' is actually as a commissioned artist for the Sultanate of Oman (correct me if necessary). Explain how that works, where you do your work, how many paintings you do ayear. Do you plan to do anything this year?
t used to be, less so now. My father is an artist and it's been something that I have done for years. It was a great job to have when I was getting into kiting as it allowed me the freedom to travel and I could work when there's no wind. The number I did would be reflected in how windy a place was. I usually have a roll of canvas and paints in my board bag just in case I get skunked. This year it looks like I'm going to really busy with the travelling, videos and articles but will try and do a couple.
Are you able to visit the paintings once they're done? What's your favorite one, and where is itdisplayed?
Most of the paintings are hung in ministries, palaces and banks so I rarely get a chance to see them again. Artists are never satisfied with their work but the last couple that I did for a minister's house in Oman of horse and camelriders I was pretty happy with.
Where did you go once you got off the Odyssey? What have you been doing from then, until now?
Greece to kite for a 3 weeks without having to move. Morocco and Mauritania for my first travel article. Oman to remind my parents what I look like and edit the Mauritania video. Sri Lanka for a month kiting, it was a great trip although a bit frustrating as we didn't score the waves we'd hoped for. Back to Oman for my first Christmas home in 5 years. Philippines, first to Boracay and I am currently in the north searching for waves.
As our Travelling Team Rider this year, what trips are you planning on doing, and who will be your 'crew' on each of these trips?
I'll be visiting a variety of unique destinations off the beaten path and aim to capture the experience of travelling there as well as kiting. My next trip is to Iran with my brother where I'm hoping to snowkite. There will be a few different people joining me for the trips. My brother is a big help as he's an independent film maker and Kris Kinn from the RV has joined me for the trips in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Miguel, with Kris Kinn, and a friendly Sri Lankan kid
How much time goes into the editing of each video?
It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for each video. Putting all the clips together is relatively fast but it's the fine tuning and adding all the extras (audio, colorizing) that take a while. The editing makes or breaks a video so it's worth spending a bit of time on trying to get it right.
Where will you base yourself, in between trips?
All I need is my laptop so I have the freedom to be wherever it's windy.
Cooking in Sri Lanka
How much time do you get to spend with your family?
Not much, I usually try and visit them in Oman a couple of times a year to catch up and recharge my batteries.
Any plans to settle down, stay in one place for more than a month, have a family, etc, anytime soon?
Hahaha ... no.
And your plans to become a Competitive Course Racing Champion ... I know that's a big priority for you. How is that coming along?
I'm still trying to recover from the US nationals in San Francisco. First day on a board that wouldn't go upwind and then on one that wouldn't go downwind. I hadn't realized before that some boards can't go downwind.
Boracay, looking for a landing
If you haven't seen them yet, check out the following: