Wednesday 22 August 2018

'This sport is the new golf - but it has a bit of risk and speed' - kite surfer Francois (39)

Francois Colussi (39) owns Pure Magic, a water-sports shop. He runs Battle for the Bay, a free family-friendly event on Dollymount Strand. From Amiens, France, he lives in Sandymount with his fiancee, Jennifer

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I'm awake at 7.30am. I have a little coffee, some toasted bread, and then I check the wind. When you are obsessed with kitesurfing, this is the first thing you check. Dublin is a little heaven for kitesurfing, because there is sea all around us, and a lot of wind. Many people complain about the Irish weather. They see a rainy day and they think that it's miserable, but, for me, it's absolutely wonderful. You are in the water with the waves and the wind. You are wet anyway.

I live with my fiancee, Jennifer. She is a kitesurfer, but she works as well. We met seven years ago when she was my student. In the mornings, she goes off to her normal nine-to-five job and I go to my business premises - Pure Magic in Clontarf. I don't kitesurf every day, but I try to do it four times a week. On those days, I make sure that I have a good breakfast. As we say in France, an empty back doesn't stand.

We live in Sandymount. We only moved here last year. Jennifer was very strong about bringing me to what I call the dark side - the south side. I'm a big northsider, passionate about it - 12 years of business in Clontarf and promoting it every day. But you know how it is. She is the real boss.

In the mornings, I go over the toll bridge. Beside me, in cars in traffic jams, I see people who are dressed to go to work. They remind me of normal life. Once I arrive in the Clontarf area, the traffic jams are against me. Everyone is going into work in town, and I am escaping! Then I have this vision of Dollymount and Bull Island.

Finally, I arrive at my shop. We supply everything for kitesurfing, and paddleboarding equipment, and people can sign up for lessons here, too. Paddleboarding and kitesurfing are the two fastest-growing water sports these days. You don't need any wind for paddleboarding. You can kitesurf all year round, but our season for lessons is from March to November. We are lucky to be in a place where you can surf in low tide and high tide.

Seventy per cent of the people who do kitesurfing are men aged between 25 and 45. We have a lot of guys who work in Facebook and Google. They want some action, some adrenaline sport. They want something to do that is very close to the city, and we are only 10 minutes away. This sport has become the new golf. There are a lot of entrepreneurs doing it because it's the same spirit that you see in entrepreneurship - a bit of risk and going fast.

On a day that I go surfing, I stand on the wooden bridge, and then there is the moment where I see some kites flying in the sky. My heart starts to pump a bit faster. Then you jump into your wetsuit. You zip yourself up and off you go.

The beauty about kitesurfing is that you are flying, you are free. You are using the wind, and only the wind. There is no noise, no pollution. You are just going to play with Mother Nature, and you have the feeling that you can almost escape the world for a time. You can switch off. Some cruise out on the water and others do extreme jumps.

Kitesurfing is not difficult to learn. You start by flying a tiny kite and then you get a bigger one. Once you can control the power of that, you get into the water. I'm passionate about it, and I like to share my passion. That's why I started Battle for the Bay. It was just a little gathering of kitesurfers who were teaching. We wanted to give back to the community by organising a kitesurfing competition.

It started in 2006, and 50 people came to the beach. Then we added music and food, and it snowballed. It's a two-day family event with a big wheel and a train on the beach, and it's free. This year, it's on next weekend, on May 26 and 27.

I'm from Amiens, which is in the middle of nowhere in France. It's like the Longford of France. I came to Ireland in 2005 to learn English. It was a love story with Ireland, and it was also for the love of a woman. Back then, I had a French girlfriend living here.

I'd finished my master's in engineering in New Zealand. It was time to find a job, but it didn't really work out. So I became a beach bum again. I had kitesurfed all over the world and had given lessons.

Then in 2006, I set up Pure Magic with my business partner. Now we have another premises in Achill, with a lodge, a school and a restaurant, too.

Kitesurfing changes your life. Our best salary is when people say thank you. Sometimes they tell me that they were miserable when they started, but it helped turn their lives around; and that's why they are out on the water so often. The only way to understand it is to try it.

When I come home from work, I'm always whistling, because I'm in good mood after surfing. I try not to put too much sand in the house. I open a pint of Guinness and Jennifer is giving out, because I'm drinking after work.

Sometimes we go kitesurfing together in the evenings. The dilemma of the kitesurfing man is that you get all this flaming spire inside you, and you want to jump and run into the water, but you have your girlfriend with you, and she wants to take her time. She is my special lady and she needs a lot of attention, so I'm careful with her. But I get really stressed when she is around.

In the evenings, we just sit on the couch and chat. We don't have a TV. I think they are a great distraction. If we had one, I'd be like a rabbit in front of it. Then I collapse in bed and dream of another day.

battleforthebay.com

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Battle for the Bay is a free festival on Dollymount Strand, May 26 and 27

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