In the sport of kiteboarding, you have to want to be the best in order to be the best.

As most premier kiteboarders will tell you, it takes equal parts talent, drive and sacrifice to reach the pinnacle of their sport. But, because competitive kiteboarding is such an individual endeavor, it’s not for everyone.

Like windsurfing, snowboarding and skateboarding, it’s the kind of sport that takes years of patience and practice before you can settle into a groove. The earlier you get started, the better.

At least that’s the philosophy of 14-year-old Dylan Thompson, who is nearing the end of his second summer of kiteboarding in the Gorge.

“I feel like I have an advantage getting started so young,” said the Hood River Valley High School freshman, who caught onto the sport in Maui during the summer of 2000, and is already sponsored by kite manufacturer Gaastra.

“Not a lot of guys my age are out there, so I’ve been forced to keep up with the best out at the Sandbar and in Rufus. It can be intimidating, but it’s mostly fun,” he said.

Thompson entered his first formal competition this summer at the Bridge of the Gods (Aug. 10 in Stevenson, Wash.), and said he hopes to join the field at the 2003 Gorge Games.

“I figured out how to jump at the end of last summer, which is what the competitions are all about,” said Thompson, who learned most of his tricks from his father, Mark, and local kiteboarding gurus like Adam Koch, Lou Wainman and Cory Roeseler.

“I started trying some new tricks this summer — various rolls, spins and grabs — and I hope to continue practicing them at the mountain this winter,” he said.

Thompson is just as intrigued by snowboarding and skateboarding, and says that both sports help keep him sharp on the river. That comes as no surprise to Roeseler.

“I think the appeal at that age is all the skate-style moves,” said the fellow Gaastra representative. “The heroes in the sport of kiteboarding are all freestylers and it’s no wonder that’s he’s inspired by them.”

Roeseler has worked with Thompson over the past two summers, offering advice and moral support whenever needed.

“Dylan is an impressive 14-year-old,” he said. “It’s great to see his dad so involved as well. Kiteboarding is such an individual sport, and it takes a certain mindset where you drop everything and try to become the best. Dylan appears to have done that.”

Roeseler, who also began kiteboarding in his teen years (age 17), said the two things that strike him most about Thompson are: 1) that he’s out there every day with a bunch of older guys, always trying to get better; and 2) that he finishes the tricks and lands them cleanly.

“A lot of newcomers tend to be a little sloppy, but Dylan has already figured out his own style,” Roeseler said. “It’s only a matter of time before he’ll be competitive at the Gorge Games and Bridge of the Gods.”

Thompson will continue to hone his skills throughout the fall, and plans to sign on with the Summit Snowboard Team this winter.

He also hopes to get involved with a kiteboard camp next summer as well as the production of a video — two projects spearheaded by his kiteboard instructor friend, “Maui.”

“All I can do is keep practicing and learning from the best,” he said.

With that attitude, it shouldn’t be long before Thompson can include himself among the best.

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