Two men are taking water sports on Nantucket to the next level.
Jon Beery and Jacob Hoefler have kiteboarded in some of the most ridiculous places. They’ve coasted under the Golden Gate Bridge, dodged lobster traps in Boston Harbor, and even ripped around a water hazard on the LPGA Tour. But of all the exotic and not-so-exotic waters they’ve hit, none compare to Nantucket’s when it comes to kiteboarding. Discovering this, the two twenty-somethings recently launched the island’s first kiteboarding operation ever approved by the board of selectmen. Beery and Hoefler’s Next Level Watersports has quickly taken off.
Equipped with top-of-the-line gear and a fleet of chase boats, Next Level offers a “white-glove” introduction into the extreme world of kiteboarding. Beery and Hoefler have spent years perfecting how they teach beginners to harness the wind and ride on water. “I’ve taught people as old as eighty-seven and as young as eight,” says Beery, who gave up his job in corporate America to pursue kiteboarding full-time. “It’s easier than you would think, and our favorite is when we can get the whole family — wife, husband and kids — out there riding together.”
Over the course of three-hour sessions, Beery and Hoefler walk students through the techniques in managing a kite and then riding on water. “It’s really two sports in one,” says Hoefler. “When we teach people, our focus is to slow it down and provide instruction in an incremental and methodical manner. That way we can keep our students in control and feeling comfortable throughout.”
In the early days of kiteboarding, there were horror stories of people being slammed into the sides of boats, tangled in the lines, or lifted hundreds of feet in the air. Since then, safety has significantly improved, but the sport still requires a knowledgeable instructor. “People can get in trouble when they just go out and buy the gear and try to wing it,” Beery says. “It’s important to respect the sport and get proper instruction to learn how to do it safely.” Once students learn to harness the wind and then make the move into the water, Beery and Hoefler follow them along in small chase boats to yell pieces of advice and keep them safe. “Our job is to educate, pace and motivate,” says Beery. “Of course, safety is our top priority.”
Beyond safety, improved kiteboarding technology allows Beery and Hoefler to take students out on the water nearly every day, whether the wind is blowing or not. In particular, state-of-the-art hydrofoil boards enable a kiteboard to surf through the water without ever touching the surface. Instead, a long, specially designed fin cuts through the water, riding the currents below. Free from friction, kiteboarders can then get pulled by the lightest of breezes.
And there are ample places around the island to explore. “The variety of kiting here is some of the best we’ve experienced on the East Coast,” Hoefler says. “There is a bit of everything. You can ride waves off the south shore, rip over buttery flats in Madaket and Bass Point and hydrofoil for miles on the harbor.” But when you’re learning with Next Level, everything takes place in the relative safety of the harbor. Once you learn to kite on your own, however, you can go wherever the wind takes you.