Meet surfer turned professional kiteboarder, Johnny Berger. The Florida native is a 19-year-old prodigy in the industry, a strong contestant during competition and way ahead of the curve. Hawai’i may have something to do with his quick learning, as he trains in Maui in consistent swell with steady winds; yet, a strong surfer at heart, his roots in performance surfing have helped developed his talents on the face of the wave as well as in the air. Berger describes kiteboarding as a similar sport to performance surfing – clean waves are required for the most powerful maneuvers, but the added wind element allows you to always go huge.
Berger most definitely follows through with the challenge as a leader in the sport, progressing the level of talent in the lineup with his innovation and raw talent. The sky is the limit for Johnny.
“Johnny has a surfing background and is part of a strong second wave of young strapless kiters,” said Todd Gréaux, the Vice President of Sales for Cabrinha Kiteboarding. “Even at his young age, he has confidence and creativity. Rather than just mimicking what other pro athletes are doing, he is trying new tricks and pushing the envelope of what we thought possible. He rides with other talented athletes and together, they push themselves and the advancement of skate-style tricks in our sport.”
Gréaux had plenty of fun anecdotes to tell us about Johnny, including a hilarious story about him losing his board shorts in a crash landing, then forced to run through the parking lot in his birthday suit to find a towel. Berger’s larger-than-life personality stands out in his favor: “At a kitesurfing contest earlier this year, there was absolutely no wind,” Gréaux of Cabrinha described. ” The crowd was losing interest, so Johnny took it into his own hands to run the “Berger Pro” impromptu SUP surfing contest. It worked! The crowd stayed around, Johnny won his own contest, and later on the wind filled in and the kitesurfing contest was a go. I was stoked to see such a young person on the team have the initiative to turn something negative into a positive.”
As our first Surf Channel feature on kiteboarding, Johnny Berger was nice enough to give us some pointers on why and how kiteboarding became his favorite activity. According to Berger, the dangers of kiteboarding and surfing are the same – watch out for the kooks.
Name: Johnny Berger
Date of Birth: 08/22/94
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Training Grounds: Maui, Hawai’i
Go-To Equipment: 2013 Cabrinha Drifter/ 5’9” Haydenshapes shredsled
THE SURF CHANNEL: Ideal conditions for kitesurfing?
BERGER: Steady wind and clean waves!
How is kitesurfing similar to performance surfing?
BERGER: Most of the maneuvers are the same. Kitesurfing has its own style that allows you to always go huge!
For someone that has never kitesurfed, how do you approach the ocean?
BERGER: If you have any board experience, you’ll get up in no time.
In competition, what are judges looking for?
BERGER: Critical turns, style and power.
Best spots in the world?
BERGER: The Canary Islands in Spain are my favorite, great for kiteboarding with perfect surf and strong winds… and an empty lineup. Hawai’i also has constant wind, perfect for training.
What are the most radical manuevers performed thus far?
BERGER: 540 strapless backroll.
What are some of the dangers?
Do you prefer an empty lineup?
BERGER: I like to kite some solo sessions at my home spot, but its always fun to go kitesurf with the Cabrinha team. Cabrinha is a super supportive company with a crazy team. The gear is by far the best in the market today.
Goals for your career?
BERGER: Hopefully to just continue kiteboarding and move to a spot with better conditions.
What do you think about a television channel dedicated to surfing?
GREAUX: Where has this been all my life?!? Seriously, I think it’s great. Even people that don’t surf still feel a connection to the power of surf and the ocean, and the sports practiced in surf are largely environmentally friendly and support an active healthy lifestyle. What’s not to like about that? I also feel that it’s a great way to show the wide range of sports that take advantage of the surf. Is there anyway you could get my local cable company to carry the channel?
BERGER: It’s gonna be awesome, and I know a lot of viewers are gonna tune in.