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Women Who Inspire: Kiteboarder Jerri Benjamin

Jerri Benjamin is 65 years old. She is the mother of five grown children and grandmother of six grandchildren. All of her children (and some of her grandchildren) kiteboard and/or windsurf.

Six years ago, Benjamin and her husband sold their home in Middlebury, Vermont, and bought a flood-damaged, mold-infested camp on Lake Champlain. Together they turned the camp into a small home, quit their jobs, and became PASA-certified kiteboard instructors. That was the beginning of their Northshore Kite-Sail-Surf. A former personal trainer, Benjamin now teaches kiteboarding in Vermont May through October. Then she heads to warm, windy climates for the winter. She loves teaching kiting because it gives her the opportunity to get people moving and feeling great.

Here, she shares a few thoughts about the sport she loves — which she didn’t pick up until she was in her mid-50s.

Jerri Benjamin kiteboarder

When did you start kiteboarding? What’s the appeal?

I was 55 years old. My son and husband were learning to kite. I was really afraid of it, but I refused to sit on the beach and just launch and land kites. I love the freedom. I love being in and near water. I love the power and the endless variety of things to learn.

What was the biggest challenge in learning to kiteboard at an older age?

I don’t think my age made any difference. If anything, it was an advantage. I had more time to dedicate to the learning process. My biggest challenge in [that] was overcoming the fear of the power of the kite. I spent one whole summer standing in the water flying a small kite, relaunching it, and trying to keep it in the air. I finally got comfortable. The best thing I learned — and now teach to others — is to let go of the kite if in danger.

What is your advice for other women who are interested in kiteboarding?

Take lessons from a certified instructor so you learn all the important things to make your kiteboarding safe and fun. If you’d like some advice about how to find a good instructor, check out womenkiteboarding.com. If you’re nervous about kiteboarding, start slow. Get out and fly a trainer kite, or take a three-hour land course. You’ll quickly find out how fun and safe it is.

Who was your first kiteboarding instructor and what is the one tip you’ll never forget?

My first real instructor was Chris from Ocean Air in Avon, North Carolina. He gave me a good understanding of the wind window and taught me to say, “I am out of here,” when I needed to let go of the bar. Putting your own safety first is an important thing to know and do.

Jerri Benjamin kiteboarder

What has been your biggest accomplishment in kiting so far?

I’ve had a lot of accomplishments over the years. Learning to ride comfortably and confidently was a major accomplishment, especially since I was nervous to even try kiteboarding. I would say that learning freestyle tricks has been really challenging and really fun, and it’s probably my biggest accomplishment so far.

How do you feel about doing a sport with so little female participation?

I am proud to be one of the few women out on the water at my local spots. But I really love the connection with other women and am happy to see more women in the sport. We help to inspire and push the limits for each other.

What is your life philosophy?

Life is short and exciting, so do something that you love every day. If you have only five minutes, simply watch birds or look closely at a tree or flower — sit still and enjoy the moment. If you have more time, read a book, take a walk, go kiteboarding, just do something you enjoy. Or maybe I should say enjoy everything you do. Make it count! Regardless of how old or young you are, your age should not be a barrier. Age is a thing to be celebrated and appreciated.

A version of this story originally appeared on womenkiteboarding.com. It has been reprinted with permission.

Photos: Courtesy of Jerri Benjamin

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