Santa Barbara kitesurfing eyes 2024 Olympics
SANTA BARBARA, Calif .– Right next to the shore, you can spot someone ripping through the water on a board propelled by a kite flying high in the sky.
It’s the kitesurfing formula, a brand new sport that will make its debut at the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The character who quickly sweeps the ocean is Evan Heffernan, a boy from Santa Barbara who intends to bring his talents to Paris.
“Santa Barbara has a long history with many Olympic athletes,” he says. “It’s sort of something that has always intrigued me and encouraged me to pursue it in a way.”
Heffernan is currently America’s best kitesurfing.
However, that didn’t happen without the hard work of the 23-year-old, who grew up surfing and sailing in Santa Barbara.
“Sometimes when there are dolphins or whales, it’s really cool to be this close to nature,” Heffernan says.
Family friend Jerry Shalhoob constantly comes to the beach, watching Heffernan blow by everyone.
“He’s going almost 20 miles an hour faster than everyone else, so it’s black and white,” Shalhoob said. “It’s like having a Ferrari there and we drive a Model A Ford.”
When it comes to the US National Team, competition is fierce on the water. Only a man and a woman from America will qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris.
“It’s definitely a competitive environment,” Heffernan says. “The really important part of our group training is the coaching. “
Her current trainer is Willie McBride, a former member of the UCSB sailing team, who has since coached the Gauchos with the Olympic sailors.
“I think Evan’s work ethic is something that really sets him apart from a lot of other kiters campaigning for the Olympics,” said McBride.
To be the best, practice makes perfect.
“I’m always here to track my practices, review the data, monitor my hours every month,” Heffernan explains. “I really try to put in as much as possible to really be the best.”
Kiting is an expensive sport, as all equipment has to be set to the highest standard.
Although Heffernan makes a living as a mobile app developer, he still needs help to pursue his passion.
“For Olympic sports in the United States, everything is mostly privately funded,” Heffernan explained. “To do it right, most people run a campaign to help raise money for the expenses they incur.”
With that in mind, the Santa Barbara high school student has launched an online fundraising campaign. Hoping to get the community support he will need to eventually get involved in kiting full time.
“Being the first representative of your country, your city, the community around you is huge,” says McBride.
“I think it would be really great to represent Santa Barbara, it’s a great little town and a great community of people,” Heffernan concluded.
With a chance to become the next pioneer in a long line of local Olympians, Heffernan’s goal is gold.
To donate to Evan’s Olympic campaign, you can visit his website.
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