A Port Alberni teenager will be chasing the wind and travelling the world this school year after receiving a scholarship to a prestigious kiteboarding school.
Sam Gentleman, 17, has been accepted to the World Class Kiteboard Academy, which is an accredited private high school based in the U.S. that combines academics, athletics, travel and cultural immersion with the sport of kiteboarding.
Students will be “chasing the wind” across the world this fall and winter, travelling to Greece, Brazil, Australia and Italy. Days will consist of school in the morning and kiteboarding in the afternoon. Students will also be able to explore and learn about each of the countries they are visiting.
Sam was the only Canadian accepted this year, and one of only 16 students selected from around the world.
“I heard about it from a friend and applied kind of last minute,” Sam explained. “I liked the way it sounded—it was something I wanted to do. There was no way I wasn’t going to apply. They responded right away and were really welcoming.”
He went through a rigorous application process, where he had to write seven essays and provide an athletic resumé, then went through an interview process. In the end, Sam was accepted and received a scholarship to cover most of his tuition.
“I still have to pay for travel expenses,” he said.
Sam’s father, Rob Gentleman, explained that it can be “quite expensive” travelling around the world with kiteboarding gear. Kiteboarding is a sport where riders use wind power, a board and a large kite to pull them across the water’s surface.
Sam first started kiteboarding last summer at China Creek Campground and “loved it right away.” Both of his parents kiteboard, which is what first piqued his interest.
“I fell in love with it and wanted to keep doing it as much as I can,” said Sam.
Although China Creek is a popular location for kiteboarders, it has its downsides.
“I’m the only one there under the age of 25,” Sam explained. “Nobody’s pushing me there. I wanted to see what it would be like to kite with people my age.”
In addition, the thermals at China Creek die down in the fall, so he can’t kiteboard year-round.
Rob explained that kiteboarding is a unique sport, in that it depends entirely on the wind.
“It makes you appreciate when you do get a session,” he said.
Sam attended one competition in Mexico shortly after he started kiteboarding, but otherwise this will be his first experience kiteboarding competitively.
“He won the biggest crash award,” Rob laughed.
Outside of kiteboarding, Sam is involved in a number of other sports. He is a mountain bike coach for the City of Port Alberni and he also plays basketball and skis in the wintertime. He was previously involved in track and field, soccer and badminton.
But kiteboarding has now taken the lead, said Sam.
“I like the ability to learn new things quickly,” he said. “Being able to ride with other people and push each other to learn new things. I’ve built so many relationships through kiteboarding—in Mexico I made so many new friends. There’s also the adrenaline rush,” he added with a laugh.
Although the academy is focused on kiteboarding, students are required to keep their academic marks high in order to go out on the water.
“Fun will be motivating [Sam] to get his schoolwork done,” Rob joked.
Sam says he is most looking forward to meeting new people and building relationships on his journey.
“Plus going to all these new places and learning things about the world,” he said. “And it will be good for my future. College applications are coming up and having this on my resume will give me a huge lead.”
While Sam’s scholarship will cover most of his tuition, he is still looking for sponsorships to help with covering travel and gear expenses. A fundraiser can be found at GoFundMe by searching “Join Sam’s Senior Year Journey” and interested sponsors can reach out to Rob Gentleman through this fundraiser.
Sam also plans to start a blog where people can follow his journey throughout the year. In the meantime, he can be found on Instagram.