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Michigan’s Kiteboarding Master of the Ocean

kiteboarding_masterMichigan native James Otis is The Master of the Ocean.

Author: Matt and Keegan Myers
Published: Aug/Sept 2004 issue of Kiteboarding Magazine,

As we trekked over the desolate dunes of Little Point Sable along Northern Michigan’s pristine coastline, we watched a lonesome silhouette riding way off in the horizon.  It was obvious that this mysterious figure was effusively enjoying the last little bit of sea breeze before the sun would sink into the fresh water ocean.  After making the hike down the long sugar sand beach, we were able to get a closer look at this ‘soul sessioning waterman’ with his long hair and beard to match.  A generous smile grew across his face as he said “Hey, I’m James Otis, are you boys gonna ride?”  From this point three years ago, Otis has continued to turn heads with his riding ability, and inspire people from all over the state to blaze every session possible with all their heart.

Otis is one of those guys that are in the sport because he truly loves to do it, and is captivated by the free expression of kiteboarding.  His passion for the body and soul translate into his aggressive and fluid riding style.  Otis, raised in the small town of Holland, Michigan, has been a true pioneer of kiteboarding in the Great Lakes region, and has coached many of the areas riders.  Whether Otis is healing a patient with physical therapy, practicing his Hare Krishna religion, performing Thai massage, instructing Yoga, or coaching a newbee how to kiteboard, this man is stoked.

At the end of the 2003 season, Otis knew that he wanted to pursue kiteboarding in another place during the cold Michigan winter months.  Otis was drawn to the Dominican Republic in January of 2004 after talking with a few buddies about the epic kiteboarding conditions, world-class waves for surfing, and a comfortable cost of living allowing him to stay as long as possible.  Otis was also attracted to the thought of living in a less money driven, diverse atmosphere.  He stayed a total of three months in the DR, spending his days surfing, kiteboarding, and living a relaxed lifestyle, the ideal combination for this humble Michigan native.

During his stay in the Dominican, one of the largest and most respected annual events in the Caribbean took place in Otis’s backyard.  The Red Bull Master of The Ocean challenges competitors in windsurfing, surfing, and kiteboarding.  Participants are judged in all three categories throughout a four day period.  On the final day the scores are combined and averaged to select an overall winner.  You would expect someone who has lived on the ocean their entire lives to sweep the event, right?  Well, this year’s results were a bit different.

Initially Otis was not interested in competing, he was in the DR to chill and have fun.  After some convincing from his local friend Marcus, Otis entered the event with no expectations.  Surprisingly, even with his lax approach, Otis’s caliber of riding proved to be unmatchable, boosting him into the limelight and crowned as Master of the Ocean, shocking even himself.  As Otis stood on the podium in disbelief and was handed an envelope full of cash for his first place performance, he thought to himself “wow, I am really happy to be here.”  Classic Otis style, he takes nothing for granted and is thankful for everything.

Otis will be moving back to the Dominican Republic at the end of the Michigan summer season for an indefinite stay.  He will continue working and living a stress-free, healthy lifestyle; practicing his Yoga every morning, kiting and surfing during the day, and staying true to his Hindu religion-Hare Krishna.  Otis will be missed by his riding partners back in Michigan, but understand that Otis will continue to follow his heart, and blaze every session possible with the humbleness and enthusiasm of a young child.

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