Kiteboarding Changed My Life
Kiteboarding Changed My Life
By Lene Baxter
When I tell most people I have just met my background, they are always a little shocked. However, those that know me know that the path I’ve chosen is definitely the right one.
My home beach was Captiva Island. It is a barrier island near Fort Myers, Florida (Southwest coast). It is far enough down the coast of Florida that the water is blue and the weather never really gets cold. Although kiteboarding is becoming popular in the area now, sailing and windsurfing were the sports of choice (though I never tried either while I was living there).
After high school, I accepted an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was an incredible experience. I had played ice hockey when I was growing up, but that wasn’t an option for women at the Academy. As a result, I played rugby for my first year. Because of an injury, I was told I couldn’t play contact sports. I had always wanted to try horseback riding, so I joined the Equestrian team the next year and rode for the Academy until I graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Sociology. After graduation, I was commissioned as an Army Officer. However, I stayed at West Point as a research analyst because of another injury. After only 15 months, I was medically retired from the Army.
After that, all I could think was “what the hell do I do now?”. I was recruited by Sears Holdings Corporation for logistics management. It seemed like an interesting field with a lot of leadership potential. While I excelled in that environment and had a great experience, I decided after a year that it just wasn’t for me. So, to figure things out, I accepted a position as a teacher in China.
CHINA? I lived in Changchun, China, working for English First. What a life changing experience! I had a magnificent time. Despite only being there for 7.5 months, I had grown to call the place home. I was always shocked to see the drastic difference between the rich and the poor in the country. The people there truly valued the important things in life (good friends, family, happiness). That made a deep impact on me and I brought that experience back with me to the U.S.
I was again recruited into Logistics Management, but this time by Target Corporation. It was a great job with a great company. However, after spending that time in China, I was just unhappy with working in a job like that. When I got out of the Army, I had met Mike and John at All Out Kiteboarding and they taught me how to kiteboard. I spent my weekends driving from Florida to kite on Tybee Island and even brought all my gear with me to China. Working at Target had its own challenges as I regularly spent days off in the shop or at the beach and frequently found myself racing to the beach to catch the wind after work.
When the boys at AOK had a slot open for an instructor, it was an easy choice for me. I would mean a huge lifestyle change. I would switch careers and take a huge pay cut. I haven’t regretted a single day spent working for AOK. Every day, I come to Tybee Island and go to the beach. I take people out and teach them to paddleboard and conduct tours in the morning. In the afternoons, I teach kiteboarding and then I go kiteboarding for myself. It is absolutely the perfect set up. I had been searching my whole life for a job that I would look forward to every day. Although I came from an unconventional background into the industry, it is definitely the right fit for me.