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Stephanie Fail, Published July 18 2011

It's My Job: KotiKites instructor teaches kiteboarding

If you had suggested to Jesse Kallander a year ago that he “go fly a kite,” he would probably have laughed. Now he does it for a living.

“With kiteboarding, we bring the amusement park to them,” says Kallander, who works for KotiKites and Windsports, a colorful kite, sports and toy store located in downtown Fargo. When the weather is right, he leaves his post at the store and takes people out to the open spaces of Fargo to learn how to ride the wind.

Using a large kite designed to harness wind power, he hooks the kite to a harness and has his students steer the kite using a bar. The kite then pulls like a bucking bronco dragging happy students through grass, water, sand or snow on various boards.

“When it pulls too much, you just let go of the bar,” Kallander said. “I have seen people older than 60 learn how to do this. You choose your intensity.”

When Kallander’s brother-in-law, Trevor Ibach, started KotiKites last summer, he needed a certified instructor to teach kiteboarding.

As a snowboarder in the mountainless Great Plains of North Dakota, Kallander jumped at the chance to harness Fargo’s strong winds.

Q: How did you learn how to kiteboard?

A: Trevor and I were trying to figure out how much it would cost to hire a trained and certified instructor, and realizing it would be costly, he asked all of a sudden who was going to be the instructor. I had never kiteboarded before, but out of all of us, I had the most experience snowboarding and skiing, so I raised my hand. I drove to the outer banks of North Carolina and was Professional Air Sports Association certified at Kitty Hawk Kites.

How is business?

It is picking up as people get to know us and hear about the sport. I taught 15 to 20 lessons over the winter. We sell about one of the full-size kites every month.

There are probably about 20 of us who do this in the area. There is a lot of possibility for the sport to grow in Fargo. There are all kinds of kites and toys in our store.

There are people who have no intention of kiting who come in and buy kites to hang on their walls. We sell many single-line kites, which we call sky painters. They hang art in the sky.

What makes Fargo an ideal place to kite?

In Fargo, we have way more winter than summer, and we also have around the same average wind speed as some of the best kiting spots in the world.

A lot of people complain about the wind. Instead of complaining, we are offering a new way to have fun. Winter is by far my favorite time of year. I have happily gone out there in minus-20-degree weather and was sweating. I love the cold, and with the constant adrenaline rush, I don’t feel it.

What is the best thing about your job?

One of the most fun things about it is it’s a toy store, so we get to put together all the new kites and toys. Most people leave with the biggest smile on their face.

This sport is addicting. I love when you see a person pick it up as fast as they can. As shown in many studies using brain scans, when you learn something new, your brain lights up all these new connections, and constantly challenging yourself to learn is what keeps one sharp. I feel like they gave me the best job in the world.

Business profile

Readers can reach Forum reporter Stephanie Fail at (701) 233-8330

To submit an idea for “It’s My Job,” email businessnews@forumcomm.com.