Kiteboarder Susi Mai is Our Muse

Article by Mish Barber-Way

Kiteboarding legend, activist, and entrepreneur Susi Mai is the ocean’s greatest champion. 

Sisu Mai—professional kiteboarder, environmental activist, and entrepreneur—has spent her life living by the ocean, loving the ocean, and soaring above it.

This German-born daughter of pro windsurfers got to know the Caribbean first, after her family moved to seaside Cabarete in the Dominican Republic. Rebellious as a girl, Mai turned her nose up at windsurfing because that’s what her father did when he wasn’t running a B&B with Mai’s mom. 

A fluent speaker of Spanish, German, and English, Mai was a teenage beach bum, with a perpetual sprinkling of sand in her blonde hair. It wasn’t until she was getting ready for college that she discovered the sport that would catapult her to fame.

“It was the early 2000s. I remember there was this French guy kiteboarding on the beach,” she tells Penthouse by phone from her home in Hawaii. “He was flying through the air. I immediately saw this as windsurfing, but lighter, better, and much cooler.”

Mai says the way kiteboarding harnesses the wind, plus the sport’s risk, is what appealed to her, and she began riding with boys on the beach. She had no idea of her skill level or how she compared to other female riders. And she didn’t care. She fell in love with the sport. 

“Kiteboarding fools you with how fun it is,” she says. “It’s about feeling in control of some awesome nature. You’re flying like a bird over water. You’re weightless. Airborne. At the same time, you’re getting this great full-body workout.”

Mai says the opportunity to compete fell into her lap. She got a wild card pass to enter the 2003 Kiteboarding World Cup, held in her Cabarete hometown. She snagged the silver medal, with world champion Cindy Mosey of New Zealand winning gold. 

With a surge of confidence and a growing reputation for executing daring, sky-high tricks, Mai went on to win Red Bull’s “King of the Air” competition in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Just like that, she found herself a sponsored tour athlete, competing, training, and performing nonstop in what she now calls a “hamster wheel” for six years. 

But ultimately, knee injuries, three surgeries, and post-op bedrest forced Mai to look beyond the world of kiteboarding competition. “My injuries were downers, but they taught me something,” she recalls. “It’s a very strange feeling to have your entire existence taken away.” 

After her first injury, Mai devoted herself to designing a kiteboarding line specifically for girls, called Siren Series by Susi Mai, with financial backing from her then-sponsor, Cabrinha. “I was literally designing kites from my hospital bed,” Mai laughs.