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History of Kitesurfing: Hung Vu the Pioneer

Kitesurfer Hung Vu

Hung was born in Vietnam during the infamous Viet Nam war.  As a kid, he loved kites and used to build kites by himself using bamboo and paper.  Kites were always his passion throughout his life. 

Kitesurfer Hung as a kid.

As a kid he used to fly a small single line kite to drag himself and friends in a floating basket across a small pond and then ran back upwind and did it again.

So “kite sailing” was always in his blood even thought it was not quite “controllable” and was straight down wind back then! 

Hung in Canada

In Canada, Hung became a somewhat successful business man.  Having sold one of his companies in summer 1998, he decided to take a year off and traveling around the world.

Buying Kites in Europe and France

Hung briefly heard of Kitesurfing in 1998 and read a brief review about it in the Windsurfing Magazine. But he did not give it much thought until he saw some strange looking inflatable kites in a windsurfing shop in Paris.

So on the spot, he decided to buy 2 kites (5m and 8.5m Wipika Classic) and had them shipped to Ottawa, Canada while he continued on his trip in Europe.

Started to Learn Kiteboarding in Canada

Hung came back to Canada in Sept 1998 and started learning kitesurfing, kiteboarding, kite skiing, fly surfing, or whatever-you-call-it using the kites he bought in Paris and his modified sailboard. Back then nobody knew which name for the new sport would stick.

A few years later, it looked like both the names “kitesurfing” and “kiteboarding” would likely be around.

1998 was the first time Hung was introduced to power kiting and the Wipika Classic 5.0 really impressed him. As winter in Canada started making the day shorter, Hung needed to go someplace where he could practice this watersport during the winter months.

So Hung decided to book a trip to Carabete (where he normally went windsurfing in the past) and got in touch with Jan Pina of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic via the legendary Kitesurf group. Jan had bought a Wipika 8.5m via mail order in July 1998 and had been learning it ever since using his modified sailboard.

Buying a Kiteboard at ConceptAir

To prepare for his trip, Hung contacted FOne and tried to get a proper kiteboard. FOne referred Hung to ConceptAir in Quebec. Apparently, Raphael Salles (owner of FOne) has visited ConceptAir in the past and at that time had some relationship with ConceptAir.

Hung contacted Michel Montmigny (former kite skiing world champion) at ConceptAir and got the legendary FOne 230, serial number 230085 (Model 230, Serial Number 85).

Learning to Kitesurf in the Dominican Republic (Carabete)

In November 1998, Hung rented a beachfront house at the west end of Carabete (between Carabete and the “future” Kite Beach) and invited Jan to come to visit him from Santo Domingo. The two surfers instantly became friends and decided to learn together.

While practicing kiting at Carabete, the two friends got a lot of attention from the curious windsurfers. They also met Terry, the first kitesurfer at Carabete. 

Terry had been kiting at Carabete on and off since Jan 1998 (few months before Jan and Hung). The trio instantly became friends and shared the learning experiences together.

Hung kiteboarding in Cabarete 1998

Hung, Jan & Antonio in Carabete checking out Jan’s new kiteboard
(first custom made kiteboard in Dominican Republic)

Created a Kitesurf Instruction Manual

By Christmas 1998, Jan came back to Santo Domingo and invited Hung to came down to see him and visit one of Jan’s vacation houses at Salina. That was a wonderful trip, the two friends improved drastically in a very short period of time. In the end, they dreamed about opening up a kitesurfing school and center at Salina.

Due to this plan, Hung decided to create a learning log to eventually write an instruction manual for the school. 

Hung went back to Carabete and kited there until Feb 1999. Jan came up and visit Hung regularly during the period. The two friends had lots of fun kiting together and Jan even made a new proper board based on Hung’s FOne 230 but smaller.

Kiteboarding in Mexico (Baja) With Friends

Kiting in Mexico, 1999

Hung, Andre and Cory Roeseler in Baja (Mexico) 1999.

When Hung came back to Canada, it was still in the middle of winter. He then received an invitation from Cory Roeseler, the inventor of kite water skiing, for a lesson trip in Baja (Mexico).

Hung took up the offer and on the same trip, also planned for a trip to Hawaii and Australia to visit friends and relatives. Hung met Cory and his wife at Baja in April 1999 and was extremely impressed with Cory’s performance on the water.

Unfortunately, the wind did not cooperate so Hung did not get fully acquainted with Cory’s frame kite and the Mosquito board.

Discovered Good Kitesurf Spots in Maui (Hawaii)

Hung moved on to Maui, Hawaii, the last 2 weeks of April 1999 where he met a number of now-famous kiters such as Mauricio (worked at Hawaiian Proline, now Airrush, at that time), Chris Gilbert of Hawaii High-Tech, Chris’ girlfriend (now wife), and a couple of other kiters.

Hung also had a chance to watch Flash in action. Hung was very impressed with Flash’s amazing tricks and high jumps over the waves at Maui’s north shore.

Back then, there were only a handful of kitesurfers at Maui. There, Hung was introduced to the “smaller” directional kiteboard of size 5’6″ or so.

Hung even rented a small kiteboard at High-Tech, but the wind was howling 30 knots constantly in the two weeks while he was there. So, Hung ended up spending most of his time in Maui blasting the ocean with a small slalom and wave sailboards.

Surfing Spots in Australia

After stopping over at Hawaii, Hung made a tour to Australia to visit friends at the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne. Before the trip, Ian Young, the first kitesurfer of Australia invited Hung to Adelaide to attend the first Australian Kitesurf Challenge.

Hung took up on the invitation and went to Adelaide. There, Hung spent a couple of days watching the competition and discussing the sport with all the pioneers in Australia: Ian Young, Alex Gillian, Ben Merkenhof, Mat Colefax and Dave (Kiteboard Headquarter).

Also at Adelaide, Hung met Kane Hartil, Stephanie (Kane’s girl friend) and the legendary Peter Lynn from New Zealand.

Kiteboarding in Australia

Ian Young in Adelaide, May 1999. 

Learned To Jibe On A Directional Board

Hung went back to Ottawa in Canada in May 1999 and continued working on his skills. As soon as he could jibe his directional board perfectly and go upwind, Hung started working on this website.

Hung released the Kitesurfingschool website in June 1999 and has frequently updated it ever since.

However, since 2016, Hung got preoccupied with other things in life. As a result, Hung stopped updating the website, and a new team took over the maintenance. To celebrate Hung, we decisided to publish Hung’s earliest photos and articles on this website. 

Buying Foil Kites in Florida (Tampa Bay)

At the end of his 1-year vacation, Hung took his family to Tampa Bay, Florida, US for an end-of-summer vacation before his kids started school in early September 1999.

Via the legendary Kitesurf Group again, he met Josh Young, the first kitesurfer of Tampa bay and probably of Florida. Josh had been tinkering with this sport years earlier and introduced Hung to the various foil kites.

At Tampa Bay, Hung mail-ordered his legendary light wind foil XXXL. Hung and Josh used the XXXL in very light wind on Josh’s converted surfboard…

Kiteboarding in Costamba

Hung and Roberto Spitale in Costamba, July 2000. Roberto is Dr. Kite who saved Eric Hertsens’ life in 2005. The kite in the background is the legendary Naish AR5. 

Surf Spots in the Caribbean and Dominican

In the latter years, Hung explored the whole Dominican Republic and kited at places such as Costamba, Luperon, Juan Dolio, etc. He also discovered many other destinations in the Caribbean such as Varadero, Cuba; Mayan Riviera, Mexico; also Hatteras and SandBridge in the USA. 

Created a Wonderful Kitesurfing Spot in Vietnam

Via the internet, Hung rediscovered the windy town of Mui Ne, Phan Thiet in Vietnam (which he remembered being very windy based on his childhood memories) and sent out a legendary post to the Kitesurf Group on July 26, 2001.

A few years later, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet is now a kitesurfing paradise in Vietnam. 

Do you want to read more about the Pioneers of this sport? Then visit our Gallery Section

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