The urge to see the world has been the fire in the belly of countless folk. The means of transportation may vary, but the destination—anywhere but here—remains the same. Some buy a one-way train ticket while others pack the car and drive until they can’t drive anymore. Claire Lutz didn’t want to leave in such a mundane manner. She decided to leave town on a kite.
Lutz is a professional kiteboarder, a hybrid of all sorts of different water sports, mostly a combination of wakeboarding and windsurfing. Lutz specializes in wake-style kiteboarding, which involves doing tricks on rails placed in the water. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, she dabbled in most water sports, but when she first saw kiting something went off inside of her. “I decided somehow that that was what I wanted to do, and I was going to go pro. I had never tried anything like it,” Lutz recalls. She immediately started saving up to move to North Carolina to take lessons and make her dream a reality.
Now that she has become a pro, Lutz has no regrets about that decision she made years ago. If anything, she loves kiting more now than ever before. Spending anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours in a session, Lutz feels free when she’s on the water. “You’re pushing yourself to limits you’ve never done before, never even dreamed of, really,” she explains. “Once you learn a new trick it’s a feeling of disbelief that you were able to do that.”
If you manage to get Lutz out of the water long enough, chances are that you’ll find her under the needle of her cousin Dirk Sorrells at The Parlor Tattooing in Saint Joseph, MI. Sorrells has done all of Lutz’s work and is currently working on completing her sleeve. Lutz’s tattoos started as a tribute to her mother. “My mom passed away when I was eight. One thing I always remember about her is that she had huge rose gardens. I know that roses are cliché but I’ve always liked them because of that,” she says. “Then I started adding things that aren’t as important,” she adds with a laugh.
So far kiteboarding prowess has been able to take her from Michigan to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Maui, among other places. While she loves traveling to new spots, she is fairly confident kiteboarding paradise is Hood River, Oregon. Due to pressure systems and the canyon surrounding the Columbia River, the wind conditions are always perfect for kiteboarding. “It’s a really cool town,” she says. “It’s all young kids. There’s a group of guys called The Slider Project and they built all these rails that are in the water all summer long.” But don’t think that because she has found a perfect spot that Lutz is content to settle down. Whether it’s finishing her sleeve or learning new ways to attack a rail, there is still a fire in Lutz’s gut; she’ll either be going into the wind or riding it any way it blows. —Charlie Connell