Martin Ohlson, Senior Front End Developer on Kitesurfing

What I love the most about kitesurfing is the thrill and rush from jumping, doing tricks and riding waves, in combination with the beauty of being outside in nature and just harnessing the power of the wind. That feeling when you get to a stunning beach with howling wind and pumping waves is just unbeatable.

My name is Martin Ohlson and I’m a digital nomad, working remotely as a senior front end developer, following the sun, summer, and my passion for water sports. I do JavaScript development in the form of websites and apps for clients around the world.

I’ve always been interested in tech since I was young, so working in IT was an easy choice. When I was growing up, my uncle (who’s a civil engineer) used to show me lots of fun tech projects, from building things around the house to programming and IT, which really sparked my passion for using my creativity to build things. After my bachelor, I started out in various offices – but after freelancing remotely for a client in Australia, I was really hooked on the digital nomad life, being able to do my favourite sports all year around while working with web development.

As a digital nomad, I’m constantly travelling and following the summer season, which has brought me to a lot of places. Right now, I’m in the south of Spain for the first time, which is amazing for kitesurfing since it’s windy all the time!

I’m really passionate about water sports and being out in nature in general. Kitesurfing is my favourite sport, as well as surfing, hiking, climbing, and beach volleyball. Working inside in front of a laptop really makes me want to get outside and explore nature in my free time.

I first became interested in kitesurfing in 2010, when my mom suggested that we try it out together. I’d never seen or really heard about it before, but from the first time I saw it, I was already convinced that this was going to be my favourite thing. We took a trip to Greece to do a five-day kite course. The first day when I came down to the beach and saw everyone playing around in the water, I got so thrilled. I’d already been building up the hype with YouTube videos and tutorials, so I was super excited. After learning how to fly a kite and get on the board to ride during the course, I was completely hooked – I came back to Sweden and just wanted more, more, more!

The standard equipment needed for kitesurfing is a kite (most people have 2 or 3), a board, a harness, and a wetsuit. You usually start out on a board similar to a wakeboard, which is also what you see most of on the beaches today. But since a few years back, I’m only riding what is called “strapless”, which is using a small surfboard without any foot straps. And since I try to follow the sun all year around, I’m fortunate to be able to leave the wetsuit at home most of the time!

To get started with kitesurfing, you don’t really need anything other than basic swimming skills, being used to water, and having a great respect for the power of the ocean and the wind. The courses today prepare you to do the sport in a safe way, and most people can go through one pretty easily. But to really excel, you need to be quite fit, mentally prepared for a challenge, and ready to take quite a beating physically. Falling and crashing becomes a big part of kiteboarding at that level – if you really want to push yourself, you’re going to be doing quite a bit of both. A background with similar sports, such as wakeboarding, surfing or snowboarding really helps as well.

I’ll never forget all the animals I’ve come across when I’ve been out kitesurfing. From riding waves with dolphins jumping out of the water, seeing sea turtles up close, going past sunfish with their fins flapping about in the air (they look really funny), to having whales breaching close by, and the odd great white shark encounter in Western Australia.

I’m currently in Tarifa, Spain, which is one of the top spots in the world. Cape Town is my favourite spot for waves, Brazil for lagoons, and the Caribbean for the scenery (the beaches there are amazing!).

After spending 7 years in various offices in Sweden and Australia, I felt like it was time for a break. So I went to Portugal to do a kiteboarding instructor course to be able to work and travel for a year. I’m so happy that I made that choice, as it later led me to work in some of the most amazing places. I was living on Union Island (which is a remote island in the Caribbean) and later sailing around on 50-metre superyachts in the Mediterranean, teaching kiteboarding in places like Sardinia, Corsica, and Formentera.

My future goal is to keep travelling in search of wind and waves. There are lots of icon waves that I’d like to ride, such as One Eye in Mauritius and lots of place around Hawaii. And I’d really like to get back to some of the best waves I’ve had in Western Australia, Fuerteventura, Cape Town, and Cabarete.

In a way, you could say working with IT and being out kitesurfing are the two opposites, which really makes it such a good match. With IT, you’re inside, sitting still and really thinking a lot to solve coding challenges, which are like solving a puzzle. But kitesurfing is just a total freedom of the mind where you have to be so present in the moment that you forget everything else. If a 10-foot wave is coming towards you, you’re not going to have time to think about that stressful day at work. Being out in nature is so refreshing as well, with the wind and the salt water always present, the beautiful scenery of the ocean and the beach around you, and the total silence (except for the sound of the wind and the odd “yieeehoo” from one of your mates flying through the sky!).

I think the biggest benefit of doing a sport you’re really passionate about is the way it motivates you to keep going. By always having the excitement of going out kitesurfing close by, it relieves your stress and worries by completely captivating you in the present moment. I think the combination of the adrenaline rush and peace of mind after a session makes it so much easier to focus on work the next day.

My advice to anyone looking to take up kitesurfing is to just do it – you’ll love it! Make sure you do a 2-3 day course with a reputable kite school to get to know the basics and, most importantly, the safety aspects of the sport (otherwise, it can be really dangerous). After that, I’d be surprised if you’re not as addicted as the rest of us. You don’t need to be fit and you don’t need to be athletic – as long as you’re motivated and willing to learn, you’ll have the time of your life!

I think when society can be so focused on constant work and making a career, it’s as important as ever to live a nuanced life with different passions. Being passionate about work is one thing, but having that work-life balance that everyone’s talking about is super important. When you find a sport you really love, it helps you create a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. So I find that sharing your passion for sports with other people is one of the best things in the world.

To see some photos of all Martin’s kitesurfing adventures, be sure to check out his Instagram page:

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