What I love the most about Kitesurfing is that it’s more than just a sport. When you feel that wind on your face, your body stirs, and the elements are ready: the wind and water. Something calls you and you have to go; your body feels the pull to be between two worlds at once. It’s the ultimate passion – I’m not sure if I was born with it or bitten by it, but I seek it. It’s like a thirst, and the only way to quench it is to get out there. Out there, in the fight between the wind and water, it’s wild – it’s is a place where I challenge gravity and defy it.
My name is Patrick Murtagh, I’m 36, and I have been a Full Stack .Net Software Developer with Computershare since 2008.
I always loved tinkering with computers as a kid, either taking them apart or going into random files and folders just to see what was there (and hopefully not breaking too much). It’s pretty much my approach to solving problems now as I code and develop: take it apart, see what it does or doesn’t do, and make it do what it should do. This fed into a natural path to follow my brother into college and study software development and then slide into a full-time software role, where I’ve been since college. It excites me to work under the hood of an application and make it look pretty and easy to use.
I live on the beach in Blackrock, County Louth, with the mountains five minutes away. Now that we all work remotely, having access to the sea 30 seconds from my door during the working day is priceless. The draw to move west is very strong, and depending on working arrangements after Covid, that move might be a possibility.
Outside of work, I love Kitesurfing & Photography. My first experience with Kitesurfing was when I was in college – I came to the beachfront at home and I saw a kite flying through the sky, with a guy at the bottom leaving a huge wake of water behind. That’s when the itch started and I found a sport that has come to define me and my life.
I went online and bought a kite from China, not having a clue. 6 weeks later when it arrived, I spent hours getting dragged across the sand, struggling to harness the wind and her power, bruised and cut but so happy – note that this is NOT the way to learn; lessons are your best friend, as this is an extreme sport.
Once I decided it was time for lessons and I actually got into the water, the feeling of flight was everything – ripping across the water, kite in the sky, and board under my feet. It was a kind of magic, a kind of happiness and joy that I had never expected from a sport. The seed was planted and I never looked back.
Over the years, I’ve had many various kites and brands, but I’ve now settled on Cabhrina Switchblades for my kites. Xenon LaLuz is my board, and I trust Mystic Boarding for my wetsuits, harness, and safety equipment while on the water.
I have 3 Switchblades kites, which allow me to get out in almost all the types of wind that Ireland has: 7 metres for chasing storms, 10 metres for nice windy days, and then the big 14-metre kite when the wind is light. The Switchblade will take you very high into the sky, but set you back down nice and gently on the water. It is a machine!
The Xenon LaLuz is a beast on the water – it cuts through choppy waves like a tank, and then it rips across flat water like Sebastian Vettel races.
Mystic Boarding is a decided kitesurf accessory brand; they live and breathe it, and their equipment is built to take on the extreme.
All these are supplied from Pure Magic Watersports in Dublin, to whom I’m delighted to say I ride with their Team and I take most of the photographs during their kitesurf events.
I’ve had so many great moments with my kitesurfing. One of the best is when you land that first backroll or you jump up and over 5 metres into the sky, watching the world below. There are so many feelings when on the water – each trick and each session always brings something special.
Two big highlights are the first time I managed to jump into the air and “loop” the kite and land safely. I can’t describe what the feeling is like – when you loop the kite, there is this explosion of power and speed; it sends a wave through you of fear and excitement. When you land, you just can’t help but laugh and want some more.
My second big highlight was kiteboarding in the snow deep in Norway, standing atop a mountain, over a cliff, with a kite in hand and snowboard under your feet … it’s a surreal feeling; it’s a fine line between “I shouldn’t be doing this” to “this is magic“!
Looking at my other activity, I’ve always been interested in photography. My father, a teacher, was a wedding and portrait photographer, so I’ve always been exposed to it. I started shooting school basketball games and then gigs when my mates played in local music halls. Once I started travelling and adventuring solo, I’d always make sure to bring a camera with me; it became an essential part of any adventure.
A true hero of mine and a massive inspiration for both extreme sport and Kitesurfing photography is Ydwer Van Der Heide. Ydwer is a Dutch photographer who chases with the best of the best around the world in the most extreme conditions to hone his craft and get the perfect photo. His work features all the top riders and brands in the world – he has had more covers on KiteWorld Magazine than anyone else.
In terms of magazines, Kiteworld Magazine and iKiteSurf Magazine would be where I’d go to for the latest news and to discover what the best photographers are doing. I’m happy to say I have had images published for iKiteSurf, but not Kiteworld (at least not yet).
The type of cameras I use are Canon 5DM3 Full Frame. My Lenses are:
- 24-105mm Canon L
- 70-200mm Canon L
- 150-600mm Sigma Sport (the big one) – Used for surf, kite, SUP, and Moon shots!
I enjoy shooting out of the ordinary and something a little different. I generally don’t plan a photo; I wait and see what’s happening wherever I may be. Extreme sports are my favourite, but they aren’t easy – they take effort, time, risk, and calculation to find the stand-out photo.
But kitesurf photography has led me to some amazing moments. I’ve gotten to shoot the very best kiters in the world in the last few years, and I now have a friendship with them. I took photos of the Red Bull storm chasers on a secret mission in Cork a few years back as well. I’ve also been able to set a gallery on Achill Island in the Pure Magic Lodge.
I also enjoy landscape photography, especially something involving waterfalls, rivers, or the sea. I especially like clear sky sunsets, which most people would never photograph.
With photography, specifically kitesurf photography, it’s all about that 10,000th of a second. I never shoot in “burst” mode, and I do not point-and-click and hope. I’m very calculated in my work (I guess that comes from being a software developer). I know this sport like the back of my hand – it’s my passion, and it’s my drive to understand it inside out. I carry this into my photography in the water. I work with a kiter to understand how they kite, how they move, and how they fly. Only then do I take the camera out and we start to shoot.
My goal on the water is to capture that second that will never happen again, to get that moment between wind and water. It’s a split second, one that the eye might not see during the chaos out on the water, but I get it. When you see it printed later, you always remember.
I have taken a few photos which are very special. One stands out in particular: a photo I took during a storm on Achill Island. A lone kiter, Mark, stands braced looking out to the massive rolling waves. His stance is clearly pushing against the wind, the board in his hand, and you can see the concentration and calculation going on inside his mind. He is preparing to take on nature (Mark’s photo is the one above this paragraph).
Another favourite features my kitesurf hero, Kevin Langreen, as he jumped over the crowd at the Pure Magic Battle for the Lake, Achill Island. This photo captures the magic of our kite community in Ireland, a small-time festival with the biggest names in the world. It’s a pure showcase that lets everyone get up close and personal as the guys kitesurf, which is truly unique. In this photo, Kevin is jumping off the lake, OVER land and OVER the crowd as he holds his GoPro high, to get that selfie that is now famous across the world (Kevin’s photo is the one below this paragraph).
I have a few future goals with both Kitesurfing and Photography. With Kitesurfing, I am working extremely hard to jump clear of the 10-metre mark into the sky – I’m sitting at 6 metres at the minute, so I’m training hard (both on and off the water) to hit that goal. I’m also hoping to snow-kite across Greenland one day as part of an expedition. Truthfully, kitesurfing is an ever-evolving sport – there is no true end goal, as it’s constant progression and exploration.
With photography, I’m happy to say I’ve already achieved some of my goals, including being able to photograph the best kiters in the world: Ruben Lenten, Hannah Whiteley, Kevin Langreen, Jessie Richman, and Nick Jacobsen.
I also produced and sold over 60 kitesurf calendars this year. I have a kitesurf gallery on Achill Island, and images published worldwide and in the air (thanks to Aer Lingus and their in-flight Cara Magazine). But my ultimate dream is to travel to Cape Town and photograph the biggest kitesurf event in the world: the Red Bull King of the Air – where the best of the best go to battle in 50-knot winds, jumping ~22 metres across that iconic background of giant ships and Table Top Mountain.
It’s actually surprising how you can find the crossover between technology, kitesurfing, and photography. Being a very logical and systematic thinker, this flows into the code I write and into the way I kite. Just like how I would break down a problem or a feature to develop into logical, bite-size chunks, I do the same when I try to learn a new trick and understand the individual steps needed to achieve the trick (such as the board position and the kite position). I will always do a little and practice it a lot on the water, just as I will code a little and test a lot.
This also feeds directly into my photography, not just in knowing when and what I want to shoot, but how I process my images afterwards. All of the bulk/common processing is done in a batch; I then select the stand-out images that tell the story and work on them individually.
I don’t think there are any direct ways kitesurfing and photography have benefited my professional career, but one thing it has helped is that it breaks the mould of what people expect of a software developer (the isolated vision being a person who does nothing but coding). When people hear about my true passion, they instantly have a different vision of me and what I can offer them: thinking outside the box, breaking the norm, and pushing the limits.
My advice to anyone interested in kitesurfing is to simply get lessons. It is an expensive sport to get into, but it is an extreme sport. Lessons are key – they give you the introduction to the power, give you the magic, and help you safely get into this amazing sport.
For photography, my advice is to get a camera that has FULL manual mode and shoot everything. Take your time, be patient, and don’t’ worry about “photography rules”. Shoot what you like and what makes you happy, be it landscapes, pets, people, clouds, or sports.
There is always more than tech. There is a vision that those who “work with computers” are awkward people who stay indoors, can’t socialise, and never do anything interesting. But let’s be honest, we make the world go around. We land rockets vertically, we power the most basic and advanced machines in the world, and we are behind everything single thing that people use daily and don’t realise it.
The fact is that more and more “tech” people have such a strong passion for outdoor life and for doing things beyond the norm. It’s this drive, ability, and way of thinking that changes who we are when we are in the office. We strive to make life better, easier, and more efficient, so that we can do what we love in nature.