Following the Wind
A professional kiteboarder’s soundside turf in Nags Head is the ideal place for sharing the sport with his son.
As the sun dips lower on the horizon, fiery crimson, gold and lavender hues dance on the waters of the Roanoke Sound. A kite soars high above the colorful backdrop, while a board slices through the water in anticipation of one last jump. The kiteboarder lands with his body almost paralleling the water against the tug of the kite, then wades toward shore, his fingers tracing the water’s surface.
“Dad! Can you help me land my kite?”
Stepping out from his soundside home, Dimitri Maramenides waits patiently to pull his waterlogged 10-year-old son, Cameron, and all his kiteboarding equipment from the sound onto their dock.
This scenario replicates itself nearly all year long. Dimitri Maramenides is one of the most elite kiters in the world, and this stretch of sound on the back side of Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head is where he makes his home. Cameron is quickly catching up to his dad’s high-flying path, and this is where the two can be seen challenging each other with maneuvers like indy grabs and tabletops
For the Maramenides family, including Maramenides’ wife, Helen, and daughter Olivia, 14, life on the Outer Banks means following the wind. With the weather dictating their every move, the crew can be found kiting in the ocean or down on Hatteras Island, but their home in Nags Head is their happy place. It provides the perfect base for testing kites and pushing the limits, activities that are as common for them as riding bikes and playing board games are for the rest of us.
Born in Athens and raised in Cameroon, France and Greece, Maramenides grew up windsurfing with his dad at the age of 8. He first started kitesurfing in the United States in 2000. Of all the places in the world he could have settled, he picked the Outer Banks.
“Seventeen years ago I chose to move to the Outer Banks and start a family because of its beauty and simplicity,” he says.
But, of course, this narrow band of barrier islands is also perfectly situated for kiteboarding. With steady winds, each month can produce on average 20 or more kiteable days. The shallow water and ease of access the sound provides create conditions that keep folks coming back for more. Inspiration, too, was also a driving factor for Maramenides and his wife to settle on the Banks.
After much hard work and determination, he now has his own kiteboarding-equipment company, Epic Kites. Much of his time is spent designing and testing the kites and equipment, a process that Cameron is often a part of.
“My family is very involved and physically active,” Maramenides says. “My wife and daughter love kiting, but my son is the one who is crazy about the sport. At 19 months he began kiting on my back, then was between my legs and by 6 he was kiting on his own. Now he is 10 years old and responsible for the kids program with Epic.”
A passion for the sport and dedication to family are big factors that keep Maramenides driven.
“My dad was always busy working,” he says. “So I really want to take advantage of this opportunity to bond with my son in such an amazing place.”
And bond they do. Normal — and necessary — childhood activities don’t interfere: During the school year Cameron can be found kiting with his dad at 6 a.m. before school.
“Living on the sound is awesome,” Cameron says, “because I can launch my kite from home, and then when it’s time for school we can be there in less than five minutes.”
And it isn’t unusual to find Maramenides sitting in his truck in a soggy wetsuit in the school pickup line.
Finding time to kite during the school year can be hard because of busy schedules and dicey weather. Sound life in the spring has proven to be the family favorite.
“I really love it,” Cameron says. “The sound is amazing because of the freedom it allows. By April the water has started to warm up and the access to wind direction is incredible. I can’t imagine life without it.”
Come summer, kiteboarding is in full swing, and from sunup to sundown the duo never seems to be on land for very long.
“I’ve never seen a place as amazing as this area,” says Maramenides. “You always have the ocean for waves, but the sound is perfect for flat, shallow water. It’s a great place for kids and people learning to kite.”
For the inexperienced, kiting is a challenging and potentially dangerous sport, one that demands lessons, he says, “because kiting can seriously hurt you.” When photos and videos of 6-year-old Cameron kiteboarding first surfaced on the Internet, Maramenides faced some backlash from people who said he was putting his child in danger. After suffering numerous injuries himself, Maramenides says he always makes it his priority to see that his son is properly equipped and informed. On top of having a harness that floats, Cameron will always be seen in a helmet — and his dad is never far away because going alone is never a good idea.
After a long day of kiting the two edit videos and laugh about who fell the hardest. Days are like quicksilver, morphing from one adventure to the next. Their pictures showcase a landscape of spartina marshes and maritime forests now covered by windswept dunes. It’s obvious that the elements that have helped shape this area also have created a unique connection between this father and son.
With a booming business now on the international level, traveling abroad is a necessity for Maramenides to keep up with demand. But however far and wide he travels, he always makes it a point to remind his son that there is no place like home on the Outer Banks.
story by FRAN MARLER
photographs contributed by DIMITRI MARAMENIDES