Why Tech Investors Enjoy Kitesurfing More Than Golf

If you are an entrepreneur seeking investors, you may have been given dated advice in business school to learn to golf, but CNet has another idea. Want a VC deal? Go fly a kiteboard:

Valley VCs and entrepreneurs have long mixed their sports and networking, just like other business executives. A large swath of Silicon Valley executives lean toward weekend bike-a-thons or days at the links, but a subset of the culture is drawn more toward risky sports like extreme skiing and windsurfing.

California kitesurfers courtesy of Jennifer via Flickr.

Investors of older generations enjoy golf more than other sports, and gravitate toward the traditional golf course adjacent to the VC complex on Sand Hill Road, but many young investors prefer more physically demanding sports. They want to maintain their minds and bodies in optimal condition, and to invest in similar people. Many people mistakenly believe that brain activities like computer programming and chess are different from physical sports like football, but former chess legend Bobby Fischer was physically fit, and top chess player Josh Waitzkin is so fit that he gave up chess, quickly mastered Taiwanese martial art Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands and won the world championship twice.

Football coaches seek quarterbacks who score at least 26 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Photo courtesy of Sreichenbach via Flickr.

Conversely, the easiest way to alienate a football player is to condescend to him as if he were stupid. In reality, intelligent players gain an advantage at offensive line and quarterback. You can take the intelligence test used by football scouts and find out if you are smarter than a football player. The average offensive tackle scores 26 and the average computer programmer scores 29 of 50, according to Wikipedia.

CNet says kitesurfing attracts energetic people unafraid of complex new ideas and people, and risking some skin in the game:

Like skiing, the equipment-intensive sport isn’t for the faint of heart or pocket. Enthusiasts need a lot of gear, including a board, which is similar to a wakeboard, with footholds that can be slipped or strapped on to the feet. They also need a kite, tether lines, and a bar that holds the lines. Finally, for protection: a harness, helmet, and wetsuit. New, all that gear can cost $2,000 or more.

But what attracts many techies to kiteboarding is art and science. Sport geeks, for example, like to research the wind direction and speeds on sites like iKitesurf.com before heading out, and then reassess those elements at the beach. Like a golfer asking a buddy what club to use, kiteboarders will analyze the waves and winds to pick the right kind of kite (with one or two or three different sails) for any given day, factoring in crowds, boats, and other objects….

Unlike surfing, kiteboarding is a much more collaborative sport, a quality that draws techies. Kiteboarders literally need the help of another person to launch and land their kite…. Also, people in the sport often use hand signals in the water to communicate with one another. Tapping your head with your palm is the signal for needing help to land your kite, for example.

Great white sharks await kitesurfers who fall too often. Photo courtesy of Hermanus Backpackers via Flickr.

Most people who try to learn kitesurfing fail, but the resilient few enjoy an adrenaline rush. Falling backwards into cold water is a shocking experience that nobody is eager to repeat. Starting a business is risky and filled with setbacks, too. “Oh, no! Another pivot!” is the cry fledgling kitesurfers scream during the split second before they hit the water. If you decide to try kitesurfing, don’t learn on the Pacific coast, as great white sharks can be excited by repeated falls into the water.

Modern investors enjoy kitesurfing the waves as much as surfing the net. Photo courtesy of Michiel Jelijs via Flickr.

This man probably sold his company that he started 6 months ago for $100m. Investment bubbles are great fun, but is anything as much fun as flying through the air propelled by the wind? Photo courtesy of Loic Le Meur via Flickr.

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