Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the couple bringing extreme sports to Western NY

Christian Edie & Kevin Cullen are two professional stand-up paddleboard athletes that love to travel. They are both accomplished rock and ice climbers with the mission of getting people outside and connecting to the natural environment through paddling, hiking, kiteboarding, and more.

Kevin and Christian on a SUP adventure on Lake Erie. Image by Kyle Sullivan

In the winter you can find Kevin and Christian on the North Shore of Maui teaching kite-boarding, surfing, and SUP (stand up paddleboarding)  and now the couple who believe Lake Erie is better than Maui for the sport, plan on bringing what they do to the shores of Western New York.

Kevin performs a kiteboard jump on Lake Erie. Photo: Christian Edie

Buffalo native Kevin explains: “We spent this past winter teaching kite-boarding in Maui which was ranked the 2nd best kiteboarding destination in the world, but it also has tricky conditions to teach in.   There is a very narrow beach to launch, land, and teach and no shallow water to stand and teach flying in addition to sometimes very big crowds and traffic in the water.  After teaching in those conditions through the winter on Maui and now spending this summer teaching kiteboarding on Lake Erie we’ve realized what a truly world-class wind sports destination we have literally out our front door.  We have a huge bay with a giant sandbar that can take the wind from Southwest to Northeast. We get kite-able wind 3-5 days a week that can range from fun mellow flat-water riding to overhead ocean quality waves.”

Christian Edie: “Just being around water can rewire our brains to feel more content.” Image by Kevin Cullen

For Kevin one of the challenges he now faces is getting the word out there that Western New York has some of the best adventure sports opportunities:  “The biggest challenge to getting new people to try these amazing activities that we have an abundance of is getting the word out there that these types of opportunities exist! Growing up here we had no idea that you could surf on a lake, ice climb or run Class III – Class V whitewater in Western New York.  While we have a tremendous amount of physical access to adventure sports opportunities we have not had the cultural access to these activities but that is exactly what is starting to change in our region and what we are working towards changing. Getting the word out that Western New York is truly a world-class adventure sports destination.”

“After a few minutes of instruction people are standing up and paddling with ease.” Image by Christian Edie

The rewards of the job come for Christian when she sees people do things they thought they couldn’t. “It is very common with stand-up paddleboarding. People sometimes don’t think they can do it and after a few minutes of instruction they are standing up and paddling with ease.”

A guided SUP tour on Lake Erie. Image by Kevin Cullen

And as for the benefits of taking a SUP or adventure holiday, Christian is in no doubt about what an adventure break can do for the mind and the body: “With all of the time we spend working and in front of screens there may be a societal disconnect from the natural environment and our own bodies.  Spending time outdoors doing anything brings us into the moment. Just being around trees or water can rewire our brains to feel more content and comfortable.

When you’re out kiteboarding, running rapids while standing up on a board or scaling a vertical piece of rock or ice nothing else really exists in that moment – you are completely focused on the task at hand.  I think that is incredibly therapeutic.”