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Every sport has its heroes, the one name that transcends every era, every discipline, every detail. For windsurfing, that name is Robby Naish. Not only is Robby the best-known name in windsurfing—he was also a pioneer of kiteboarding and continues to be a leading innovator of the sport, having set a world speed record in 2003.
Surf is in the Naish genes. Rick, the family’s patriarch, was featured in the very first issue of Surfer magazine. At 13, Robby was windsurfing’s youngest World Champion and his true potential had just barely begun to shine through.
Robby dominated amateur windsurfing, winning the World Championships again in 1977, 1978, and 1979, all before turning pro. Now with 23 world windsurfing crowns, the 45-year-old is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy’s Global Legends of Sport alongside Michael Jordan, Edwin Moses, and Tony Hawk.
In the 1990s, he translated his dedication and charisma to the latest wind-powered sport—kiteboarding. “It extended our time on the water when conditions weren’t perfect,” he says of the new sport’s instant appeal. Robby won kiteboarding’s world slalom title in 1998 and the world titles in both slalom and jumping the following year.
Pushing his equipment just as hard as he pushes himself, Robby went into business to build better gear, first for windsurfing back in ’79 under the name Robby Sails and again for kiteboarding in the ’90s by starting up Naish Hawaii. The new equipment innovations propelled him to set the kiteboard speed record in Arinaga, Gran Canaria, in 2003. “The kite speed record is slowly creeping up and will soon be right up there with the outright sailing record,” he predicts.
Today, the Maui local has stepped back from speed and competition to spend more time waveriding, stand up paddle surfing, and developing gear for Naish Hawaii. While Robby’s life may be changing, neither it, nor he, is slowing down.