Before Christophe Pierre Ribot, anyone wanting to learn how to kiteboard in South Florida had to figure it out for themselves. The French-born Ribot pioneered how to teach the risky sport, establishing Miami Kiteboarding at Crandon Park Beach more than 20 years ago.
Ribot died on Nov. 6, at the age of 52, leaving the kite-boarding community in shock. On Tuesday, a memorial gathering is scheduled at Paradise Cove starting at 1 p.m. It will conclude with Ribot’s friends and loved ones paddling out on Biscayne Bay to scatter his ashes. His three teenage sons, who live in France, will be at the memorial.
The cause of death was not listed on his extensive online obituary.
“He was very committed to making the sport grow,” said Raul Ramirez, an instructor at Miami Kiteboarding. “He always had more energy than anybody else around him. He was very outgoing. He used to speak to strangers in any situation.”
Rick Iossi said he and Ribot started kitesurfing around the turn of the century. “Crandon Park is highly regarded with kiters not only in Florida or Miami – it’s a huge magnet internationally. All Europeans want to do is kite Crandon Park,” he said.
Mike Hirooka started off as a student of Ribot (pronounced rib-BOH) and went on to establish his own school on Miami Beach. “He was one of the few kite instructors in Miami or really the world who was authorized to do it. He taught me how to kiteboard when nobody else was really doing it,” he said.
When Hirooka opened up his own school, he thought his mentor would be angry because of the competition, but instead Ribot was encouraging, “He said, ‘You’re doing great. You’re doing your thing.’ He always said I was going to be a great instructor,” Hirooka said. “I like to think I made him proud.”
Roland Samimy, Key Biscayne’s chief resilience officer and a kiteboarder himself, said that Ribot was “a spectacular guy” who helped the Village establish a kite launch site next to the Silver Sands Beach Resort. Samimy said he would often see Ribot there, taming the wind and the waves.
“He did a lot for advancing kiteboarding here in South Florida and making it safe,” Samimy said. “It really bums me out. I will really miss him.”
Ribot trained over 300 instructors and taught some 3,000 students, according to his online obituary. He introduced “Kite for girls,” an event designed to promote the sport among women.
Last year, Ribot joined Russian and American kitesurfers as they crossed the Gulfstream and the Florida straits in six hours. They started on Bimini Island in the Bahamas and came ashore on Key Biscayne.
As a character, Ribot seemed drawn from a Jimmy Buffett song or a Carl Hiaasen novel. On his Facebook page, a friend posted a video showing Ribot playing blues harmonica – his other passion.
A globetrotter in his youth, Ribot fell in love with Miami while jogging in the late 1990s across the Rickenbacker Causeway, the obituary stated.
“He was like the French Jimmy Buffett,” Hirooka said. “Everybody you’re going to talk to is going to have a story about Chris and the crazy times that they’ve had with him.”