Barack Obama retirement update: Kiteboarding with Richard Branson

In the third week of his post-presidential life, Barack Obama picked up a new skill: kitesurfing.

The 44th president of the United States and his wife are staying in the British Virgin Islands at the invitation of billionaire Richard Branson, who challenged Obama to a competition: kitesurfing vs. foilboarding.

“One of the first stories Barack told me when he and Michelle arrived on Moskito Island,” wrote Branson, “was how, just before he became president, he had been surfing on a dangerous break in Hawaii. When he came in from an exhilarating session, the new head of his security team turned to him and said: ‘This will be the last time you surf for eight years.’ For the next eight years he didn’t have the chance to surf, enjoy water sports or do many of the things he loved.

“So it was tremendous to offer him the chance to learn to kitesurf. The sport has really taken off in the past decade, and we have the perfect conditions and team to help anyone learn. I have also wanted to learn foilboard surfing. So we decided to set up a friendly challenge: Could Barack learn to kitesurf before I learned to foilboard? We agreed to have a final-day battle to see who could stay up the longest.”

Kitesurfing is a watersport in which a kite and wind is used to power a board across the water. Foilboarding is a type of surfing in which a hydrofoil extends below the water and causes the rider to elevate a few feet in the air.

According to Branson, Obama won the competition, kitesurfing for a stretch of over 100 meters, versus Branson’s 50-meter run on the hydrofoil.

The Obamas started their post-White House life with a visit to Palm Springs, flying to California directly after President Trump’s inauguration. They arrived in the British Virgin Islands last week, where Obama started a minor Internet frenzy by being caught in a photo wearing his hat backward. His only public foray back into the political world so far was a statement praising the protesters who had taken to the streets last month following President Trump’s immigration ban, calling them “guardians of democracy.”

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