Challenge accepted! Barack Obama and his friend Richard Branson faced off in a water sports contest while the former president vacationed in the British Virgin Islands with his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama.
Barack, 55, and the Virgin Group founder, 66, enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon of kitesurfing and foilboarding before he and Michelle, 53, returned to Washington, D.C., on Saturday, February 4, following a two-week getaway, which also included a stop in Palm Springs, California.
“It was a huge honor to be able to invite President Barack and Michelle Obama down to the British Virgin Islands for a complete break after Barack finished his second term as President and the family left the White House,” Branson wrote in a blog post on Virgin.com Tuesday, February 7.
“One of the first stories Barack told me when he and Michelle arrived on Moskito Island was how, just before he became President, he had been surfing on a dangerous break in Hawaii,” the billionaire businessman continued. “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.”
Free from Secret Service restrictions, Barack learned how to kitesurf in the Virgin Islands while Branson studied foilboarding. “We decided to set up a friendly challenge: Could Barack learn to kitesurf before I learned to foilboard?” Branson wrote. “We agreed to have a final day battle to see who could stay up the longest.” (Kitesurfing is riding a surfboard while holding a kite, and foilboarding is riding a surfboard with a hydrofoil that lifts the board above the surface of the water.)
After a few days of training, and many falls, the friends faced off. “We were neck and neck until the last run on the last day, when I got up on the foilboard and screamed along for over 50 metres, three feet above the water,” Branson wrote. “I was feeling very pleased with myself, only to look over and see Barack go 100 metres on his kiteboard! I had to doff my cap to him and celebrate his victory.”
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