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Kareem’s Quest: Sefton Stewart lifting himself higher

Published:Friday | December 18, 2020 | 12:05 AMKareem LaTouche/Gleaner Writer
Sefton Stewart on his e foil.
Sefton Stewart on his e foil.
map efoil.
map efoil.
The Lift Foil team (from left) Kenroy Whitfield, Sefton Stewart, Dani Diarbakerly and Tashimar Coates.
The Lift Foil team (from left) Kenroy Whitfield, Sefton Stewart, Dani Diarbakerly and Tashimar Coates.
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Jamaicans are always looking for new ways to innovate and this is the case for Sefton Stewart, who deems himself the ‘common man’. Originally from St James, Stewart lived in Pembroke Pines, Florida, for three years, before deciding to return to Jamaica.

“I was in the construction field up there and I learnt a lot on the job, using laminate floors, dry walls and installing blinds. But I felt if I returned home, I could live a more fulfilled life, as well as contribute to my country in a meaningful way,” shared the Cornwall College alumnus.

In October last year, he started his business, Lift Foil, which has him travelling the island and showing persons how to enjoy these devices for 45 minutes or full-day sessions. The devices are called e-foils and they are like surfboards with motors attached to the bottom of them. Persons must stand on the boards to manoeuvre them while gliding on the water.

On the day of the interview, Stewart and his team of four employees, which consisted of persons who supported his dream from day one, were present to demonstrate how to use the device. “I used to go to the beach with the e-foils and some of these guys would always come around and support and encourage me. So I decided to employ them when I started my company, Lift Foils. For days, I would teach them how to use it, so they could instruct others.”

To use the e-foils, we found a lovely spot in Westmoreland, where the seawater is waist high up to 100 metres out. As his team placed the e-foils on the sand, everyone on the beach was focused on them. Stewart then asked me if I was ready to try it, to which I responded, “As soon as I get my life jacket, I am good to go.”

A philanthropic and philosophical person at heart, he reassured me we would get through this experience together. “Don’t worry bro, this won’t happen overnight, we all had to creep before we walked. So for now, we are just going to get the fundamentals right.”

As we took our time walking into the ocean, I asked, “How long is the learning curve for this?”

To which he responded confidently, “Some persons get it as quick as 20 minutes. As long as you are not timid or afraid of water, it’s easy.”

GETTING THE HANG OF IT

The first phase requires lying on your stomach with your forearm resting on the base, similar to the upward-facing-dog yoga pose. At this point, the waterproof remote stays in your hand, with your middle finger on the trigger, which accelerates the device.

After going in a straight motion, the next challenge is to gently tilt your body to the left or right to turn the device. To expedite the learning process, I recommend doing this at a slow speed, first. As I got accustomed to controlling the direction of the e-foil, Stewart, who is always three feet away, yelled, “You’re getting the hang of it, come, let’s try the next thing.”

We stopped so he could demonstrate what this entailed. “You’re going to come closer to the front of the board*, raise one foot at a time and go into a kneeling position.”

As I got the hang of this new position, I increased the speed and went head first into the water. Fortunately, the life jacket is extremely buoyant and the water was still shallow enough for me to feel the ground. After several other attempts, with modest improvement, we decided to stop and chat. By this point we were about one mile away from the shore and the tide was calm.

THE INSPIRATION

Sitting on our boards, I asked him, “What gave you the courage to do a business like this in these economic times?”

To which he replied, “We are innovative people, we can’t just wait around and die, we have to try something. From I born, we were told to band our bellies, but we are not a political slogan, so we have to do something for ourselves.”

As he continued to talk, he delved into many of our socio-economic situations and their implications on tourism. “The most marketable thing about Jamaica is the culture that the people bring. When you look at a postcard, you see a lady with a basket on her head. That’s Jamaica, without persons like her, there is no authentic Jamaican experience, so we must take care of the grassroots people.”

After spending close to an hour talking, Stewart jokingly stated, “This is one of the beautiful things about being on a e-foil, there are no cell phones out here, so it gives way to great conversations.”

Shortly after, we headed back to shore and I kinda got the hang of it, as I was able to stand and steer myself halfway through the journey, thanks to a great coach.

For comments and feedback email kareemsquest@gmail.com, or visit www.kareemsquest.com

Who is it for: Persons who love the ocean and like to do adventurous things.

Tip: They have a mobile service, so they can come to anywhere you have access to water.

What stands out: The sense of accomplishment when getting the hang of using the e-foil.

What to carry: Sunscreen, as you are going to be exposed to the sun longer than you think.

Degree of difficulty of activity: 3.5 out of 5

Must try Activity: Moving at a speed where the board lifts out of the water.

Contact: 876-798-1770, Liftfoiljamaica@gmail.com,

Social media: Instagram: liftfoiljamaica,

Location: Mobile, however lessons Mystic Lagoon, Falmouth.