Dentist by Day, Expeditionist by Night

In the first instalment of our 3-part series, we introduced you to Geza Scholtz, one of our alumni who is also a dentist. But he is so much more.

11 July 2019

In January 2013, two Institut Montana alumni and brothers made history. Geza and Andre Scholtz became the first humans to navigate the 560 km Magellan Strait from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean on kiteboards. Not only did they set a world record, but they also pushed the sport to a new level – expedition kiteboarding.  
But how exactly does one come about with such an idea? Let’s start from the beginning. 
In the ’70s the father of Geza and Andre could always be found doing some sort of crazy trip. For instance, he once went on a boating trip in Africa where his cameraman was shot and killed during the trip. At the time, Africa was still a heavily unchartered and unexplored continent and wasn’t very commonplace to go to. Once Geza and his brother were born, they were taken on long-haul trips starting at the age of five to places such as India, Morocco and other remote places without a tour guide or group, so it became a part of their DNA to explore unknown territories.  
Geza was always intrigued by kitesurfing. Sitting on beaches, he would always observe these guys attempt what was an extreme sport at the time since it was a very underdeveloped sport with basic equipment. That all changed almost 20 years ago when he got on his first kitesurf in Tarifa, southern Spain, where he immediately fell in love with the sport.  
He never thought he was going to do anything extreme like his father but one day, while sitting on his sofa during his gap year in university, he had this wild idea to kitesurf from America to Russia. It was this idea that ended up changing his life, forever. While the voyage itself seemed simple enough - 100 km on the Bering Strait - no one had ever attempted to make the crossing before. Thus, he set out with his brother to try it for the first time in 2010. With just a rubber boat in tow and plenty of trial and errors, they were unable to make it. You have to imagine that they didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare for it. They needed more money, especially to increase their safety, they were in a super remote area of the world and the Bering Strait itself is a very unforgiving section of the world that changes its climate without a moment’s notice.  
That’s when they decided to try it again in 2011. This time, they were ready. They found a boat sponsor in Portugal and had two safety boats imported to Alaska. From their original group of 11, it quickly turned into about 50 people because of sponsors, shippers, kite manufacturers, volunteers and more. It was almost its own international business where Geza and Andre had to collaborate with various stakeholders and distribution channels in different time zones. Three months before their take-off date, they realised they were missing 1/3 of their needed funding which doesn’t seem like much in hindsight but when you realise the budget was 220,000 USD, that meant 60,000 USD was still unaccounted for. Still, they were always able to find a solution, which also included getting a permit for the military zone in Russia where they would land which itself was a whole ordeal. 
Despite all of this, they were once again unsuccessful. To put it in perspective, let’s take climbers who wish to get to the top of Mt. Everest. They may be well-equipped and prepared, but if Mt. Everest isn’t in the mood and they only have a two-week timeframe, it won’t happen. It was the same here. You have a given timeframe and if the currents, winds, weather, waves and thousands of other factors aren’t matching up, then Mother Nature wins.  
But there were other victories since then. In 2013, Geza and his brother decided to go to Chile and cross the Magellan Strait from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean on their kiteboards. Nobody had dared this route before because similar to the Bering Strait, the Magellan Strait is known for its extreme winds, cold temperatures and poor visibility, alongside unpredictable weather conditions. The strait got its name from Portuguese sailor, Ferdinand Magellan, who in 1520 navigated through the strait in the first global circumnavigation voyage ever. And in January 2013, Geza and Andre were able to make a similar claim by being the first people to navigate the 560 km Magellan strait on kiteboards. This feeling of accomplishment was, of course, a wonderful feeling. Geza will never forget the moment when he saw the mental finish line after 12 days of being out in nature on a kiteboard. It was also an extra bonus having his brother alongside him.  
They then also kite surfed from Sri Lanka to India, a 50 km stretch which was more forgiving than previous expeditions due to its warmer climate. Unlike with Russia however, getting a permit to India didn’t come easy, so much so that they never received it and were soon banned from the country once they arrived. Nevertheless, they still made it.  
Lastly, in 2016, Geza was just sitting on a bus when he saw a magazine and flipped through the pages and saw an article about the Arctic. He thought it would be an amazing idea to shoot a video about kitesurfing in the Artic with its incredible landscape and to produce photos that no one ever has. 200 km north of the Arctic Circle is water at -0.7 degrees that never freezes because of the high levels of salt. After one month in Greenland, they were only able to surf for three days but were blessed with one day of strong winds and sunshine that gave them the necessary footage for their documentary which was the winner of the Corporate Film and TV Awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. To say it was worth it would be an understatement.  
As for the Bering Strait? Well, Andre and Geza will attempt it again this August and we hear that third time’s a charm.  

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