- by Amber Edwards - Bring together a group of daredevils, throw in a little heart and the desire to make a friend’s dream come true and you have yourself the very first “Kite to Point”. This challenge inspired by Jeffrey Eiley, who’s story is known all too well on our little island, was set to sail on April second with the “Princess Leslie” leading the kitesurfers and at least three other boats to accompany them.
Due to a last minute change in plans, the sailing date was moved to April first and only one additional boat was able to make the trip. Is it a coincidence the only boat that joined the adventure was the “Carpe Diem” (latin for “seize the day”)? Anyone who knew Jeff would say “probably not”. If Jeff could send us messages or signs “seize the day” would most likely be one of them.
Martin John Leslie (Jeff’s cousin) remembers very well the day Jeff learned to kitesurf as he was walking down the beach when he took off for the first time. Mark Worthington (Jeff’s best friend) and Bradley Mazin introduced him to the sport and he was so hooked that he couldn’t stop talking about buying his own kite and eventually his idea to “kite to point” came about and he wouldn’t let it go. The idea of kitesurfing from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye to Placencia, Stann Creek was one of his greatest goals to achieve. Jeffrey’s life was taken a few months after and he was not able to realize his dream of kitesurfing to Placencia, but that didn’t mean his loved ones couldn’t do it in his name. His adventurous soul and loving nature would be the wind in their sails, pushing their limits yet keeping them safe.
And so, on April first at 6:30a.m. a journey of over 100 miles and countless memories began. Martin John Leslie, Mark Worthington, Chris Beaumont, Andrew Milner, Melvin Montesino, Federico Kessler and Mitchell Sersland along with boat captains Mikey Madrid and Ryan Edwards, started the long journey kitesurfing towards Placencia to honor their friend and everything he believed in. Markus Bischof and David Verals even joined the first leg of the trip windsurfing to see the boys off. Susana Eiley, watched from the Carpe Diem as his closest friends paid tribute to her son. It was an emotional trek where everything seemed to stir up a memory of Jeff.
Mitch, the youngest kitesurfer on the team ready to go!
Adventurer at heart, Dr. Tina joined the crew as the medical team of one
The "Grandpapi of kitesurfing" in Belize, Chris Beumont
We all enjoyed the beautiful beaches, and little islands along the way and experienced nature the way Jeff would have wanted; no cellphone signals, out of the routine.
Challenges? Sure! It was April fools day after all and Jeff was known to be a bit of a prankster. At one point when the waves were at their highest and their was no one dry left onboard, our captain, yelled “this is Jeffrey’s biggest April fools joke yet!”
Allowing time to enjoy the journey and changes in wind made it impossible to kite surf the last leg of the trip. Martin John explained that the point of the trip was to reach Placencia safe before dark, to kite surf, to enjoy seeing new places for the first time, to see Ms. Susana enjoying the sea and to remember Jeff.
Arriving in Placencia we were greeted by even more of Jeffrey’s family and friends and the mission to enjoy a couple of days in his name continued with campfires, wake boarding, visiting waterfalls and making even more memories in Jeff’s name.
All in all a very successful first “Kite to Point”. Martin and Mark both promised it won’t be the last and hope more friends will join next year to continue to raise awareness of our fragile reef which Jeff cared so much about.
Jeff's best friend Mark wants to organize more events to pay tribute to Jeffrey and teach the youth to appreciate the sea, the reef and nature the way Jeff did. He wants everyone to know "Jeffrey's White Picket Fence (as he lovingly called the reef) is fragile and beautiful, it belongs to all of us and we need to protect it".
An old photo shared by Mark
I was lucky enough to know Jeffrey’s smile and amusing sense of humor and was honored to be invited to such an important event. I was reminded of a few life lessons on this trip: “seize the day”, “protect what is precious”, “do it together”, and “enjoy the journey… really enjoy it!”.
I thought of Jeff the entire way home and wondered if his family would ever get the justice they deserve and about half way home it hit me. Maybe justice can’t be found in the suffering of his murderer for taking his life way too soon; maybe justice is in the bonds that were strengthened on this journey, in the memories revived and even in that rainbow that graced us with a welcome home on our return.
"I love you Jeff! Thank you for the inspiration" - Mark Worthington
I humbly offer this final thought… let “justice for Jeffrey” be taking care of our eco system, protecting the reef, teaching our youth Jeff’s favorite sports, picking up plastic bags we find in the ocean, participating in beach cleanups, saying no to offshore drilling and joining Mark and MJ and the rest of Jeff's family in future events and projects. Let’s choose to find justice in protecting what Jeffrey loved in his name and in doing so honoring his memory.
This is his sign for me to move forward" - Norman Eiley, Jeff's Father
"Just chillin at high speed"
The crew at Maya King Waterfalls
"Doing things we've never done in honor of our brother"