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Cancer survivor, 74, gets a lift from kiteboarding


Special to the Miami Herald

Cancer survivor Louis Gomez will be turning 75 next month, but instead of letting age and a dozen surgeries slow him down, the Pinecrest resident’s life is becoming adventurous.

The Cuban-born Gomez often goes kiteboarding on the waters of Matheson Hammock Park, 9610 Old Cutler Rd., in Coral Gables.

“It gives you a natural adrenaline,” said Gomez, who fell in love with the sport when he first noticed it while vacationing in Switzerland. “It doesn’t let you be depressed. If I don’t exercise for a while, I get depressed. The exercise keeps you active.”

Kiteboarding combines the skills of several sports, including windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and gymnastics. The former JP Morgan Chase software engineer took it up when he was 69 and said it was the best decision.

“I have muscles now I never had before,” he said on a warm afternoon before hitting the water in his surf-style Billabong sportswear. “Every year, I put on muscle. I had much more arthritis five years ago then I do now.”

Gomez, who is married to Chie Hoban, is a regular at Adventure Sports Miami, where employees call him “Godfather” because of the former smoker’s gravely voice.

“It is inspiring to see someone who is 74, who is in shape,” said store manager Paula Ambrosio. “It gives you a chance to look around and see what changes you can make in your life. You can make the best of life or sit at home and eat unhealthy. But he chooses to come out and spend time to see us.”

Gomez, who also follows a healthy diet that includes fruits, nuts, omega oils and flax seed, said kiteboarding is tough to learn but once mastered is a breeze.

“Kiteboarding is intimidating to everybody but it’s a powerful kite,” Gomez said. “You are scared in the beginning, but as you learn the strength of the kite with your technique, you lose the fear and gain confidence.”

He came to the United States in 1962 at age 23. He was physically active in his younger years, too, playing European squash, tennis and racquetball.

Once a heavy smoker, Gomez was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1985. He had heart surgery the following year and had a knee replacement in 2007. In all, he had 12 surgeries, but there is no letup in his physical activities.

Gomez said after every surgery he had one question for his doctors: “How soon can I get back to my sports?”

“Anything you put your mind to, you can do,” he said. “It is all in your mind.”

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