Branson breezes into Squamish, launches X-Treme Team, phone service 

Never shy about making a scene, billionaire Richard Branson literally breezed into Squamish on Monday to promote the launch of his Virgin Mobile services in Western Canada, as well as a contest to sponsor a Virgin Mobile X-Treme Team.

Branson kitesurfed into Squamish, accompanied by a crew of three professional kitesurfers including Daphnee Laliberte of Quebec.

"Pushing things to the extreme is a way of life for everyone at the Virgin group of companies – we just do things differently than other companies," he said. "Our X-Treme Team rewards athletes who represent what Virgin Mobile is all about: living on the edge, taking risks and competing at the top of their game."

Branson rose to fame with the launch of Virgin Records, which then begat a chain of Virgin record stores, which then begat Virgin Airlines, and, most recently, the Virgin Mobile service – in partnership with Bell Mobility.

In recent years he has gained notoriety with several failed attempts at circumnavigating the globe by balloon, for launching a space tourism company alongside X-Prize winner SpaceShipOne, and for his reality TV series The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best.

A total of four female athletes will be named to the Virgin Mobile X-Treme Team who are competitive in one or more of the following sports: BMX, freeskiing, kiteboarding, mountain biking, motocross, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding and wakeboarding.

Each successful applicant will receive sponsorship money, a Virgin Mobile phone, a year’s free service and clothing. The total sponsorship is worth $100,000.

Virgin Mobile also used Branson’s publicity stunt to launch a competition offering $10,000 in free airtime to B.C. or Alberta residents by offering the first 100 customers to sign up $100 in free service each.

Athletes can apply online until Sept. 30 at www.virgin.com/mobile/xtreme , and the final team will be announced in November.

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