When you talk with Bruna Kajiya you know you’re speaking to a World Champion. It bursts out of her every cell. Being an athlete is a career that comes with its demands, but Bruna commits to going the extra mile. She makes sure she does everything she can to stay on top as a pro kiteboarder. That doesn’t just mean putting time in on the water.
Having just competed in Leucate, France, Bruna returns from another win defending her title in the World Kiteboarding League. Just as the guys at Airush like to show you every side of their company, they’d like to give you a deeper look into what it takes for her to stay number one.
Taking competition seriously
Although training is critical to keeping Bruna at the top, it’s not just that that gives her the competitive edge. Since the age of six Bruna has been competing. Back then she earned the name ‘Little Fish’ given to her by the older kids at her local pool. Bruna swears that even the small scale swimming competitions taught her a lot about life in general. They sculpted her into the person she is today.
Bruna learned to perform under pressure at a very early age and to harness her competitive nature. For her, competitions bring a feeling like no other in the form of a channeled rush of excitement. Starting out, the challenge was for her to find a means of controlling that excitement. She had to direct it to the right place making sure she didn’t get over hyped. Now Bruna is top of her game both physically and mentally. She loves to manipulate the strong forces playing against her.
When she first competed as a professional kiteboarding athlete she’d do everything she could to distract herself before each heat. For example, she would repeatedly go through the ritual of connecting her lines in a certain way just to stop herself from getting nervous. Today it’s just a case of making sure she sleeps well and her mind is well trained enough to take care of the rest.Healthy regime
Bruna has always believed in the idea that you’re a person before an athlete and that you should make sure that your life is long and beautiful. She follows her mantra of thinking of her life first. She’s careful not destroy her body for the relatively few years she’s an athlete.
It’s important to her that she sticks to living the natural way without using any extreme supplements, chemicals or radical training methods that might have negative consequences in the long run. Pro surfer Kelly Slater has stayed top of his game through living the natural way, and Bruna looks to him as inspiration in doing the same.
This doesn’t mean that Bruna can’t or won’t eat burgers from time to time, just that she wants to be as healthy as possible. She thinks of the longevity and ultimately listens to her body and what it wants. Bruna finds ways to always eat and train making sure it feels good. This could mean focusing on eating local and seasonal ingredients, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga, and avoiding alcohol.
The diet of an athlete
It’s almost a talent in itself for an athlete to be so in tune with their body and what it wants. Bruna eats what works well for her and that tends to mean avoiding sugar, fried food and sticking to clean proteins and natural whole foods.
She’ll eat organic meats which are free from antibiotics but is often happy to stick to a vegetarian diet. She sometimes uses a plant based (pea) protein if training. Bruna is currently detoxing from red meat for a month just by knowing it’s the right thing to do for her. She remembers distinctly feeling the same during the Leucate event and had been vegetarian throughout the competition. However the night before the final her body switched what it wanted and she unusually craved pasta carbonara. She listened to what her body wanted and went on to reach the top of the podium the next day.
Being from the island of Ilhabela, Brazil, Bruna feels a lot more in touch with nature than perhaps people on the mainland. She grew up barefoot, ate food from her garden, and picked fruit from her surroundings. You could say that her upbringing had already inspired a healthier way of living that was more connected to nature.
Training and mindset
The principles Bruna follows are the same throughout: she is as disciplined in her training as well as her eating. She sticks to her ‘listen to your body’ mantra. Yoga works well for her to build strength and maintain a supple body, yet training doesn’t have a set time or type. She has a flexible approach according to what’s felt and needed. Quality is definitely key and she has learnt to be adaptable around the unpredictable wind, and to work independently of trainers and timetables.
The same principles guide her mentally on the water when pushing her to learn new tricks. Bruna fondly remembers the day she landed the Backside 315 as the first female on record. She knew as soon as she woke up that it was the day to push herself. She listened to her mind and body and put everything else aside to dedicate to her goal of landing that trick.
Ten minutes before the sun set she hadn’t succeeded. When most would say quit before you get tired, she instead told herself to ‘go for it’ as it felt right. At five minutes to sunset she did just that by landing the complex trick and making history.
Bruna defines professionalism and mostly avoids alcohol and partying as she wants to feel healthy the next day. More than anything her challenge comes with letting go. As with everything else, her body tells her when it’s time to blow off steam too.
After her Leucate win she enjoyed the biggest burger and fries, and joined the celebration parties for two nights running. Over New Year she also gave herself a rare week off snowboarding with friends. As a strictly professional athlete giving up control is hardest to relinquish.Bruna’s inspiration
When considering Bruna’s inspiration there is nobody else that comes close than the tennis pro Serena Williams. As an athlete, she feels like Serena has broken so many boundaries. Not because she is a woman, but as a serious pro tennis player.
Bruna applauds the way Serena has stayed top and has closed the gender divide. Serena has not only campaigned for equal pay, but pushed to make sure she is taken seriously in her sport through her own accomplishments. Like Serena, Bruna also wants to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Regardless whether it’s her upbringing, place of birth, inspiration or otherwise, there’s no denying that Bruna was born with a competitive nature. She has the raw talent but also the lifestyle commitment that goes with being a top professional athlete and there’s no sign of her letting up!
Read the full interview available on the Airush blog here: http://airush.com/2017/bruna-kajiya-world-champion-kiteboarder-lifestyle/