Hawaii’s Moona Whyte currently leads the Overall Kite-Surf rankings on this year’s GKA Kite World Tour having taken the win at 2019’s first event at a PUMPING Ponta Preta in Cape Verde. It was a great start for her having missed out on last season’s title fight against Jalou Langeree due to a back injury. The guys at the GKA caught up with her how she’s feeling about the season ahead.
How were you feeling on the run up to this year’s first event in Cape Verde?
I was watching the forecast for a while before I booked my tickets from Hawaii, and saw that it had a good size swell with a good wind direction for Ponta Preta. It was supposed to be side-shore rather than the more common offshore wind, which was really exciting to see. The year before I had experienced both wind directions, and although the waves are always nice and clean, it makes a huge difference to how you can ride the wave when it’s slightly more side-shore. You’re able to keep your kite in front of the wave and in a good position to pull you down the line rather than out the back of the wave so I was pretty happy to be traveling there with a promising forecast. It was also the first event after my back injury but I had started kiting again a month before and was feeling strong and motivated to compete again.
The men hit the water first at that event. What was it like watching them out there, seeing the conditions and thinking about your first heats?
It was definitely hard to watch the guys go first because the longer you wait before your first heat, the more the nerves build up! The waves were pretty big though, so I at least knew it would be easier to ride the next couple of days. It would’ve been epic to have a heat in those conditions though! One positive was being able to watch how the guys dealt with the challenging conditions and study their technique and their strategies. That always helps me a lot learning from the guys and it makes me feel more confident about my game plan.
What was the atmosphere like with the crowd so close to the beach?
It’s one of the best venues for a competition because of how close the wave is to shore. The rocks along Ponta Preta are perfect to sit and watch from, and the locals go crazy when someone gets a good wave. It makes the whole event really exciting and it’s so cool to hear a crowd cheering when you’re out on the water!
There’s quite a big difference in wave experience between yourself as a World Champion and some of the new girls on tour. What was it like watching some of the newer tour riders stepping up to the conditions?
Some of the girls who joined this event were competing for the first time. That alone can be a nerve racking experience, and not to mention the waves (which were firing) and the conditions at Ponta Preta are not the easiest! Some of the girls had never even been in waves like that before, so it was awesome to see them charging it and handling themselves so well. It stokes me out to see more girls stepping up and I definitely have a lot of respect for them going for it. I’m glad we had some heats in bigger waves and that all the girls got to experience the spot empty like that! Hopefully it will get them amped to keep competing.
You’ve done a lot of GKA events in the past where you’ve had to ride backside, but in Cape Verde you were on your front hand. Does that make a difference?
We’ve had a few frontside events, but somewhere like Ponta is where it really gives you an advantage. Firstly, when the wind is really offshore it’s difficult to drop in on a wave while staying upwind and, secondly, edging out far enough in front of the wave to do a bottom turn is really hard. Being frontside makes it much easier to push on your edge with your heels, giving you room to do a more top to bottom turn.
You were in the fight for the title last season, but an injury threw you off. What happened there and how did you recover?
Unfortunately I hurt myself at home after the third event last year. I was pumping on the hydrofoil and threw my back out. It was really a bummer being in the lead for the tour and then having to give it up for an injury. It was a hard decision to stay home instead of doing the next event, but I had to let my body heal and not make the injury worse by pushing myself. I ended up being out of the water for three months with a disk issue, doing everything from physical therapy, foam rolling, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment to gentle exercises to slowly build my strength back up. I’m still recovering from it, but with a little bit of care I’m able to kite and surf again like normal.
What are your thoughts on the strapless freestyle element to the tour and will you be committing to all the events this year?
Strapless freestyle is the perfect alternative when the waves don’t cooperate like in Portugal. It’s cool to see more pure freestyle events happening for the girls, but it still hasn’t been my number one priority in kiting. Especially for this year after getting injured right after Portugal, I didn’t have time to train so I don’t feel my level is strong in freestyle at this point. I think my strongest events are the right hand waves like Ponta Preta and Dakhla. I’m not planning on doing the full tour this year, but I’ll hopefully do some more of the wave events.
How did you feel seeing Jalou take the title at the end last season and are you still hungry for it?
I always want to win the title! It was difficult to watch Jalou finish off the season without me, I was really wanting to win it last year, but it was a good learning experience and hopefully we can battle it out again next time! It’s always exciting when the points are so close at each event and it makes me motivated to push myself even harder.
This article first appeared on the GKA Website here.