March 8th marks International Women’s Day and for 2021, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. North Kiteboarding got their incredible team of female athletes together to talk a bit more about what this means to them.
Give us a short background about you and your style of riding.
I began kiting in 2002 at my local beach in Noordwijk. I started off with freestyle and competed on the world tour for the first time on the age of 14. During my career I switched over to the discipline of wave riding and managed to become 3x world champion. I like riding powerful and aggressive but keep the smooth touch.
Brazilian, born and raised, I first fell in love with kiting from my classroom window, where I could see the colorful kites on the beach in front. After finishing high school, the winds took me to live in Maui, Hawaii, where I was introduced to freestyle kiteboarding. The discipline was a perfect match for me as I love the challenge, both technical and physical, that a freestyle trick demands. By pursuing this passion I’ve found myself thriving in competitions, leading to 3 World Titles and with that, a dream come true. Although the titles are an amazing feat, what I’m most proud of in my career is to be the first woman to land a double handle pass called BS315.
Annabel van Westerop:
Having grown up on Aruba, the beach naturally became a part of my life. At age 14 I started kiteboarding and at 18, I was lucky enough to go pro and start discovering the world. I competed for 6 years on the freestyle world tour where I achieved the title of Vice World Champion. For the past two years I’ve shifted more to a freeride style of riding where I base my gear decision on what the conditions are calling for. I enjoy freeriding, freestyling, waveriding and winging.
I’m French but living in Brazil, I’m 14 years old and I’ve been riding since I was 7. I like to enjoy every moment in the water, when I’m kiting it’s when I feel the most powerful and confident. I like to put energy in my riding, but always keep it fluid.
What is your favorite North product?
I love that North has the complete ranch of toys that i like to use on the water.
Im a big fan of the new 1250 SonarHA front wing which I use for prone surfing and winging these days.
It allows me to easily pump to the next wave and it gives an incredible smooth and controlled glide.
My favorite North product is the Navigator control bar; it’s one of a kind in the entire industry, so functional yet slick and clean. In my eyes, a true design success is to make something as functional as possible fit into a clean design.
My current favorite product is the Astra board. This twintip is suited to lighter-weight riders which means it gives the perfect amount of pop and flex for a lighter person like me.
Definitely the Carve kite! It goes fast on the loops and keeps you in the air for long.
What makes you choose to challenge?
Life gets boring without a challenge and we should never stop learning. Challenges give that extra spark in life. They’re a huge satisfaction after completing and most importably, they make you grow.
There’s something that makes my heart jump, that feels so far-fetched that the first time I think of it, I push it aside and say “nah, this is crazy”. From that moment there’s no shutting off. Slowly but surely it grows on me until I find myself giving my heart and soul to it, totally immersed in the challenge.
I choose to challenge for the passion of sport and the love of the ocean. Everyday I am out on the water living the life of my dreams, I choose to challenge the idea that women in sports are less. That we deserve less, can achieve less, and are worth less. Having been told this multiple times throughout my carreer, I choose to challenge it every time. Together with girls and women from all over the world, we unite through our passion for kiteboarding. We become one with what we do… until the point where the challenge is no longer a point of attention, as the natural expression of our love and passion proves enough.
I choose to challenge because I think it’s very important in our world and especially in the kite world, that women can do whatever they want to do: you want to ride big waves? Go for it! To have a priority on a wave it’s not a question of gender but of position in the wave; Want to do high and technical tricks? Don’t be ashamed and send it!
How are you liking the new foil / wing / Reach / freestyle gear?
I’ve been having so much fun in the water, I feel that’s my main goal these days. If I’m training or just learning a new skill, I want a gear that will give me the most enjoyment in the water.
The new wing setup is a dream. I am surprised to have found an unexpected passion in this new discipline and the Nova wing with Sonar Foil system gives me the ability to progress quickly and feel completely comfortable. When I’m ready for a kite session I always choose the Reach as its incredibly stable and versatile.
I haven’t tried the new gear for the moment, but I love the new collection and can’t wait to try it out!
Any advice for female riders in your discipline?
Have fun in what you do; that sounds so cliche but that’s all that counts.
Freestyle can feel demanding, and at first and a little unattainable, it’s a wild discipline that’s just testing how much you want it. If you endure it, you’ll find yourself having the best time out there.
Look at other female riders to progress your riding. We have a very different physical body compared to men, so when your trying a new trick, look at the other girls to find guidance in achieving your goals.
Enjoy your sessions, bend your knees and challenge yourself!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Let’s introduce more and more girls and women into kitesurfing, wing and foil.
Invite your non-kiting girlfriends and give them an introduction of your favorite watersport.
Sharing a passion with friends is the best 🙂
I absolutely love to share sessions with more girls, if you ever see me out in the water come say hi 🙂
In a male-dominated sport, it is amazing to see more and more girls join on the water. It’s quite special to be part of such a development in a sport and to see our female community growing every year. We’re pretty badass and we’re showing it out there!
I feel super happy and stocked to see the female kite community growing up, especially in strapless; I can see many girls getting into it and I hope it will continue this way!