Daniela Moroz kicked some serious butt on the foilboarding racing scene last year. The 15-year-old from the Bay area won the last four races in China to lock down the world title. Kitesurfing Magazine caught up with Moroz for some racing tips and a little background on how she rocketed to the top of the racing world.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Do you still remember your first kite lessons at Sherman Island, California when you were 11? What was that experience like?
Daniela Moroz: Oh yeah, I remember the lessons. It was an awesome experience. I remember loving everything about it and I’m really thankful my parents helped me get into it.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Fast forward a couple of years to your first race. What was that like? Were you ready for it, or going in completely blind?
Daniela Moroz: My first race was pretty crazy. It was a Thursday night at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Everyone was still on tube kites and race boards. It was blowing 20 plus knots and there was a huge chop from the five knot ebb tide. I felt pretty ready. I was comfortable on a race board by that time and just tried to stay away from everyone. I finished all three races.
Kitesurfing Magazine: How intimidating was the race scene in San Francisco?
Daniela Moroz: The race scene, even now, is pretty intimidating. Having Johnny Heineken, Erika Heineken, Chip Wasson, Joey Pasquali, Stefaans Vilijoen, Bryan Lake–just to name a few–all on the same starting line was pretty intimidating. At that time, they were the top guys/girls in the world. I felt more honored than intimidated really to be racing against them. I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere close to them, but it was pretty cool to think they were on the same line as me. Fast forward to now, and it’s still a very competitive (and intimidating) scene. But the best part is that everyone is friends with everyone and we all help each other improve.
Kitesurfing Magazine: I am always amazed at how open and sharing the sailing community is at helping each other progress. World champion Erika Heineken has been a role model and training partner for you. Tell us about that relationship, and how you work together.
Daniela Moroz: Until my first race night, I had never met Erika. I only knew of her as the best female in the world and that she was better than a lot of the top guys in a male-dominated sport. This on its own was incredible and I wanted to be just like her (and I still do). Well, I finally met her for the first time on my first race night and we’ve been really good friends ever since. She’s taught me a lot both on and off the course. We trained together a lot which was great, it was really nice having another girl on the course. I’m hoping she’ll get back into it this season. We need more girls on the world tour and on the water in general.
Kitesurfing Magazine: How important is a good start in foiling compared to other sailing classes? What’s your strategy for starts?
Daniela Moroz: The start is probably the most important part of the race. Especially with such big fleets, it’s hard to come back from a bad start. Most sailing classes have around 20 boats on the start (I think) that are moving eight mph. Well, we have nearly 50 kiters moving close to 25 mph at the start with sails that are 13 meters away and giant sharp things at the bottom of our boards. You can imagine the chaos that can happen. My personal strategy depends on the situation. In big fleets I don’t push it too much, especially if there are beginners on the line. In smaller fleets, especially like the women’s fleet we had at the World Championships, I went pretty aggressive and tried to be the first across the line and furthest upwind.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Do you have any special secrets to the windward leg? Is board speed more important than playing the wind shifts?
Daniela Moroz: I think everyone has their personal preference on what makes them go the fastest. For me, I like to be pretty powered because that way I can get the highest angle going upwind and deepest downwind. I also kite in San Francisco, where it’s very gusty, so I’m generally comfortable even when I’m overpowered. For wind shifts, it really depends on the spot. Like I said, SF is really gusty, so adjusting to the shifts is pretty key. But in other spots it won’t make as big of a difference.
Kitesurfing Magazine: When you are reeling someone in on the downwind legs, what do you concentrate on?
Daniela Moroz: Not wiping out! I just try not to think about other people when I’m racing. I’m aware of their position on the course relative to mine, but I focus on my own race and which way around the course I will go.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Tell us about your gear setup?
Daniela Moroz: Currently, I have Ozone R1 V2’s for my kites and a Mikes Lab foil and board. Nothing makes me go faster! Except maybe the V3’s will…
Kitesurfing Magazine: Was it hard learning to use a foil board and foil kite? Any tips for first time racers?
Daniela Moroz: Learning to foil was not too bad. It involves a lot of crashes and there is a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’re hooked. The foil kites are also tricky at first, but you just have to spend time with them and get to know how they fly in order to really master them. All it takes is the time and dedication to do so.
Kitesurfing Magazine: You have done some work with Mike Gebhardt, what sort of coaching advice has he worked with you on?
Daniela Moroz: Gebi is no doubt one of the best coaches in the world. I’ve done a couple clinics with him in the past and always learn a lot. He really takes kiting to another level with kite control, technique, strategy, nutrition. He does it all and is good at it. Our clinics were specifically meant for improving on the race course. We did a lot of kite control, worked on transitions, tuned gear, and talked strategy.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What are your plans for the next four years? You must be hopeful kiting is added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? How do you plan to balance training, travel and school?
Daniela Moroz: If kiting gets into the Olympics, it would be a dream. I would definitely go for 2020. Balancing kiting with school and swimming has been a little tricky. Thankfully my teachers have been very flexible when I miss school for an event and I always have a couple extra late nights when I get back from an event to do the work. But the extra work is definitely worth it. This season, I’m hoping to do some events in Europe and also try to go to most of the stops of the Hydrofoil Pro Tour. I’m looking forward to the World Championships at the end of this year also. I guess I’m just trying to take it one event at a time, train as much as I can over the summer, and see where that takes me. I think the most important thing is to have fun.