The Women of the KPL

COMPILED BY SENSI GRAVES

The Kite Park League is the premier kiteboarding competition series for professional-level park style kiteboarding. Park style is a stylish and fierce discipline in kiteboarding where riders hit floating obstacles such as kickers, rails and sliders. The 2019 KPL features three stops starting with the Triple-S Invitational in North Carolina, moving on to the Hood Jam in Hood River and ending with the Kite Mansion Open in Tremembe, Brazil. Many more spots are popping up with competitions burgeoning in Poland, Turkey, Russia and more! 

Meet the leading ladies of the KPL. The women that are crushing it, smashing never-been-done (NBD) before tricks and pushing women’s park riding to the next level. 

Winkowska visits the home town of Slingshot, Hood River. OR. Bromwich photo

KAROLINA WINKOWSKA

Age: 28

Home Park: Warsaw Wake Park

Country: Poland

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER? 

Better execution. I am always working on my tricks to look better and better. Once I master one rotation, I will try to spend extra time to make it look perfect. It’s easy to get a reward from it, especially if you see it in photos. Simple trick, steezy grab is definitely my goal at the moment.

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATER TRAINING LIKE? 

Yoga, surfing, wakeboarding, gym and healthy food.

ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LEARNING NEW TRICKS?

Lots of practice, always keep changing your routines and tricks. Strong pop and keep your kite lower, as it will be easier to get the slack and pass the handle behind your back!

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN TO KITE? 

Get a trainer kite to give it a go.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? 

I am inspired mainly by other riders and other boardsports. Always checking out the latest videos from my favorite wakeboarding, snowboarding and kiteboarding athletes.

WHY DO YOU LIKE COMPETING ON THE KPL?

The KPL is such a great tour, with amazing athletes as well as amazing friends. The style of riding and general philosophy of this tour is definitely what keeps me competing. Rewarding good style, and proper execution has always been my main concern in kiteboarding. I also really like the format where 6-to-8 competitors battle it out, so there are more variables in each heat.

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

It’s been a long journey for me. I rode freestyle in footstraps for seven years, then changed my riding into a more stylish approach and started using boots. I continued riding in the Freestyle World Tour and won my first world title in 2012. After 10 years on the freestyle world tour and three world titles in my pocket, I decided it was time for me to push my riding even more and challenge myself in the kite park events. This was in 2016, when I decided on pursuing the Kite Park League events including the famous Wind Voyager Triple-S! Three years on the KPL went so fast, as this tour is the most exciting thing for me in kiteboarding.

 

Smooth flat water session in Sicily.
James Boulding photos

LAUREN HOLMAN

Age: 22

Home park: Boarder Pass Wake Park

Country: Canada

WHAT MAKES YOU SO ATTRACTEDTO PARK RIDING?

Ever since I started kiteboarding, my main focus has been on freestyle progression. Getting into park riding a bit more over the past year or so has allowed me to shift my focus to other aspects of our sport. It’s rewarding and motivating to progress in more than one discipline. The KPL crew is also a pretty unique group to be a part of. From sending it in the park, to putting on very well-organized events, to beach clean-ups; everyone’s head is in the right place and it feels good to be a part of it. 

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER?

It seems like the limit to what you can learn in the park doesn’t exist. There are so many variations, grabs, rotations and unique styles that you can add to tricks. It’s motivating knowing that I’ll never be, “there.” There will always be something new to learn or improve on. I’m also driven by the high level of riding amongst all the girls. The sheer progression side of things will always push me to try something different, incorporate a new grab and try to build my own unique style in my tricks.

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATERTRAINING LIKE?

Like many of the girls, I do a lot of yoga and stretching. Runs are part of my daily routine as well. I just went on my first cable trip to Phuket Wake Park in Thailand; that was pretty cool. I’ll definitely try to work in a few more trips like that in my year. Cable consistency is so helpful in learning new tricks that will hopefully carry over to the kite park.

ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LEARNING NEW TRICKS?

I find the thing that holds me back the most is second-guessing myself. I usually have my biggest crashes when I hesitate or think too much. Visualizing helps, but at a certain point, you just need to go for it. 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN TO KITE?

Kiteboarding can be for anyone of any age. The sport can be what you want it to be, whether you’re in it to learn some unhooked tricks, boost huge or cruise. When it comes down to it, kiteboarding is incredibly fun and it’s something that everyone should have the chance to experience.

TOP BOOK RECOMMENDATION?

Good question! I definitely spend a lot of time with my nose in a book on no-wind days. Right now, I’m reading The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. It’s about a woman who loses her best friend and finds herself adopting his great dane. The story follows the woman’s bond with the dog and how they are both dealing with this grief. I’m about halfway through. It’s a great read so far!

WHY DO YOU LIKE COMPETING ON THE KPL?

It sounds cheesy, but competing on the KPL feels like competing in a league that goes beyond just kiteboarding and competing. Sure, the main aspect is our sport, but the events themselves incorporate so much more. The beach clean-ups, the reusable goodies and so on show that the crew cares about taking care of our playground, which is really the most important part. It’s neat seeing kiteboarding events that don’t lose site of the big picture. I’m still pretty new to the KPL.

Katie Potter at the Hood River, Kite Park. Bromwich photo

KATIE POTTER

Age: 25 

Home Park: Melbourne Cable / Hood River

Country: Australia

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER?

Riding with people better than me and people that are exciting to try something new, talking to friends about what I’ll try next, seeing those friends try and land something new and competing with girls better than me to see how far I can push my riding. Supporting my friends’ success really motivates me and makes my time on the water extra fun.

ANY TIPS TO LEARNING NEW TRICKS?

I watch lots of cool videos and visualize the trick I’m going to try in my head multiple times. My body also doesn’t do what my brain wants it to do until I try it, so I often need to practice the movement and position of my body off the water to understand how it feels. I ask people who know the trick well what I need to focus on thinking about. I think about each body part individually, because what you do with your head, shoulders, arms, core, legs and board will all impact what the trick looks and feels like.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN TO KITE?

Be patient. One thing this sport has taught me more than anything is to be patient, keep trying, enjoy the journey and challenge yourself to learn your tricks in all conditions.

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATER TRAINING LIKE? 

I’ve never really done any training off the water. I ride enough as it is to stay strong and I hate the gym because it feels forced and boring. In the last year however I’ve become the biggest fan of Pilates classes with instructors that focus properly on technique. It releases tension in all the tight muscles and activates new muscles that haven’t been used properly. I always walk out of Pilates with my body feeling so much better. 

Pro-rider and Duotone marketing co-ordinator Colleen Carrol.
Bromwich photo

COLLEEN CARROLL

Age: 31

Home Park: Slider Project Park, Hood River, OR

Country: USA

What makes you so attracted to park riding?

Since everyone is focused on a fixed point in the water, taking turns and riding the same obstacles, I find that it’s more social than other disciplines in kiteboarding. Which is not only a benefit of park riding but also a necessity. With park riding, you often have to work together to move obstacles and set up the park which sometimes can seem like a hassle but I think it also makes you feel more invested. I also naturally gravitated towards the park since my home spot is Hood River, Oregon; home to the Slider Project Park and I was enticed by seeing other people riding it everyday.

What motivates you on the water?

I tend to feel the most motivated when I’m riding with friends who I know are also pushing themselves and working on new tricks. Even if they are attempting totally different tricks to what I’m learning, knowing that they are pushing their own limits inspires me to push past my own.

Any recommendations for learning new tricks?

Spend time on the water with kiters who are better than you. If that’s not an option, think about what you’d like to learn and look up instructional videos to understand the basics of what you need to do. Spend time off the water visualizing the new trick and also make sure that you are solid on all of the fundamentals required to take your moves to the next level. If you aren’t sure, take a step back and break down the trick into parts. Start small to go big!

What would you say to anyone wanting to learn to kite?

As Nike put it: just do it! Don’t wait any longer, do a bit of research and find your local school or look for one with a great reputation and consistent conditions and book a week. You’ll be rocking it in no time.

What inspires you?

Riding with other kiters who are throwing down, landing new tricks, seeing my lady friends stomp NBDs and witnessing beginner kiteboarders gain their stoke for the sport.

Why do you like competing on the KPL?

I think the KPL is made up of some of the most passionate kiteboarders on the planet which makes it something prettyincredible to be a part of. 

Brazil park session. Magarao photos

JULIA CASTRO

Age: 24

Home Park: None

Country: Spain/Denmark

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER?

I have a really strong drive for excelling in all I do and making the best out of it. 

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATER TRAINING LIKE?

Three times a week, I normally do a gym session that makes me workout my whole body. I try not do to ‘only legs’ or ‘only upper body’ but to do all. I am also trying to focus a bit more on being more flexible and elastic through yoga.

ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LEARNING NEW TRICKS?

Go little by little and ask the ones that know. I realize now that If I asked for help I would have learned much faster and easier. 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN TO KITE?

What are you waiting for? Well, apart from that I would recommend to anyone that wants to learn to find a good school and once they’ve got their teacher, listen to him like it he is your god. I have the feeling that sometimes people don’t have a lot of confidence in their teacher and that slows down the learning process.

WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO?

I’ve always looked up to all the big Spanish athletes: Rafa Nadal, Gisela Pulido, the Moreno Twins. It really motivates me to see Spanish people having success around the world. 

WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE WOMEN’S KITEBOARDING TAKE YOU?

I am not looking to have women’s kiteboarding take me somewhere but for me to help the situation in which we are. There’s still quite a gap in gender equality and I want to fight to make the situation better for all the ladies killing it out there.

HOW DID YOU GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

Well, it’s been a lot of effort. I come from a kind of poor family; we are five siblings and money has always been a bit of an issue for my fam so, imagine starting to kite. I’ve put countless hours in the water and I’ve been lucky to count on some awesome sponsors that believed in me and helped me be where I am today.

WHAT TRICK DID YOU LAND AT THE 2018 HOOD JAM THAT GOT YOU THAT NEVER-BEEN-DONE BEFORE NINE-POINT SCORE?

I did a Heelside 90 in to Board, 270 out. I’ve practiced this trick a lot during my winters in the wakepark in the Philippines and when I saw the obstacle (Cabrinha Box) set up I knew I had to try it. During the warmups, I did not dare to do it and then, in my second hit, I went for it. And it worked! The feeling was awesome! It was the first time I heard everyone cheering for me. I can’t get that moment out of my head.

Big ups to Sensi for helping put this article together.
Bromwich photos

SENSI GRAVES

Age: 30

Home Park: Slider Project Park in Hood River, OR

Country: USA

WHAT MAKES YOU SO ATTRACTED TO PARK RIDING?

Park riding has always been the discipline in kiteboarding that I’m most attracted to. I love the feeling of sliding over the bits of plastic. I love styling out a press or trying to get technical on the features. It’s a great culture to be a part of and I find it to be super fun and engaging. 

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER?

Riding with other men and women that are better than me is the best on-the-water motivation. I particularly like riding with women because I can identify more with where they’re at. It’s much easier for me to think, “if she can do it, I can do it!” However, riding with anyone that’s just a bit better than me is inspiring and encourages me to try new things. 

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATER TRAINING LIKE?

I incorporate a daily circuit and weight training regimen to keep my muscles strong. I mix in cardio when I’m feeling it. I also practice yoga a few times a week and pay particular focus to my upper back and shoulders which get really hunched and tight from kiteboarding. I also do a lot of massage, foam rolling, acupuncture, heat therapy and general muscle maintenance. 

TOP BOOK RECOMMENDATION?

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero.

WHY DO YOU LIKE COMPETING ON THE KPL?

I’ve been competing in park riding for almost seven years now and still my favorite part of competing remains getting to hang out with the other riders in various locales around the world. The KPL is truly a family and I enjoy catching up and hanging out with everyone. I know our group can seem intimidating from the outside, but the individuals on our tour are some of my favorite humans. 

WHAT GOT YOU WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

Consistency, resilience and a willingness to try. 

A classic summer day in The Gorge. Bromwich photo

ANNELOUS LAMMERTS

Age: 25

Home Park: TerHills Cable Park in Belgium.

Country: Netherlands

WHAT MAKES YOU SO ATTRACTED TO PARK RIDING?

There are so many different tricks to do and you can get really creative with the set-up. After doing mainly freestyle for a few years I was looking for a new challenge and park riding opened a whole new world. Park riding is inspired by other board sports more than any other discipline. What I really enjoy as well is combining park riding and freestyle. In Brazil I would do an air trick and without hooking back in I would hit two more rails in a line. There are really just so many different lines to do and it really pushes you to go switch and spin both ways since it doesn’t look good to switch stance or change your leash in a line.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU ON THE WATER?

Progression. Since I started kiteboarding I had this drive to learn new things every session and I still have that. Progressing is so much fun and there are always so many little things that you can improve to make your riding look better. Progression is not only about learning new tricks, but also learning new grabs, grabbing longer, pressing more on the rails, going biggeroff the kicker, being more locked in on rails and so on.

WHAT IS YOUR OFF-THE-WATER TRAINING LIKE?

When I’m not kiteboarding I try to stay super active and mostly I still try to do other sports on the water. At home I like to wakeboard when it’s not windy, surf when there are waves and when there is light wind I still go foiling most of the days. I also like cycling, running and doing workouts on the beach and when it’s too cold outside I go to the gym. I also stretch everyday after doing sports.

TOP BOOK RECOMMENDATION?

I would recommend everyone to read We Are Our Brains by Dutch physician and neurobiologist D.F. Swaab. It is an easy to read book and it explains so much about why people are how they are. I think if everyone would read this book people would judge each other less, accept each other more and understand each other better. People would be more open minded and there would be so much less racism.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

What inspires me the most are other athletes: whether it is in kiteboarding or other sports. I love to watch videos of not only kiteboarding but of pretty much all boardsports. Watching women kill it in their sport is definitely inspiring since it can be more relatable.

WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO?

There are a lot of different people that inspire me and that I look up to. I look up to a lot of athletes and there are so many women killing it at the moment. Like skateboarder Lacy Baker, wakeboarder Anna Nikstad and snowboarder Anna Gasser are just a few examples! They are all amazing at what they do and make it look so good. I love to look at their riding and it influences my riding as well!

WHY DO YOU LIKE COMPETING ON THE KPL?

I have always liked to compete and I have been competing in freestyle, big air and slalom racing for quite some years before I started to compete on the KPL. Competing is an extra motivation to progress and to make sure you can do your tricks in any condition and under pressure. Before and during the competition you are riding with the best kiteboarders in the world so whether you perform good or not, it definitely motivates you to improve even faster. I really like to compete on the KPL because the tour is really pushing kiteboarding in the direction that I want to see the sport going. I agree with the judging criteria, the stops are hosted in really good locations and last but not least the vibes on tour are really good!

WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE WOMEN’S KITEBOARDING TAKE YOU?

Kiteboarding has taken me all over the world and that was something I could only dream of when I started kiteboarding. There are still so many tricks I want to learn, not because other women haven’t done them yet, but because I know women can do them. I still want to film a big video part and keep competing with the best kiteboarders. I guess all these points are not really specific to women’s kiteboarding, but I think if we all keep pushing the sport we can inspire more and more women to start kiteboarding too.

The Wind Voyager Triple-S event in Cape Hatteras is one of the biggest prize money events in kiteboarding! Bromwich photo

ISSY VON ZASTROW

Age: 25

Home Park: Hood River

Country: Half American, half Kenyan.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU ON THE WATER? 

Park riding never ceases to inspire me due to the ever-changing elements in the park. My imagination can run in all different directions with the diverse combinations of rails and kickers. No session is the same especially while riding with all the talented KPL riders showing their own style. 

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU OFF THE WATER? 

When I am not under a kite, I try my best to be on a board in any other sport. Whether it is snowboarding, wakeboarding or surfing, a boardis a board and it helps my comfort level to try new tricks. When shredding isn’t an option, I like to bike for stamina but I will do anything that keeps me active! 

WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE WOMEN’S KITEBOARDING TAKE YOU?

Kiteboarding is going to lead me to new adventures where I can push my limits. I hope it takes me closer to joy and personally that means outside my comfort zone. I want to push women’s kiteboarding where it hasn’t gone before. 

ANY TIPS TO LEARN NEW TRICKS? 

While learning new tricks, my first advice is to visualize over and over and over again. Even more important than that, I suggest having fun. Associate your new trick with joy by bringing positivity around landing it and how good you will feel when you stick it!

Originally published Summer 2019.