Womxn in Kiting
COVID-19 changed the way we go outdoors, solo sports are becoming more and more common. Body surfers are becoming shortboarders and surfers are becoming Kiters. Kiteboarding is an emerging sport where the kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water, land, or snow. Kiting is an exciting new way to experience the water, yet we see that less than 10 percent of the Kiters are womxn. Hear from some Santa Barbara womxn about their experience in the Central Coast kiting male-dominated community.
Why did you start Kiting?
Sarah: I spent a LOT of days parked down at the beach this summer in my van watching people rig up and head out for what looked like some really fun sessions. As awesome as the sport itself looked, I think something that really drew me to it was the strong sense of community that was so evident just from the conversations I had with people involved. Eventually I was lucky enough to be offered lessons and thought what the heck, why not? I love board sports and used to really enjoy sailing and I figured in a way it’s the best of both worlds.
Samantha: It was an activity I loved to watch but never expected to learn. However, when my boyfriend and I took a kite trip to La Ventana we were hooked. The first moment we were kiting side by side at Emmawood State Beach I knew it was going to be a lifelong passion.
Rana: It actually never crossed my mind once that I could be a kiter, the way I got into it was really random. I was at a club in SF and started dancing with a group of friends that were really fun so I got their contact info at the end of the night. I messaged the girl the next day and she invited me to another concert on tuesday, and at the pregame for that she invited me on a kite trip to Mexico. I swear this girl was showing me videos of kiteboarding in the uber to the concert. I thought she seemed a little crazy haha. But I am not one to say no to random invites to Mexico with a bunch of people I don’t know to learn a sport I had barely heard, so the rest is history!! We actually didn’t get much wind that trip but I was introduced to the kite community (which is so dope) and on the last day I did get in the water attached to a kite and felt that addictive pull and power.. And realized how much fun it could be to control it. So when I got back to the bay I was quick to arrange some lessons.
Why do you think there are so few womxn in the Kiting community?
Sarah: In general, I feel that the world of extreme sports has always been more of a “man’s world”. Kiting is definitely one of the more intimidating sports out there and I think it’s easy to deem yourself incapable especially when there aren’t a lot of female allies to support and encourage you (or even look up to, for that matter).
Samantha: Viral videos of kites surfing incidences (follow @ducktapewillfixit if you don't) don't inspire confidence to learn. That being said, the sport was only created in the 90s by a few daredevil, water gods. Only today are kite brands taking kite quality and safety in mind. Whether it's finding trustworthy gear or a confidence- inspiring teacher, there's a great barrier to entry.
Rana: Kiting is such a niche sport and there is such a high barrier to entry, it’s really hard to get into without help from current kiters. So just the nature of the sport starting off as all men, it tends to propagate to other men. Most girls I know who got into the sport started because they had a boyfriend who kites and decided to teach them. But I think as more girls join the sport, they will bring more and more females in! There also is the factor of for some reason men seem to be more inclined to do exhilarating and semi-dangerous activities for fun. I have no clue why that is- it might be societal but I definitely don’t think it’s a biological difference. There are plenty of reckless females out there just itching to break some bones!!
What does it mean to you/feel like to have a female ally in the sport?
Sarah: For me, having female allies completely changes the game and brings the sense of community to the next level. Watching other women challenge the norm and push their own boundaries is so motivating and empowering. Especially in sports where females are the minority, I think there’s an added element of compassion, understanding, and unwavering support amongst women that is incredibly powerful.
Samantha: There's always that sense of pride when you're the only girl among the boys. But kiting only got better once I wasn't the only female out there. A fellow female kiter, Rana Eser, was a huge support on the water, retrieving my board (and even my kite) in my learning moments. It's crucial to have people looking out for you no matter what stage of kiting you're in. It's also important not to panic when something unexpected happens. Having women to look up to gives you the "I can do this" attitude that's important when figuring out this challenging sport.
Rana: It was a female who got me into this sport so I am eternally grateful for her! Seeing other female kiters shred out there makes me so excited. I participated in my first Big Air competition in Brazil 2 months ago and it was SO inspiring to be competing against other females, especially since Big Air is the kiteboarding style that is notoriously lacking in females. King of the Air is the biggest kiteboarding competition every year, and is all Big Air. Last year Angely Bouillot was the first female rider to be part of that competition, and she was sending massive airs and megaloops alongside 19 men. That made me feel like there’s no reason I also can’t excel in Big Air and really encouraged me to keep pursuing it, instead of transitioning to the more traditional female-style riding like unhooked. (Don’t get me wrong, the girls who shred in wakestyle are extremely badass and probably more talented than I will ever be, but I just love seeing representation across all the fields. Especially the more “extreme” ones!!)