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Is it time to set sail in a new direction?

The question I have been asking myself the past week, over and over again. And yes, it’s Time to Set Sail in a New Direction BUT in the same ocean. As I sit down to write this, it is the end of 2023, I find myself at a crossroads in my kitesurfing, Olympic kitefoiling, snowkiting & wingfoiling journey.  I am in a position I have never or at least not been in that many times of my life, I simply don’t know it anymore. 2023 was an incredible year once again, as you can read here. But 2024 will be different.

The end of the year. It’s a moment of reflection, a pause in the whirlwind of disciplines, national, international competitions, Olympic journeys, qualifications and a decision I never thought I’d make. On a positive note, I never thought I would be able to do this “kitesurfing thing” on this level in all of this disciplines. 2016 I embarked the journey of being a professional athlete again. I started competing straight after I learned the first tricks in kiting. Rushed through all disciplines, won, lost and learned quickly – above all had fun! Freestyle to snowkiting to big air Worlds, Europeans, all the way up until the Olympic level. And you know what..? I am not done yet.

Dreams do come true

I still pinch myself sometimes how did I do it..? From 0 to all of this. And I just wanted to learn one trick (in my life) like the guy in the magazine. Dreamed about the vanlife, going to competitions, standing on podiums and travelling the world again. Well, sometimes dreams do come true.  Yet- sometimes they are different than they supposed to be, but more beautiful. From starting to teach kitesurfing, because I couldn`t reach anything anymore in sport ….to believe 100% in myself again.

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Picture: July Brunner

After watching hours and hours the wind and the waves on the beach, being scared to launch kites, to fly away.. doubting if I could go out or if it was too dangerous, if I could do it or not. (yes I know, hard to believe I have had a short time of not being this reckless and actually was scared). Now, a few years already, I can call myself a real kitesurfer/snowkiter and compete against the top of the world. And I am definitely better than the guy in the magazine now.  The whole kitesurfing journey, made me into the athlete & girl I am today; I grow mentally and physically, became independent again, stronger, I always stayed teachable, became a world traveller, the shy girl disappeared into someone to look out for. Someone who knows what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer.  I got to know myself better than ever. I opened up my eyes to the world and dreamed a little bigger every day.  (-and I still do). And that way I became a professional kitefoiler, kitesurfer, snowkiter and rookie in the wingfoiling nowadays.  Seeing how far it would get me, and I can say pretty far. Its is my version of Mariska 2.0 – the light at the end of my tunnel.

It even made me convert my own van, became half an electrician, car mechanic, used a jigsaw for the first time,  travelled the world by land, sea and air, compete in amazing places, discovered islands you can’t find on the internet or map, made new friendships who will last a lifetime, everywhere. In between all of it I finished my master study (well, I had to do some years twice..) and started a second one (who would have thought that..?).  Meanwhile I learned to fix  my own kites, boards, lines, sand foils, became my own travel agent, manager, coach, trainer. Worked night shifts, lived in my van during competitions and trainings. Started the first ways to my own company. Learned to hustle like no other; because if you want something done: you have to do it yourself. Conquered the world once again. Well and learned the throwing weight part in the gym – probably my biggest achievement. Some days I left 4:00 in the morning for the weighs, did school, to the beach for a training on the water and after that I was off to work. I never gave up. I made difficult, yet imposible decissions. (dropping the soccer..). I fully commited to the athlete life, the kitesurfing lifestyle (sand everywhere) and thats were I am today.

A journey to be proud of.  A Dream that came true. And is not done – yet. It might need a new direction into the same ocean.

A dream doesn`t become reality through magic it takes sweat determination and hard work.

Decisions that had to be made

After the 2023 Worlds, for 2024 I am qualified for the Worlds and the Europeans, I could train kitefoiling in an amazing place, compete. But my changes to the Olympics are kind of gone, the Netherlands is qualified on the worlds of 2023, I am not – yet (we still have 2028….!).  So it got me thinking, am I still happy doing this – even if I dont compete in the Olympics? Will it be worth it or a useless fight. It didnt make me a nicer person, and it didn`t made the sport more fun for me, for now. I guess some days I lost my smile on the water, caught up in the focus of kitefoilracing and wingfoilracing. After thinking once again: why I would go there, what is in it for me? I made my decision: I am not going, I am not going to fight for my place at the Europeans and Worlds.  And with that:

I announce my decision to step away from the big international kitesurfing competitions, at least for the time being. More precise the kitefoiling discipline. Something I can definitely say it’s with mixed emotions, after all the hard work, the sacrifices along the way and countless of hours that went in it. But on the other hand those hours also brought me a lot I would have never missed out on, I know that deep down.

This is not the end of my journey in competitive kitesurfing or kitefoiling, wingfoiling or snowkiting forever, no not at all – the opposite (space for other exciting plans ! ). But it’s a necessary pause in a sport that has become increasingly complex and demanding – in all kind of disciplines on this high world and Olympic level.

The decision didn’t come lightly, and it’s born out of a combination of factors that have weighed on my mind over the past month. The world of competitive kitesurfing has evolved significantly, with numerous disciplines, the relentless competition calendars,  rising costs (in travel, subscription fee, equipment), and the expectation of managing everything almost single-handedly. The specialized and expensive equipment required in Olympic disciplines has also added to the challenges, investing that amount (more than 20.000) every time again is just not possible. With the factor of having a perfect body weight to go as fast as a kitefoiler in the Olympic discipline, a perfect picture, I am not and will never be. I am not someone you can change and fit in a box. I know it`s time to pause.

Over the past year, it has been a rollercoaster ride:  I’ve encountered my fair share of frustrations. Unjust results, unfair judgments, being excluded from competitions for no reason, limited or no support on a world cup level, cancelled beach games, windless events, endless waits, wrong equipment (always, because of not being a federation or money wise), unkept promises, unfair discussions, and the occasional feeling of being excluded from the men’s class due to a lack of separate women’s categories during certain competitions, discussions/overlap of sponsors—all of these have taken their toll.  The frustration of sailing my heart out only to receive no official outcome—it all adds up you know .

Add to that the sometimes harsh conditions during races, almost impossible spots, crashes, competitions where you have to fight the elements instead of each other (or try to keep all in one piece – because you know you are alone or only have one kite),  proving myself over and over again to subscribe to a Europeans or Worlds, where all others would have been send already – no questions asked, I had to defend myself more and more.

 With the impact of a car accident last year, the loss of a family member that is taken way to soon and it’s clear that the path of competitive kitesurfing (especially the Olympic discipline) had become more thorny than enjoyable last year. Beyond these practical concerns, there’s an important realization that there’s more to life than just chasing after trophies, Olympic qualifications and rankings.

 Well, you get the point. The thrill of the sport, the very essence of why I fell in love with it, seemed to be fading amidst the chaos of competitions, making the ends meet, discussions around, teams that didn`t work out and being divided between brands and collaborations that conflict, never having the right gear. Don’t get me wrong, I love the focus, the training the competing, the kitefoiling, the fear of pushing myself to another level and going faster than ever. I love the game, and the sport. I will always give it my all, until the end and that’s what I did.  

  It is for the first time ever on this journey that I was lost in between it all and didn`t know it anymore. After the main focus has been kitefoilracing (and wingfoilracing). And I was forced to let go of the other disciplines. I realized I had no focus anymore? Thats weird…no competition to prepare for….

Keep dreaming.

After this I have been thinking… getting questions.. I didn`t know the answer either. Gues time will tell. Figuring it out along the way like I always do. Diving into the unknow, where I am good at!  Back to the: do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are.

I decided that for now, I’m turning my focus back to the pure joy of the sport. Back to the dream, the smile when I am riding: The goal of being 1% better than I was yesterday. Being my own competition again, just like when I started this journey.  To rediscover the thrill of the sport. The fun of freestyle & big air, the snowkiting. Discover the wing foiling more, riding the waves, practising tricks without the weight of competitions, opinions, right gear, sponsors, teams on my shoulders or stories behind my back.

It is going to be hard.. Because I am and will always be competitive. That’s how I learn, that’s what makes life fun for me. So I think it wont be long before a new goal pops up.

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A journey to be Proud  of

 I want to be proud of what I’ve already accomplished, the adventures I’ve embarked upon, and the knowledge that everything I’ve achieved has been through my own dedication and hard work. With a little help from family and friends, some inspiration  and support from locals on the spots. Although this journey isn`t on a final end – as we all know…..

I jumped into the world of freestyle, big air, race, snowkiting and wingfoiling. I never did it before, so I think I can do it. Never with the intention to be the best. I started the Olympic ride alone, I set food into this world while nobody did know it even existed.  Without sponsors, a trainer or a coach. Just me, myself and I .  Figuring it all out, finding my own way through the unknown.

I look back at my kitesurfing career with immense pride. I’ve stood on podiums, claimed the top spot, and etched my name in the annals of kitesurfing history, claimed the highest steps in all sorts of disciplines, and experienced the adrenaline rush of success. I learned to turn losing into learning and failing into growing.

World champion snowkiting race & Long distance, Redbull Ragnarok 5th,  Dutch champion big air, Dutch best foiler, First places in big air and SUP in Asia, Winning multiple times the freestyle, race and hangtime in the Philippine tour, Becoming 4th of the world in kitefoiling, The world beach games 12th of the world. Qualifying for the second and my second world beach games in wingfoiling after kitefoiling – which is pretty special and no-one did that before. Just a few highlights out of the 7 years journey sofar. in the back of my head I know I will not close this door.

New adventures ?

Now, it’s time for new adventures. It’s time to explore different horizons, both within and beyond the world of kitesurfing, kitefoiling & snowkiting. While I may be taking a break from the Olympic part and the big  international competitions in the world, the spirit of kitesurfing (wingfoiling, kitefoiling, snowkiteing), being an athlete will always be a part of me. I still need a goal in that competitive mind of me. Who knows where the wind will carry me next?

One thing’s for sure—there are exciting times ahead, and I can’t wait to see and show where they take me. Meanwhile I will chase some more wing tricks on the lake and catch all the waves passing through in life.

I owe a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported me on this incredible journey. And still supports me on what`s coming! I will never stop dreaming and so should you 😊 . If I can do it, everyone can.

Thank you for being a part of this incredible ride sofar. I think the best is yet to come so stay aboard and keep following! In 2024 I set sail in a new direction, in the same ocean.  

To fair winds and new horizons,

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