“Mastering something I’ve been scared of trying has made me stronger, both physically and mentally. I’ve grown as a person because of it.”
That “something” is kitesurfing. A sport harnessing the force of the wind using a large parachute and a board (like a wakeboard) to propel a rider across the ocean’s surface.
From the moment Swedish-born athlete Linda Olofsson tested out kitesurfing she was hooked.
“I knew in my heart it was my kind of sport. It’s my ultimate happiness. When I’m out on the water all of my problems and difficulties disappear; I feel so free and independent. “
We pinned down Linda, who has spent the European summer training in Sardinia, for a chat about kitesurfing, snowkiting (another sport she excels at) and – given her hectically active lifestyle – methods for staying balanced, healthy and grounded!
Q: Linda, tell us a bit about yourself!
A: I’m 27 years old, which makes me feel a bit old sometimes! I always thought when I turned 25 I would be – and feel – like a proper adult. However, I feel more like a child than ever. I think that’s a good thing though!
I was born in Sweden, but moved to Norway seven years ago. I lived in Oslo up until a year ago when my boyfriend and I decided to move to a small town closer to the sea and the ‘kitespots’.
In my free time, and if there’s wind, I go kiting with almost no exceptions. I also love longboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding when I get the chance. Anything that involves a board really!
In the last year, I have developed a big interest in food and healthy living, so I do a lot of cooking and baking when I have the time. I’m also a big fan of DIY projects; making clothes and accessories, or things for the house.
Q: As we know, you’re an avid kitesurfer and snowkiter. What do these sports involve? Are they similar?
A: Kitesurfing and snowkiting are very similar. They are basically the same sport, but the scenery is, of course, vastly different.
When I go kitesurfing, I focus a lot on learning new tricks and becoming a better athlete. This is because the gear you use for kiting on a liquid surface is much lighter than for the snow, making tricks like jumping easier.
During the winter on snow, it’s more about enjoying the experience of kiting up and down the amazingly beautiful mountains we have in Norway; discovering nature whilst flying down hills!
Q: How did you get into these sports?
A: I got into kiting thanks to my boyfriend. He has been kitesurfing for a really long time. Just a few months after we met he asked if I would be interested in trying it out. From the first time we went out on the water I was completely taken. I started saving money to buy my own gear. It was almost overwhelming how much fun I found it to be, and I wanted to learn EVERYTHING immediately. It felt amazing being able to control such strong natural powers: wind and water.
When winter came around, I decided to try kiting with my snowboard. Snowboarding is very common in the north of Sweden where I was born. I remember people bringing their snowboards to school to go riding after school was finished. Up there, it really is a part of everyday life. So when I started kiting on snow having a board on my feet was nothing new to me.
Q: Which do you find more difficult?
A: Kiting on the snow is more challenging when trying to do tricks like jumping, as you have to wear a lot more clothing and the board is heavier. As a result, I tend to focus more on doing tricks when I’m kiting on the water than when I’m kiting on snow.
Q: You compete in these sports professionally. What would you say has been the toughest kitesurfing or snowkiting competition you’ve competed in to date?
A: Red Bull Ragnarok is probably the toughest sporting competition I’ve done in my life! Another competitor described it as ‘harder than giving birth’. I don’t have kids so I can’t say if that’s true or not, but it was tough, really tough!
It’s a race on the snow where you have to kite as fast as you possibly can for five hours – up and down mountains, upwind, downwind and flying down hills. By the time I hit the finish line, my legs felt like jelly. They didn’t stop shaking for many hours afterwards.
Q:You won the women’s snowkiting category at Red Bull Ragnarok. That’s an amazing accomplishment! What other titles have you taken out in these sports?
A: Thank you! This is my first year competing, so I haven’t competed in many competitions as yet. That said, I did take out third place in freestyle at the Norwegian championships. I’m really happy with that!
Until now, I have only been competing in Norway, as I’ve been studying and working full-time. However, as I’ve now finished school, I have some free time to explore the world! My next competition is the world championships in freestyle on snow, which is being held in France in January 2016.
Q: Describe the rush of feelings you get when you’re out there kitesurfing and snowkiting.
A: Both snowkiting and kitesurfing really brings you close to nature – it feels amazing to do something that enables you to explore nature without polluting or harming it in any way.
I have never felt more free and happier than when I’m out kiting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the snow or the ocean. You know that feeling when you’re at your happiest? When you can’t stop smiling and your heart is all bubbly? When you can’t hold back a spontaneous laugh? Kiting is like that for me. And when you’re flying off a mountain, that feeling is almost impossible to describe. It’s like the world just stops and you become the wind and a part of nature.
For me, kiting is a form of meditation. There’s also something about pushing myself that fuels my passion for these sports. I’ve become more resilient, physically and mentally.
Q: When you’re not out on the ocean kitesurfing or on the snow snowkiting what other things can we find you doing?
A: Up until a few months ago, I had been studying real estate and economics at university. That has, naturally, taken up a lot of my time. In my free time, I really enjoy cooking and baking. You will often find me trying out new recipes and playing with unexpected ingredients and combinations! Apart from that, I try to spend as much time as I can outdoors in nature. I am very lucky to have a boyfriend with an amazing mother who lets us borrow her cabin whenever we want. It’s on a little island and we try to get out there as often as we can. It’s my sanctuary – the perfect place to unwind and relax.
Q: Have you ever been to Australia?
A: Unfortunately, I haven’t travelled to Australia yet. However, I have this idea of Australia as a country where every girl is really beautiful and down to earth and every guy is a surfer dude with long hair! I also feel that Australians are conscious about how to treat the world and themselves in a good way. I don’t know why I have this impression; maybe because of the people I follow on social media?! I really hope I’ll be able to visit one day.
Q: What are the top five things you do to stay balanced, healthy and grounded?
First of all, I try to be honest both to myself and others. I believe that’s really important. I am quite a direct person. If something makes me happy or upset, I’ll tell a person either way. It makes life easier – at least for me.
Secondly, I try to spend time outside every day; whether kiting, longboarding or just going for a walk. I can’t stand being inside for 24 hours. I need fresh air for my head to function in a good way.
Thirdly, I try to listen to what my body wants and needs. For example, I don’t believe in banning foods. If my body craves chocolate, I eat chocolate. If my body is tired and I don’t feel like kiting, I don’t. It takes a while to tune in to this, but I believe it has made me more balanced.
Fourthly, I try to surround myself with people who give me energy. If the people you are hanging out with in general are take more energy than what they give, then it’s time for a change. Of course, everyone goes through tough times and friendship means being a person’s support when they need it, but it can’t be like that all the time.
Finally, I try to appreciate the small things. This is maybe the most important one for me. I try to remind myself of all the beauty I’m surrounded by, how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life and not take anything for granted. Some mornings, when I wake up, I decide I’m going to appreciate all the small things that day. Pushing myself to be aware of the small things enables me to have the best day possible. Try it tomorrow!
Q: What advice would you give to others thinking about taking up professional kitesurfing or snowkiting?
A: My first piece of advice would be to never give up. It may sound cliché, but it’s really important. You will have good days and you will have bad days, but you can’t give up just because one session doesn’t go as planned. Try to do your trick in another way, or try something else for a while.
It’s also very important to set goals – both short-term and long-term. I try to have one goal for every session and one for the season.
Another important thing to remember is never, ever forget to have fun while kiting! If you only focus on becoming a better athlete, or learning as many new tricks as possible, you will soon lose your motivation for the sport. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. If I’m getting frustrated or angry I have to take a break from pushing myself. So I’ll go out into the ocean and do big jumps, listen to music and use small waves as kickers, or I’ll go kiting with some friends, which always brings back the fun!
My final piece of advice is that, when you commence competing, you will sometimes have to remind yourself why you started kiting in the first place. Probably because it made you happy!
Q: And the future… what’s next for you?!
A: As I mentioned before, I’ll next be competing on the snow at the world championships in France. I’m really looking forward to that. In terms of my everyday life, I’ll be starting work as a real estate agent this autumn. I do, however, have some exciting kite-related ideas and plans that I’m keeping hush about until they’re 100% set. You’ll just have to wait and see!
Interview by Michelle Larin.
Photos: Håkond Mæland http://www.mlandpictures.com