Poland’s Kitesurfing Queen
December 19, 2013
Karolina Winkowska speeds across the waves with gravity-defying ease.
Her cat-like agility allows her to perform tricks that only a handful of professional kitesurfers around the world are capable of pulling off.
On the water, Winkowska is the master of her domain as she uses a large kite to harness the power of the wind, which propels her board across the plumes. In everyday life she is modest, if ambitious. Her talent and determination have seen her take one championship title after another. She has for years been one of the best female kitesurfers in the world. She became world champion in 2012 and almost repeated the feat last year. The 2013 season promised to be a successful one, but Winkowska suffered several injuries. She would not let that interfere with her plans more than absolutely necessary and in November she entered a championship event in Pingtan, China, where her main rival was Spain’s Gisela Pulido. Competing in a new location added to the pressure as Winkowska defended her title as champion.
Winkowska put up a good fight, but the China event did not bring her the coveted victory. She had to settle for second place. She says she was too focused on winning and not enough on precision. “It will teach me a lesson: to respect my competitors and focus on my goals rather than just on winning,” Winkowska said.
The problems she encountered in 2013 will likely make Winkowska hungrier for victory this year. She is hard working, strong and focused. “kitesurfing is my life,” she says. “Everything else is secondary. In 2013, I took part in six World Cup events and two Ford Kite Cup events in Poland. The two injuries I suffered made my life difficult. I’m now preparing for the new season. This winter I’ll be training in Australia.”
Even though the weather on Poland’s Baltic coast is warm for less than four months a year, kitesurfing has become highly popular here and Winkowska is sure to have masses of her countrymen and women cheering her on this year.
The first world kitesurfing championship was held in 1998 in Maui, Hawaii. The winner was the now-legendary Marcus “Flash” Austin from the United States. In Poland, the most important kitesurfing event has for years been the Ford Kite Cup (www.fordcup.pl
), which draws the top competitors from across the country.
Karolina Winkowska first entered the Ford Kite Cup eight years ago and has since been the undisputed superstar of the sport. Other talented female kitesurfers from Poland include Joanna Litwin, Katarzyna Lange and Agnieszka Grzymska. The most successful male kitesurfer is Wiktor Borsuk, followed by Janek Korycki, Błażej Ożóg and Marek Rowiński.
Harnessing the wind
Kitesurfing, also known as kiteboarding, can be practiced on any large stretch of water provided there is a steady wind blowing from one direction. A kitesurfer’s gear can fit into a golf bag. Though the sport originated from surfing, kitesurfing techniques are similar in some ways to those used in snowboarding, but instead of snow, kitesurfers ride waves. You also need to learn how to use the “engine,” that is, a huge kite attached to long ropes.
The most popular kitesurfing spots in Poland are in the Bay of Puck between the Hel Peninsula and Gdańsk, but more advanced kitesurfers also like to venture out into the open sea off the coastal towns of Łeba and Karwia. Many diehard kitesurfers practice the sport for the better part of the year, undeterred by the cold. Those who like hot weather have to wait until summer arrives or head overseas, the most popular destinations being Egypt, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Brazil and Zanzibar.