Catch-up with Karolina
Legendary rider Karolina Winkowska has been one of the biggest names in freestyle and park kiteboarding for the last ten years, so some may find it unusual to see her name pop up here as a registered competitor on the GKA Kite World Tour. Karolina has three Freestyle World Champion titles under her belt, and two Triple-S wins. After a few years out of the competitive kite scene, we spent some time with the legend herself to find out what has motivated her to come back to the World Tour, and become involved in the Kite-Surf discipline.
“At the end of 2019, I was feeling really worn out. After competing non-stop for so many years, I just needed a break. I was in Australia looking at my calendar for the upcoming year, and was just like, I can’t do this. It’s so much travelling, “ explained Karolina. “Then the pandemic happened. I was stuck in Australia thinking, what do I do now? So I just embraced it, and focused on surfing. I surfed as much as possible.”
Karolina ended up spending most of the pandemic in Australia, mainly surfing, but also kiting. There were no flights home to Poland, and with all travel and competitions cancelled for the foreseeable future, her plans for the year changed in an instant.
After the break due to the pandemic, Karolina finally started to feel the yearning for competition return. She has competed in various sports since she was a little girl, including skiing and snowboarding, and really felt a need to return to competition.
“My competitive career was put on hold due to the pandemic. Park events were pretty much cancelled. Competition is my skill. Some people are good at painting, or solving jigsaw puzzles, but for me, competing is in my nature. I needed that feeling again. I love going to events and meeting people. So I just wanted to go to an event, ride with the best female riders in the world, and get that extra motivation for my riding again.”
As someone who has mainly focused on freestyle and park riding, the transition to wave-riding or strapless freestyle hasn’t been so easy.
“I’m definitely stronger in wave-riding than in strapless freestyle, but coming to this event gives me an extra test to push myself. Strapless riding is definitely new to me, but I enjoy it. It takes a lot of time, and it’s very technical. I need to spend more time on this, but I have the motivation.”
Karolina has been a pioneer in freestyle riding, constantly pushing the boundaries and laying the groundwork that we see in women’s competition today.
“The level is increasing from event to event in women’s competitions now. The women are all pushing it, and it feels great to join them, but my goal this time is different. I used to compete to win, and that really dragged me down psychologically. I didn’t want to come 2nd, 3rd or last. I had to win or I would feel bad. But now my mindset is so different. I want to get my ass kicked, I want to have fun, ride with other girls, so I figured it would be fun to come to these events, and it’s been great.”
So what lies in her competitive plans for the rest of the year?
“I’m thinking about going to Brazil for the freestyle competition. I’ll see first how things evolve with the pandemic.”
No matter what Karolina decides to do next, it’s an honour to have her back on tour. The more women we have competing and pushing the boundaries of the sport, the better.