PKRA 2006: The road to the top: Kristin finishes first overall, Bruna finishes second.
The road to the top is never as smooth as it looks. Ultimately, it’s full of ups and downs, successes and disappointments. But when the year is done, the tour is complete, and the winners have been announced, it’s the final result that counts. And for Kristin Boese and Bruna Kajiya, our two top international female riders, there was no better result possible than taking both first and second, respectively.
The first time I saw Kristin and Bruna this year was in Cabarete, for the 4th stop of the 2006 PKRA World Tour. After watching them ride, I was convinced we had the top two riders on the tour. Although this wasn’t reflected in the overall standings for Bruna, who’d had a rough start in Venezuela and seemed plagued with bad luck ever since. Kristin had won the first three competitions … Venezuela, Belgium, and Portugal, and was just about to win Cabarete.
“I’d gotten off to a very good start, despite not having a kite sponsor two weeks before the start of the tour,” says Kristin. “I wasn’t even sure whether I was going to compete or not … but then, I got really lucky, and everything happened so quickly with Best, and even though I only had two days to get used to my new Best kites, I managed to win in Venezuela. And once I won in Venezuela, I knew I had a really good chance of winning the title again. I was feeling very strong.”
Bruna, however, had gotten off to a shaky start in Venezuela over what she’d felt was a questionable decision from the judges, an episode which seemed to carry over into the next few competitions. She was finding it hard to break out of the rut …. again and again, she seemed to get unlucky with the judges, losing heats she was sure she could have won.
Then, mid-season, their luck seemed to change, converging briefly at the 5th stop in Fuerteventura with equal shares of misfortune, before heading off into completely opposite directions … Kristin’s for the worse, Bruna’s for the better.
After winning in Cabarete, Kristin had come very close to securing her title for the season, earning her the title of World Champion for the second year in a row. All she needed was one more victory. But in July, while hosting a girl’s camp in Germany, she threw a simple raley and injured her knee. While nothing was broken or torn, she could have used a month to recover … but she didn’t have a month. Fuerte was up next in August, followed immediately by Germany, and a few days later, Canada.
“It was a very difficult time… not just for me, but for everyone,” says Kristin. “There were nine stops this year … more than ever before … and there was no time to rest, recover from my injury, and learn new tricks. With one competition right after the other, and only a few days in between to travel to the next stop, it was impossible to learn anything new. Everyone was just doing the same old tricks … there wasn’t time for anything else.”
So she booked an early flight to Fuerte, hoping for a chance to get used to the extreme conditions, but her knee still hurt, and she couldn’t hit her stride. “It was in Fuerte that I started to become depressed. I shouldn’t have gone out and competed with my injury, but I did anyway,” she says, “I came in 4th, which was the first time in three years that I wasn’t on the podium. It was really depressing, especially losing to the home favorite, 13 year old Gisela Pulido.”
For Bruna, Fuerte was also a very disappointing competition. “There were so many comps, one after the other, and everything was such a hurry. I didn’t have time to stop and concentrate. I didn’t feel like I was riding with any consistency, and knew I could do better.” So for the month of July, the only month without a competition, she headed to Brazil, to train and focus, and finally reached a point where she was happy with her level of riding. When she left Brazil, she was physically and mentally refreshed, ready to do battle in Fuerte, making what happened next especially heartbreaking, being … as it was … completely beyond her control.
Her flight to Madrid was delayed, and she missed her connection to Fuerte. When she finally found an available flight the next day, the plane broke down, and she missed the singles completely …meaning she had to start at the bottom of the ladder in the doubles, and try to fight her way into the top. To make matters worse, the airlines had lost her luggage, and her 5m showed up only minutes before her first heat in the doubles. She scrambled around, borrowing a bar and a harness from the other competitors, but it all proved to be too much, and she was beaten by Ania Grzelinska after the second heat.
If things didn’t turn around soon, her year would have ended with depressing results. She knew she needed to rise above the losses, and somehow pull herself together, channeling the energy from all her disappointments and frustrations into a more positive strength. Whatever she did, it worked.
In Germany … where she last expected anything good to happen (Germany, after all, was Kristin’s home country) … things started coming together. On the day of the competition, the conditions were extreme: 2m weather, when all they had were 5s, and direct onshore wind. No one could believe they’d actually run a competition in such conditions, but they did. Even Aaron Hadlow had advised her not to go out, but everyone else was going out, so she had no choice. Going as slowly as possible, she was still doing massive raleys and out of control kiteloops. Then came her moment: a perfect kicker … and it was now or never. She went for it, and landed a perfect 313. Halfway through the trick she had no idea what she was doing, and when she landed with the bar perfectly in her hands, she was stunned. The judges started yelling and the crowd started screaming, and it was one of her best moments so far, resulting in a 1st place win in the singles, against Ania, no less, her bigget rival all season.
For Kristin, however, Germany … with the added pressure to do well in front of her home country … was a complete disappointment. In her finals heat in the singles, against Bruna, the winds were so strong that she lost her board and couldn’t get back to it, resulting in a third place finish, to Bruna’s first. Then, the doubles were ultimately cancelled due to no wind, and she lost the chance to fight her way back into first, and the results from the singles stood: a disappointing third.
“While I’d felt powerful, in shape, and full of energy during the first half of the season,” she says, “during the second half, I felt horrible. I started to lose the muscle strength in my legs, and didn’t feel like I was kiting well anymore. I was unhappy with my performance, and kiting just didn’t seem like fun anymore. So for the second half of the season, I was just hanging on, trying to make it through.”
But in Canada, things finally started going her way again, and after winning the singles, she had enough points to secure her title, and could finally relax. No matter what happened in the doubles, she could do no worse than second place, and a second place finish was all she needed by then to retain her title of World Champion. After she won in the doubles, she decided to take a much needed break. Skipping Tarifa, she headed straight to Joao Passoa, Brazil, to relax and wait for the 9th and final stop.
“Overall,” concluded Kristin, “It was a difficult season for me. It wasn’t always so easy. But in the end, I’m very happy, managing to become World Champion for the second year in a row.”
Canada was also a success for Bruna. Hot off her win in Germany, she finally hit her stride, riding confidently and well, finishing 2nd, to Kristin’s 1st. But while Kristin’s fight was over, with her first place ranking in the bag, Bruna’s fight had just begun. Next stop was Tarifa. With Kristin momentarily out of the picture, everyone was sure the win would go to wunderkid Gisela Pulido, in her home country again, but Bruna was on a roll, beating Gisela in the singles, and finishing first in the doubles. With her second tourstop win, she was now ranked 3rd overall.
Finally, it was the 9th and final stop, in her home country: Brazil. First place was already taken by Kristin, but the fight for second and third was a full-on battle between Bruna (3rd) and Ania Grzelinska (2nd). The odds were stacked decidedly against Bruna, and she’d come to Brazil thinking there was no way she could move into 2nd. The way the points were, her final ranking didn’t depend only on her, it also depended on Ania, and the only way that Bruna could possibly move from 3rd into 2nd was this: she had to finish 1st, and Ania had to finish 4th. If Bruna came in 1st, and Ania 3rd, it would have been a nice win, but it wouldn’t have changed her overall rankings. And with Kristin back in the picture, and the fact that Ania never finished 4th (she was usually 2nd or 3rd), it was a huge longshot. It wasn’t just Bruna’s performance that mattered; it also depended on Ania.
Even after winning the singles, Bruna was still convinced she didn’t have a chance. But during the battle for 3rd and 4th, between Ania and Angela Peral, she saw Ania putting down her kite, having lost, and Angela running back up the beach for the next heat, she was suddenly ecstatic and under more pressure at the same time.
Ania was done, unbelievably finishing 4th, against great odds, leaving the path wide open for Bruna to move into second. Now, for Bruna, it was no longer up to someone else. It was entirely up to her.
“I was under a lot of pressure, but I wanted it so bad. When I saw Angela running up the beach to meet Jo Wilson in the next heat, I knew it was now about me, only me, and about how well I could do,” she said. “I thought, it’s just me now, and I’m going to do this, and I didn’t crash one single thing. I landed everything! So I’m very stoked that I won, especially in my home country. I had a really bad beginning, but I made a really big comeback.”
“I think you learn more when you lose, when you’re down,” continues Bruna. “I’ve gone through some really bad parts …I had a horrible beginning, but when you lose, you’re forced to look at yourself and who you are, and you really have to pull everything together. So while it was horrible, with the judging, and the airplanes and everything, I’ve learned so much this year, and feel I’ve come a very long way.”
Now that the tour is over, and the pressure is off, at least for a few months, what’s in store for the women? They’re both planning on spending the next few month training, and getting used to the new kites, in preparation for the 2007 PKRA season.
Bruna, an avid C-kite flier, and still devoted to her 7m Yarga Pro, is especially looking forward to riding the new 07 Yarga, which she feels will be more in line with her style of riding. Kristin, who flew mostly Yargas and Yarga Pros in 2006, is also looking forward to spending the next few months getting dialed into the new equipment. “I think the new Waroo Pros will be great for riding and competing,” she says, after only a few days of testing during the post-comp photo session in Brazil. “The Waroo Pros cover a large wind range … especially in the smallest and biggest sizes … and will be good for the extreme conditions we usually fly in, which seems to be either 45 knots, or 8 knots. I feel I can do everything on the new kites that I can do on the old kites … probably even more” Kristin was especially happy with the 5m regular Waroo. “Although it is fast, like all small kites, it isn’t as fast and twitchy as the 5m 06 Yarga and I’m very thrilled to have a small kite that I can ride with confidence. The middle of the wind range is pretty well covered but so far we’ve been struggling on the high and low end, so with the new kites, I think we’ll have much more success.”
Best Kiteboarding would like to take this opportunity to congratulate
both Kristin and Bruna for their outstanding results in 2006, and to
wish them success in the coming months as they prepare for the season to
come. Rest assured that we’ll do everything we possibly can to help
them on their way to the top!