Monthly Archive for February, 2008

Susi Mai

I remember seeing something on a forum a few years back that said something like: “Naked Pictures of Susi Mai.”

I didn’t know who she was but the thread obviously got lots of attention. I think it was some bloke trying to sell gear or something.

Since then I’ve known that she’s an attractive professional kitesurfer. I saw her pictures in magazines occasionally.

But I didn’t know anything about her or see any of her footage. Then I found this video on YouTube that tells a bit of her story. Inspiring stuff.

Swimming

Alexander Popov

I was watching a DVD a while ago where instructors were talking about the ideal sports background for kitesurfing. Naturally surfing, windsurfing, sailing, board sports and water sports in general came up as good. The more the better.

But one instructor felt really strongly about swimming. Without strong swimming ability it’s difficult to have confidence and feel comfortable learning or progressing in any water sport. It’s fundamental. I’ve seen people in the UK kitesurfing with life jackets. To me this feels as ridiculous as surfing with a buoyancy aid. I suppose that they view it like water skiing where fear of a head impact inspires the wearing of such things. I mostly ride in waves so it’s important to be able to swim down to get under waves after a wipeout or crash. Riding in crowds, I would be terrified to wear anything that made me float. I like to feel the freedom to swim under the water to avoid collisions if anything goes pear shaped.

Whilst injured over the last month I’ve been swimming just about every day. I’ve still got at least 2 weeks to go before I can get back to my board sports. The injury has been a good opportunity to focus on my swimming more regularly. For at least the first week I felt quite uncomfortable with my stroke. Slowly it started to feel better and more relaxed. I spent the past week in Cape Town with my friend Nikola Tosic, an ironman triathlete. He’s spent quite a bit of time working on his technique with his coach recently and offered some tips.

He pointed out some areas where I can improve my rather dodgy freestyle technique. It’s going to take a bit of time and concentration to adjust and break some of the bad old habits but I can already start to feel improvements in easier speed and gliding when I manage to string some of the tips together. Alexander Popov has a beautiful technique and is a great inspiration to watch.

The pure simplicity of swimming is refreshing. The perspective is completely different to my regular sports. It’s closer to diving than surface board sports. The total immersion in water and the regular repetition of breathing make it like a meditation.

As my swimming improves, when I do get back to my beloved sports, I’m sure I’ll feel more confident in the water. Until then it just feels great.

Injured Improvement

Injured.

Again. Injury is part of sport. Impossible to avoid. But so frustrating.

A year ago I adjusted my lifestyle so that I can surf and kitesurf daily. This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In spite of the common reservations on how to make ends meet financially, I found that I had more energy for work and performed far more efficiently and with greater and more consistent motivation than ever before.

The only downside has been two minor injuries that have required weeks of rest from surfing and kitesurfing.

The first was a rib injury sustained during an impact with the water on a late take-off whilst surfing (weird, I know, but it happened somehow) . The second was a ligament/ tendon strain sustained on freak wipeout attempting a floater on a small wave over a shallow sand bar.

The funny thing is that there is very little written about surfing safety. Yet I’ve sustained countless minor injuries in the sport over the years. Admittedly I’ve been kitesurfing for much less time. Perhaps my relatively lower kitesurfing level means that I’m doing more conservative things, but I’ve yet to sustain any form of kitesurfing injury beyond the inevitable muscle pain that’s largely declined as fitness has increased. Perhaps extreme freestyle or kitesurfing surf-style will yield more injuries. Time will tell. But I hope not…

When I’m injured I try and keep as active as possible. Currently I’m swimming every day and doing a bit of cycling.

I’m interested in the idea of coming back stronger after injury. There are many stories of athletes to inspire this. Lance Armstrong and Mick Fanning are keeping me inspired at the moment. I read It’s Not About the Bike while I was still hopping and largely sofa-bound after the ankle injury. I didn’t know much about Armstrong before this. His story is incredible and blew my mind. Something he seems to have in common with Fanning is turning negative experiences into positives whilst competing and throughout life. More and more, lately, I think that great athletes are made mentally. Injury can’t hold you back there.