It takes a certain person to push themselves to the limit and become a world champion. Not everyone has the grit and determination it takes to be top of their game, and be number one in the world, but Mikaili Sol certainly does. The young athlete shows us time and time again she has the skills and mindset, to stay at the forefront of her sport, and keep advancing the limits of human capability as she does so.
The GKA has an exclusive insight into how Mikaili’s training for the GKA Distance Battle has been going and how her life has been affected by the pandemic. In her own words, Mikaili shares what it has taken to get her heats filmed and how life has been in Brazil these past few months
The Mission: In search of the perfect conditions for the GKA Distance Battle
As we all know, the year 2020 has been an atypical year. My name is Mikaili Sol, and I am 15 years old. I am a three-time Kitesurfing World Champion, and I am the current GKA (Global Kitesports Association) Kitesurfing Freestyle World Champion.
On March 15th, my father and I left Brazil for the Dominican Republic to train with my coach, Fabio Ingrosso, and prepare for the 2020 GKA kitesurfing competition season. After arriving in Cabarete, my father and I received a call from my mom. She was panicking, telling us we needed to come home immediately due to the COVID virus. She said several countries were closing their borders, and my coach was not allowed to leave Switzerland, so the training was canceled! If my father and I stayed, we would be risking the chance to return home to Brazil. Within 72 hours, we were back on the plane, returning to Brazil. I was utterly unaware that the world I was accustomed to was about to change!
Isolation began. I was now stuck at home in Taiba, Brazil. No wind, no training, no travelling, no coach, and no competitions! During this isolation period, the GKA decided to get creative and propose an online kitesurfing video competition called the Distance Battle. The top riders in both Freestyle and Strapless would have the opportunity to film for the GKA Distance Battle! Each discipline would also have a wild card participant. I was fortunate enough to be seeded for the Freestyle event and get the wild card for the Strapless event!
The mission begins! I have been off the water for months! I have one month to film two five- minute heat videos with no edits and no cuts for each discipline! In Freestyle, I must perform four tricks in each of the two separate video heats. Each heat must include three tricks from the required trick categories, and one optional trick from a fourth category. The accumulation of the four tricks will be the final heat score.
This format is very different from my regular GKA Freestyle competitions. I have precisely one minute to perform one trick in typical Freestyle competitions, and I have seven attempts to land four tricks in four different categories. The four scores are then totalled. I always chose my tricks according to the conditions presented. I look at the wind direction, strength, and the surface of the water to decide which tricks I will do.
In the Distance Battle’s Strapless event, the main difference is that I don’t get to choose my trick categories. In our regular GKA Strapless events, I have 7 – 10-minute heats to perform 5 different tricks in four different trick categories. I get to chose my tricks and my categories. In the Distance Battle format, I must perform one trick in each of the three mandated categories and one trick of choice, totalling four tricks. All four scores count for the total.
The tricks and trick categories for the Distance Battle have been selected for me. My mission is to find the perfect wind and the ideal riding conditions to film for each discipline. What are the ideal conditions? Every Freestyle and Strapless rider is different. For Strapless Freestyle, I love intense, side on-shore winds with choppy water and starboard kickers since I ride goofy! For Freestyle, it is a totally different ballgame! I need side on-shore, moderate winds, and flat water!
The first day of my mission is filming the Distance Battle Freestyle event at the famous Cauipe lake, located just outside Cumbuco, Ceara. Cauipe is 15 minutes south of my house. The conditions are predictable: side-onshore, flat water, and usually moderately strong and consistent winds. This spot can be very crowded with kitesurfers, but due to COVID 19, it is quiet this year. The flat water lake is shallow in most areas, so I need to be very careful where I do my tricks.
After being off the water for almost four months, I manage to film two decent freestyle heats on my 10-meter kite. The 10m Duotone Vegas is my kite of choice for Freestyle. After watching my video heat, I am sure I can do better! My curiosity is still thinking there could be other notable spots along the Brazilian coast. I will keep these heats as a backup, but my mission for Freestyle is not finished!
The second day, I decided to film in the Taiba lagoon located 15 minutes north of my house. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough water, and there were big rocks everywhere. I am so disappointed because this is my favourite lake for training Freestyle. Unlike most years, the lake depends on high tides for water! Another failed stop.
After my disappointment in Taiba, my third stop is for Strapless freestyle riding in Prea, Ceara. Prea is about three and a half hours north of Taiba and is renowned for strong side-onshore winds and choppy conditions. It is the epicentre for wind on the northeast coast of Brazil. As you move north or south from Prea, the wind conditions tend to be less intense. Upon arrival, Prea didn’t let me down! The wind was almost too much! It was blowing 35 knots and over 40 knots in the gusts! I struggled to hold down my 7m Duotone Neo and had a hard time doing some of my tricks in the intense winds! Conditions were cruel, but I decide to hang on and not rig my 5m kite because I want my tricks to be big and powerful. Somehow over the next two days, I manage to pull off two heats. I couldn’t do a couple of my new tricks because the wind was too strong, but I manage a decent heat considering the conditions. I decide to submit the video—Strapless mission, DONE!
Now, with the Strapless video completed, I need to focus on Freestyle and shoot a better heat. The next stop on the agenda is Barra Grande, Piaui, a 3-hour drive from Prea. There are many flat spots in Barra Grande that are worth checking out.
On day six, I went to the flat water lake in Barrinha, a ten-minute drive south of Barra Grande. The lake depends on the tides, so when the tide is high, the lake is about knee-deep, and you get about an hour to an hour and a half of excellent water conditions. However, the lake’s wind direction is on-shore, which means the tricks I do to the right side will be challenging because the kite tends to pull from behind. I struggled to make one of my required manoeuvres, the Front Blind. Still no perfect heat.
Day seven, I took a 30-minute donkey ride to the mangrove lake on the north side of Barra Grande, which is best at high tide. The lake’s scenery was surreal, with flat blue water surrounded by dense green mangroves and inlets and a white sandy beach. It was picture-perfect. Unfortunately, the wind was on-shore again! So no Front Blinds for me today! I still had a blast and got some great shots and videos, but I didn’t manage that perfect heat.
My time is running out. I have just three more days to submit my video heat! Day eight, I decided to film in the ocean in front of my hotel, BGK. As the tide comes in, the water is perfectly flat, and the wind direction is ideal! But it won’t stay perfect for long. The conditions will change rapidly with the incoming tide, so I have less than an hour to perform that perfect heat. I need this heat more than ever, and the pressure is on!
I land a perfect Back Mobe, followed by a huge Front Blind. I come back to shore, knowing I only need to land two more tricks. I land my third trick! Then my mom starts yelling and waving to get my attention, “I need another Back Mobe,” she says. I don’t understand because I already landed a huge Back Mobe. She yells again, “We didn’t get it on the film”! At that moment, I wanted to scream! How did they miss that trick? The tide is starting to come in, and the water will get choppy very soon. It is now or never! The window for perfect conditions is
fading away. I need two more tricks for this heat! I need to land another big Back Mobe and my trick of choice.
I make another big Back Mobe—one trick to go, and two minutes to spare before my five- minute heat is complete. I take a deep breath, and I nail my KGB. I want to do one more with a grab, and I still have time. BOOM! My KGB with a grab landed—Freestyle mission complete with only a few days to spare!
Travelling over 10 days and more than 700 kilometres along the Brazilian northeast coast searching for the ideal conditions, I finally manage to film the perfect heats! Mission Complete!
Now let’s see how I do! The GKA Distance Battle virtual competition starts on September 22nd, 2020.
Thank you, Fabio and Viviane Arrudo @impressoesdeviagens, for the filming and support on this mission!