North of the Comfort Zone.
Champion kitesurfer and world traveller Anne Valvatne speaks
about ten years of sporting on and off the water.
“I can be stressed out from a bad day, but as soon as I enter the water, it all vanishes.” Who wouldn’t want that? But this is no languid water therapy we’re discussing, because on the phone is Anne Valvatne, professional kitesurfer and winner
of the 2010 and 2012 Kitesurf Trophy Germany. Coming from a small idyllic town in Norway with a little stream flowing by, she reminisces that her addiction to the exhilarating power of kiteboarding was instant.
Of course thick neoprene in winter, a bikini for when I’m in Brazil.
Still, the first two years were challenging, she says, marked by endless training. A decade since her beginnings, that aspect stays as rigorous as ever: constant outdoor exercise in the summer and bouldering during the winter season to strengthen back and stomach muscles as well as the knees and ankles.
To pursue this sport, Anne explains that aside from the obvious kite and board, one requires a harness that physically connects the athlete to the kite, and a bar serving as a controlling agent. Laughing, she appends: “Of course thick neoprene in winter, a bikini for when I’m in Brazil.” With this basic package and favourable conditions, one can fly high above the waters, conquering the skies.
"North of the comfort zone."
Quite recently, she packed her gear into the boot of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI 4MATIC and journeyed to the northern regions of her home country to seek out new challenges.
Join the adventure and watch the film “North of the comfort zone” and read on for Anne’s thoughts on her life, her ultimate passion and the freedom that it brings her.
North of the comfort zone
The perfect wave.
Anne, what does “perfect” mean in the kiteboarding context?
The perfect lagoon with flat water and constant wind - that’s the dream for every kiteboarder. Then again, at some point you get tired of having perfect conditions and doing the same tricks. So you start looking for something else, and that’s wave kiteboarding where you have the same addiction as surfers do, checking the swell before you go riding.
What are your favourite spots around the world?
Germany has some of the most amazing spots. But my absolute favourites are in the northeast of Brazil. Ceará, that’s where I lived for ten months, just practicing and training every day. I was actually studying abroad for a year, and I had planned to go there for years.
No risk, no fun.
Any dangers or injuries related to the sport?
Oh, there are a lot of knee and ankle injuries amongst the athletes, the ones that compete because there’s a lot of force exactly on those areas during landing. I myself have torn ankle ligaments after crashing down from the sky. That’s quite common for competitive kitesurfers. That’s where all the running and constant training comes into play.
What’s your top speed?
It depends on the discipline you chose. Raceboarders go around 90 to 100 kph. Their boards are like wind surfing boards, constructed to fly over the water with two or three big fins. You don’t want to crash into them! So that’s a completely different discipline from freestyle – freeriding, tricks, jumps - which has nothing to do with going fast.
What does it feel like to kite surf?
When you train hard and finally manage that trick? It’s such a joy, you’re screaming and everybody thinks you’re nuts! But it’s also just the freedom, to be on the water and to be part of nature. It’s silent.
Is it a lonesome sport or is there a community aspect?
Absolutely! When you go with friends, you see how they reach new levels and after finishing your session you have a bonfire, a BBQ, a glass of wine. Or a bottle. That’s all part of it.
From amateur to pro.
Tell us about an epic trip you’ve taken to reach the surf.
My first time travelling to Brazil was quite epic. I travelled without any expectations and not much experience. But I steadily improved, advancing from a beginner to one of the best girls in Germany.
And how was the recent trip to Northern Norway which we captured in the film?
That was different. I’ve kitesurfed Norway before, but never that far north. It was also winter and I didn’t know the spot, so to be honest I was anxious. But I had heard there were good conditions and really great spots so it was exciting to drive up there!
What’s the lifestyle of a kiteboarder away from the water?
I plan a lot of my winter travels around snowboarding. I have a boyfriend in Paris so that's also part of my lifestyle. I work fulltime, train as much as possible and travel constantly. I can’t seem to stay still. I can explain my lifestyle to you with one word: active!
Thanks for staying still long enough for this interview, Anne!