GKA Freestyle: One step closer to parity in kitesurfing | International

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Before getting into the water to compete, Mikaili Sol (18 years old, Preá, Brazil) seems to isolate himself from the world. He straps on the wireless headphones, repeats the same warm-up table, and adjusts the harness in silence, his eyes and mind fixed on the sea. Her perseverance and passion have come from when she was a child and she argued with her parents that if her brother could kitesurf at six, so could she. She was left at eight and since then she has already won four world championships. The latest, the GKA Freestyle, held this week in the Colombian Atlantic for the first time. This will also be the first time that Sol and Manoel Soares, world champion in the men's category, receive the same prize: 25,000 euros. “We made an effort and spent the same amount to get here. It is fair that we do not receive less for being women”, says the Brazilian.

–Estefania Rosa, I like what I see. Come on, big, big...big Brasiiiiil, Jo Ciastula, tournament commentator, shouted into the microphone on Friday.

The Brazilian kitesurfer, holding on to an orange kite, raises her fist and throws her head back with a mixture of satisfaction and relief. She knows that she nailed 313 (a complex kitesurfing maneuver) and that she will go through to the semi-finals. At that moment, she says that she thinks that she is one step closer to her. And in all that it cost her to get here.

Estefanía Rosa, fourth in the GKA Freestyle world championship, in the final, this Saturday.charlie lamb

Estefania Rosa is many things. Adoptive mother of two girls, kitesurfing instructor, world champion in 2018 and fourth in 2022, but, above all, she is her own sponsor. She is the only participant who does not have a sponsor, although she has been competing for more than 15 years and was world champion in 2018. “They look for us for bikini photos. They want them to give them sponsorships. And, if they come to us, it is when we are already winners, not to support us to climb ”, she criticizes from a corner of the beach and without taking her eyes off the boys who are preparing for the next round.

They look for us for bikini photos. They want them to give them sponsorships

Estefania Rosa, fourth best in the world in 2022

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15 years ago, a tourist approached her on the beach in Cumbuco, 25 kilometers from Fortaleza, Brazil, and lent her the equipment so she could get on and try it out. Now she is the one who does the same with little ones from the age of four all over the world, through her Rosa de los vientos project. “It is necessary that there be references for others to try. The problem is not that we can't, it's that we feel excluded. And it's exhausting having to be showing all the time that we can be part of this. And it happens to me even today.”

For the Spanish Rita Arnaus, bronze in the Colombian competition, the reason why women "do not dare" so much is the legacy of patriarchy. "We have always been relegated to care, to the house... But we are already showing that we are worth the same and we also deserve the same as them." She grew up in the water, watching her parents – both Spanish windsurfing champions – compete. “I was very shy and this sport helped me to improve myself. And it saddens me that the excuse is still being used that we do not attract as many public when we are more and more”.

From the shore, a girl dances with her feet in the wet sand to the music of Carlos Vives that plays on the loudspeakers scattered along the beach. She spins around and laughs. She only stops when one of the women jumps. “Did you see it, mommy?” She turns. “The world of kitesurfing is one of the most equal. There are more and more amateur women in the water and more women in the audience. That is something that brands have to notice”, says Alberto Masedo, organizer of the event. "What is needed is for them to compete more."

Tom Hartmann, GKA World Tour Manager, explains that the award model used before was based on player ratio. “They used to take two-thirds of the total amount, because that used to be the percentage of both sexes,” she says, “but, at least for a while, we won't have a balanced number and it's not fair that the winner, who puts in the same effort and economic effort, earn less”. Twenty-eight men and eight women participated in this year's poster.

Brazilian Bruna Kajiya, at the world kitesurfing championship, held this week in Colombia.
Brazilian Bruna Kajiya, at the world kitesurfing championship, held this week in Colombia.charlie lamb

This Saturday, on the paradisiacal beach of Salinas del Rey, 45 kilometers from Barranquilla and 80 from Cartagena de Indias, nerves were on edge. The rules were simple: seven freestyle maneuver attempts and only the top four scores for the final average. From the sand, Manoel Soares (world champion in this call) did not take his eyes off Rosa, who approached after each trick so that she would remind him what position he was in. "Try again. It will be better for you, go for it”, the Brazilian told him. Among them, companionship is added to sorority. "We all know how difficult it is for us to be where we are," says Rosa, "I respect and admire them a lot for it."

After the verdict, Sol comes out of the water with a permanent smile on her face. She is received by a handful of journalists, her coach and her friends. She responds to the camera as she unbuttons her boots. Suddenly, Arnaus jumps on top of her and congratulates her. "Try them on," he invites her, pointing to the boots anchored to the board. "They made a mistake with the size and brought me a 41. And I wear a 37!", she says between laughs. Arnaus laughs and whispers to her: "And you still made it, champion."

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