Hannah Whiteley is currently leading the British Pro Ladies Kitesurfing Grand Prix Freestyle Championship after six rounds. With just one more event to go, taking place this weekend in Brighton, the 16-year-old could be on course to become the youngest person ever to be crowned British Freestyle Kitesurfing Champion. We catch up with Hannah on the eve of her big event to see how she’s handling the pressure…
From: Stockport, England
Have you always loved watersports?
Yes! Before I got into kitesurfing, I was into windsurfing and loved surfing.
How did you get into kitesurfing?
My dad (2007 & 2008 British Senior Freestyle Kitesurfing Champion), got me into it.
How does it differ from surfing or wakeboarding?
The Freestyle competitions which I compete in are very similar to wakeboarding, except you can jump much higher and when you’re not jumping, your edging hard to get back upwind. Kitesurfing boards generally have straps on instead of bindings, so during some tricks you can take your feet out and back in again.
When did you decide to commit yourself to the sport full time?
When I finished my GCSE exams and left school.
How does it feel to be leading the rankings of the British Pro Ladies Kitesurfing Grand Prix Freestyle Championship?
It’s great, I feel like I have really achieved something.
If you win the next event in the BKSA, you’ll be the youngest person ever to be crowned British Freestyle Kitesurfing Champion. That must be quite a lot of pressure?
There is pressure on me to do well, but it’s still pretty relaxed, as long as I do my best I will be happy with my result either way.
How do you prepare for a big competition?
I make sure I’m fully equipped on the beach before any of my heats start with my quiver of different sized JN Prima Donna 2 Kites. If the wind drops off, I use a bigger size kite or if the wind picks up I will use a smaller kite. It’s an advantage to have the right kit to compete on.
Do you still get nervous before a big contest?
Yes, but at the same time I’m really fired up for doing it.
What is the atmosphere like behind the scenes?
Everything’s chilled and friendly. And there are always lots of other things going on like skating, trampolining, etc..!
What are your suitcase essentials when you’re on the road?
Hoodies, hats, bikinis and towels.
Can you give us a run down of your average day?
Wake up, look out of my window to see if the trees are blowing to see if it’s windy enough for kitesurfing. If it’s windy I’ll go and persuade my dad that he really should be out kiting instead of working, so could he please take me to the beach! As we live over an hour away from the coast it’s hard for me to just nip there myself. One way or another I usually manage to blag a lift off someone to the beach for a sesh. I’ll train hard on the water and have loads of fun! Then I’ll come in, pack my kit up and try not to leave anything on the beach! Then it’s the journey home, during which I usually fall asleep! Arrive home, get the hose pipe out and wash all my kit off which results in me getting soaked again! Then have a big slap up meal. Do some sit ups and go to sleep.
And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
Waking up on a Caribbean Island to see the sun shining and the wind howling – the perfect kitesurfing conditions! Go out kiting and land every trick beyond my imagination. Come in at sunset, to the feast of all feasts for dinner.
What’s your favourite kitesurfing spot?
Rhosneigr, North Wales – it rocks!!!!
What have been your biggest career setbacks?
Ermm school?! I couldn’t get out kiting at every opportunity.
What have your greatest achievements been so far?
2007 British Amateur Ladies Freestyle Champion. I scored maximum marks at GCSE level in trampolining. In Primary School I broke the school record for 800m running. In 2006 I came 1st in 1500m in the North Area, then went on to come 2nd nationally for my age group.
Who or what are your inspirations?
Everyone out there who is pushing their sport, taking it to the next level!
What affect does your career have on your personal life?
I never have much time to go out and see my friends that don’t kitesurf.
How do you relax when you get the chance?
Slouch out on the sofa watching a movie.
What are your plans for this winter?
I’ll be training in South Africa – I can’t wait!
What are your ambitions for the future?
To train hard, keep enjoying kiting, and go on to compete internationally.
Check out Hannah’s website for further info.