Windsurfer turned kiteboarder becomes air queen
July 6, 2003
Editor's Note: Julie is one of the hottest female kiteboarders today. And she's not afraid of big air.
In 2001, she set the world record for hang time, and then broke her own record in 2002. So, if you see someone floating in the air
for an awfully long time, its probably Julie.
WD: How long have you been kiteboarding and how did you get started?
In 1998/1999, I had come to Maui, supposedly just for the winter, and that's when I met Chris Gilbert. We started to date not long after
I arrived, and soon he introduced me to kiteboarding via the trainer kite. I quickly learned about the power of it; I got pulled into a
sticker bush my first day, but I was hooked. I ended up learning to kiteboard in March of 1999, but that summer I was traveling back
and forth between Maui and the Gorge. Whenever I went to Maui, it was always too windy for me (I often couldn't even kite on a 3.0 meter
kite...and the guys weren't out much either). No one was really kiting in the Gorge, so it was quite intimidating there that summer. So I
kept windsurfing until August of 1999 when I moved back to Maui full time to be with Chris. I was finally able to really take up this
sport I had become addicted to, and now I haven't windsurfed since.
My first Red Bull "King of the Air" was in September that year, so
I had a goal...to get good enough to do the contest. I got second, so that was huge motivation. I have been kiteboarding and competing
professionally ever since. In regards to Chris...we are now married, so I'd say our relationship and kiteboarding have been a success
for both of us!
WD: What accomplishments are most proud of?
That's a hard question. For me, my career is a complete dream come true. I am constantly happy and proud of what we've created in
terms of the sport of kiteboarding, what I've accomplished within the sport, and the amount of fun and success I've had.
In more specific terms, I'd say claiming the World Championship title in both Freestyle and Hang Time in 2001, setting the world
record for Hang Time in 2001, and then smashing my own Hang Time world record at the 2002 Red Bull "King of the Air" on Maui. That
was huge, because all my friends and sponsors were here on Maui, and it was just such a great moment. I also loved the NEA Awards,
when I was voted best female kiteboarder in 2001. That was cool, because it was this HUGE party in Munich, Germany, and the whole
night was so surreal. Limos, red carpet, huge stage, a big video with footage of every nominated athlete in all kinds of sports--kiteboarding,
surfing, BMX, skateboarding, etc.
There are just so many moments to be proud of and happy about. Life is good.
WD: You were originally a windsurfer. Why did you switch and do you windsurf much any more?
I was a windsurfer originally. I was mostly racing and had moved to Maui to get better at wave sailing, because I saw that the
racing scene, especially for women, was going downhill. This was before Formula Windsurf Racing made a comeback. Anyway, Chris
got me into kiteboarding and I just became SO addicted to kiteboarding that I never went back to windsurfing. August 1999 was the
last time I windsurfed, and I hate to say it but I don't miss it at all. I kept my windsurfing gear for a little while, and slowly
sold it all off. I just can't imagine going back to it after feeling the sensation of kiteboarding.
WD: What's it like to find yourself 30 feet in the air, strapped to a board and being pulled
by a kite?
If you have ever bungee jumped, it's a lot like that sensation, only it lasts for a lot longer. If you can imagine flying...that
would be another way to describe it. To me, kiteboarding is like listening to pretty hard music (because everything happens so fast--the wind,
the waves or the chop, the board speed, etc.)...but as soon as you launch into your jump, everything goes quiet. Time is suspended for a brief
moment, and you just feel weightless. It's the closest thing to flying for me and it's just so amazingly cool.
WD: What type of board and kite are currently using?
I ride stock four-line Cabrinha kites. In the 2003 line, they are the Cabrinha Black Tip kites, and in the 2004 series, they will be called
the BT Nitro kites.
I ride Cabrinha twin tip boards with straps--the Lab Rat and the Icon. I recently changed from wakeboard bindings to the twin tips, and
I am now really getting used to them.
All of my Cabrinha gear rules! I couldn't be happier.
WD: How is kiteboarding different for women than men? Do women have to focus on different things when learning?
I think this sport is different for women, because we have to rely on our other strengths rather than depending on sheer strength to kiteboard.
However, I think that because we can't muscle the heck out of the kite, and we don't try to overpower Mother Nature and the wind, we often
kiteboard with more finesse. We know we can't win against Mother Nature, so we work with her. Furthermore, I think women are often more
safety minded. Not always, but many times our cautiousness is a really good thing in a sport that can be dangerous if not done carefully
Since there are generally more men than women at the kiteboarding beaches, I think women have to take the information out there (whether it's
what kite size to ride, or what gear works best, etc.) and put it into terms that work for themselves. Generally we don't take the same size
kites on the water as men, because not only we don't weigh as much, but we aren't generally as strong, so we just need to keep that in mind
when we go on the water.
These are simple things though, so I don't really think they are anything that completely changes the sport for women. For a lot of us,
though, we are much more motivated by seeing a woman perform cool kiteboarding moves. Often with the kiteboarding beaches dominated by
men, we have to look to videos, or travel to find other women kiteboarders to push the limits of women's kiteboarding.