Big wave kitesurfing


Big wave surfing has been around for more than half a century. Big wave kitesurfing, however, is less established. Yet Appletree team rider Evelien has devoted her heart to big wave kite surfing. Being part of this highly specialised niche is not something to be taken lightly. Follow Evelien’s journey of learning how to grow as a big wave kitesurfer. As this is not something that happens overnight, she will report regularly. But first, let’s get to know her a little better!

“Kiting big waves is when I feel most present in the moment. You can only focus on the waves. It’s a way to push my limits and grow as a person”

Hi Evelien! You’ve been part of the Appletree team for several years, but for anyone who doesn’t know you yet, tell us about yourself. When did you start kitesurfing and why? Where does your love for the ocean come from?

Hi, I’m Evelien a Belgian girl with a big passion for waves and the ocean in general. The love for the ocean was brought to me by my father who always was (and still is) an avid sailor. As we were living in Mechelen, a more inland city, we would drive almost every weekend to the seaside. So my weekends were mainly filled with sailing, fishing, swimming,… 

I only started kitesurfing 10 years ago. In the beginning kitesurfing seemed like a good hobby for the days when it was too windy to go sailing. But kitesurfing became quite quickly my main sport. 

Kitesurfing did feel more like an expression of myself. I like taking on adventures, becoming a better person of myself, learning new things, pursuing a passion and pushing my limits. Kitesurfing waves just made me do all these things while being in connection with nature. 

What drives you when you are not on the water?

As I’m an energetic person, I like to move a lot when I’m not on the water as well. Next to specific training for kitesurfing, I’m quite into climbing, paragliding and freediving at the moment. But I also really enjoy good music, cooking and reading books.

Next to kitesurfing, I’m having a full time job as a climate expert. This translates my optimistic and idealistic side, as I want to contribute to preserving the beauty of the planet for the next generations and making it a better place to live. 

What drives you to ride bigger and bigger waves? Is there a specific moment when you decided to kitesurf big waves or did it gradually grow?

Even before I was kiting or surfing, I had this strange attraction to big waves. I also love storms. When I started kitesurfing, I did watch a live stream of the KSP 2012 in Mauritius. One Eye was on fire. From that moment on I knew I wanted to kitesurf waves on the world tour as well.

As I progressed kiting waves, I always wanted to kite bigger waves. But it was my knee injury in 2018 and 2019 that was a real turning point. Before I was also thinking about starting to compete in kite foiling. My injury forced me to stop kitesurfing for one year. The thing I did miss the most was kiting big waves. That’s also the point were I made the decision to focus completely on kiting big waves. 

Kiting big waves is when I feel the most present in the moment. You can only focus on the waves. It’s a way to push my limits and grow as a person. I’m still wondering myself how far I can push my limits. 

How do you prepare for kitesurfing big waves?

Kitesurfing big waves is a process for me. A process that I am enjoying a lot. Even if sometimes it can be frustrating e.g. when the right conditions don’t arise or when you miss a good swell. A big working point has been to accept it, relax and stay focused at the same time. A new swell will come for sure.

For the moment, I’m working with a small group of people mainly consisting of my physiotherapist and my sports psychologist. As my big waves journey continues some people will start to play a major role (e.g. safety team, photographer,..) and the team will certainly grow a bit.

I also try to work with experienced riders and people who have a lot of local knowledge of the spots I want to surf. 

Everyone can probably imagine that you have to be physically strong enough to handle the power of a big wave. But how do you prepare yourself mentally for such an immense force of nature? Do you ever have doubts or are you ever afraid?

Having doubts and being afraid is certainly part of the game. The day that I am not feeling nervous or a bit afraid anymore, I should probably go do something else. The nerves keep me focused and prevent me from taking reckless decisions. 

For me, the mental preparation consists of different parts. First of all, I like to analyze the risk. This helps me to define working points and minimize the risk. It gives me the confidence I need to go on the water.

I also like to use visualization. After studying the wave for a long time, I try to imagine myself making the decision which wave to take and how I want to ride the wave. The visualization also helps me to feel the same emotions as I would on a wave. I try to find a way to handle the fear so that I can use this in real big waves afterwards.

In the past, I had some bad crashes causing me some injuries. Together with my sports psychologists I worked on processing these crashes. The crashes have become learning points and won’t hinder my wave riding anymore. 

You have set yourself the goal of riding Nazaré. Why did you choose this spot? The spot is not known for its predictability. Every set comes into a different spot. And the waves don’t always break the same way either. 

Nazaré is one of the big waves I want to ride. Last year I did a jetski and tow-in course in Nazaré and I fell in love with the place. 

The wave is very demanding. It makes you realize the power of nature. When looking at the wave I feel humble and very small. But the beauty is that you can learn about the forces and experience them while riding waves. I will need to put in a lot of time before actually being able to ride the wave on a bigger day. 

This year, I also realized that the conditions for kiting Nazaré do not happen that often. The wind should be strong enough and coming from a certain direction. This makes it even more of a challenge. 

I see it as a long term goal, a learning process and a way to push and define my limits. I want to get to know the wave during smaller days and build up slowly.

The boundaries of what is considered surfable are still being pushed. Is there a limit to pushing those boundaries as far as you are concerned?

The only limits that I want to push are my own. I want my own limits to define the size of the biggest waves I will ride. 

In that way I will be as happy when I did ride an 8m wave or a 15m wave. I want to be more in love with the process of riding big waves than with the size of the biggest wave I have ridden. 

Thank you for your time, Evelien! We will continue to follow you on your journey of kite surfing big waves. For those who also like to follow her journey, join our newsletter!