Interview with Christine Sleichter
Christine Sleichter is one of the top 10 Finalists in our “Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer 2011” competition!
We caught up with Christine recently, and this is what she had to say…
Christine, tell us a little bit about yourself or your story.
I am the happily married, mother of a 2-year-old. I have a degree in physical therapy and have been a therapist 12 years. I started getting into the kiting scene in 2004. At first I was a spectator, then I took a few lessons and was hooked and kiting in 2005. I am pretty domesticated, living the “American Dream,” but my goal in life is to maintain a healthy balance of family, work, passions, learning from my mistakes and not taking a single moment of it for granted.
Where are you from?
Boston, Massachusetts. I moved away when I was two and was raised as an Air force military brat moving all over the USA and Germany.
Where do live and kitesurf now and what brought you there?
I live in Southwest Florida. My favourite spot is East Beach in Ft. Desoto. After I got married in 2008, we moved there from Miami to be closer to my parents. We now have a 2-year-old named Logan. We take him with us to the beach when we want to kite and switch off with each other during our sessions.
How often do you kite?
Before I had Logan, if it was blowin’, I was going! Now, it is more me trying to get in at least a session. The fever/passion never dies after having a child, but my priorities have shifted now. So now, for me, kiting is my “BALANCE MOMMY OUT” time. A chance to reconnect with nature and clear my head.
Favourite kitesurfing spots?
My top three picks: Cumbuco, Brazil; Florida Keys; and Bahia Salina’s, Costa Rica. My favourite local spot would have to be East Beach in Ft. Desoto, Florida.
Do you have any sponsors? Who are they?
I have always flown GK kites/Litewave boards and was a team rider for them up until I had my little boy Logan two years ago. I haven’t been as competitive since then. My priorities shifted quite a bit after that.
Apart from kiting, what are your other Interests?Every chance I get, I organize a “Gals Pal Day on the Water,” depending on the season. I usually organize them through Facebook and try to encourage girls to get out on the water. We may plan a day out kiting or, if there isn’t enough wind, it’s a day at the cable park or out at stand up paddle boarding. Another passion of mine is wakeboarding/riding cable. It keeps me on the water, and I love hittin’ up the rails, pushing myself to try new stuff/tricks, as much as my body can take! Ha ha. I have met quite a few gals at the cable parks who show an interest in learning to kite. It’s awesome to keep girls in motion and trying new sports.
How did you learn to kitesurf, who taught you and when did you start?
I took a few lessons back in 2005 from Neil Hutchinson and Hamish McDonald. Then I pretty much attached myself to my gal pal Irma’s hip. I learned a lot from her. She gave me the confidence to ride anywhere and in different spots in some pretty gnarly conditions.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your kite career and how did you overcome it?
I suffered a really bad kiting injury this year. I managed to get a shell lodged into my knee after crashing doing a trick. My knee became septic/infected, and I had to have surgery to remove the shell fragment. I was homebound on IV antibiotics for five weeks straight. This was hard for me and my whole family. How was I going to care for my 2-year-old when I was all laid up? I got through it with the help of the most amazing husband and family ever. Not to mention, my incredible gal pals came over often to help lift my spirits. I was able to work back up to riding again by wakeboarding at the cable, since it wasn’t windy. Eventually, when the winds did pick up, I was back out riding (just with a nice new scar on my knee).
What is your proudest achievement?I would have to say making my dreams become a reality. I feel blessed to have such a supportive family and genuine friends in my life. I love my work and treating my patients. It has always been a mission of mine to encourage and inspire people to improve their quality of life on a daily basis. I then come home to my awesome toddler Logan and incredible hubby Dustin, whom I share my kiting and cable passions with.
What is your preferred riding style?
I am not sure I have a specific riding style. I would have to say wakestyle is my favourite, being a big fan of the cable park. I am happiest in high winds, small kite, with a small board on flat water or waves.
What would you like to learn?
I have never tried a surfboard with a kite — that may be something I’d like to try soon.
Who influenced you to start kitesurfing? Is there anyone you really look up to?
Irma Harris is my long-time gal pal who got me into kiting and gave me the confidence to go kiting anywhere on my own. I admire all my kiting girlfriends. They all charge it and push themselves out there. My local gal pal Tiff Schrader has been a big inspiration to try new stuff. Every time I see her ride, I want to do what she is doing. We all look out for each other like an extended family.
Describe a time you inspired someone to start kitesurfing?
My childhood friend Kathy always loved the idea of kiting but just recently decided to go for it and get lessons. I have taken her to the cable parks a few times to get her board skills dialed in, and I donated one of my wakeboards to her for her to practice with. I am superexcited for her to learn and get on the water.
How has kitesurfing changed your life?
Kiteboarding has given me confidence. It has helped me reconnect with nature with a heightened respect for it. If I am ever having a bad day, just a 20-minute session can totally elevate my mood. It keeps me balanced with regards to mind, body and spirit. It’s just me in the elements of Mother Nature. Kiting has also opened up so many doors for me with regards to meeting new people, trying new sports and just thinking “outside the box” when it comes to attempting new things, not just in kiting but in everyday life challenges.
Besides kitesurfing, what are you most passionate about?
My son. I am a new mom and never knew the joys that motherhood would bring into my life. I hope as a mother to model strength, passion, authenticity, compassion and enough humour to fill in the cracks. Second would be my work. I feel my happiest when I am helping others work toward a better quality of life. Last, but not least, the cable park/wakeboarding will always be a passion of mine. I gotta get a pull in at least once a week!
What are you doing for Kitesurfing in your community or globally?
Currently, I am on the P.R. committee volunteering for the Tampa Bay’s Kite4Kids charity fundraiser, a fun-filled day of beach activities for water-sports enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. The event benefits All Children’s Hospital of St. Petersburg and will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Treasure Island Beach. This is Kite4Kids’ first annual beach event. It will feature kiteboarding, stand-up paddle-board clinics and demos, water races, raffles, a silent auction, food and music. It will hopefully reach out to many people who show an interest in trying out kiteboarding or stand-up paddle boarding while raising money/benefiting All Children’s Hospital at the same time.
How do you think winning the 2011 Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer will shape your life and the positive work you are doing now?
I have never been a big fan of “labels” or “titles,” and I don’t quite know what it means to be nominated as “Most influential Kitesurfer“. I feel honoured to even have been nominated but, in my opinion, every girl that shares this passion is a positive influence to someone out there. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, the passion and drive that you possess to get out there and charge it is an inspiration to so many. I do hope it will inspire more moms to get out there and try it and eliminate some stereotyping I have heard that it is too “dangerous” and extreme for a mother to partake in.
What do you think the future holds for kiteboarding / Kitesurfing?With all the changes in kites throughout the years, more women are getting into kiting, making their presence known on the water not only by using their finesse with smooth transitions but proving they can also perform high-powered tricks gaining an equal respect on the water as the men do. I also think there will be more kiteboarding families on the rise. Mom and dad kite, so why not get junior into it and start booking their family vacation all together at the next windy spot on their bucket list? A nice alternative to Disneyland!
What can we do to improve our sport?
Share your knowledge if you see someone in need. Get to know your own gear inside and out. Respect the locals and the park rules. Be friendly with other kiters. Leave your egos at home.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
Travel more! I really want to start exploring and visiting different kiting locations. We are hoping our son Logan takes an interest in kiting/wakeboarding and one day will be out there riding alongside us, sporting a grin from “ear to ear “just like mom and dad.
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