Kitesurfing has a growing number of competitors in Cayman and local professional Amy Strzalko competes in Oregon at the Bridge of The Gods event in Hood River on Saturday.
“This is such a fantastic event that really helps raise awareness of the sport and support some amazing charities,” said Strzalko.
“Hood is my all-time favorite kite spot. With the stunning scenery and really cool vibe this is a place all kiters should visit.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever been. Even if there is no wind there are so many other activities to do to keep you busy.”
Strzalko is competing with the pros against a strong female line up, including some of the best in the industry, and she said she is just happy to ride with them.
“Every event enables me to promote the sport and that’s what I love to do,” she said.
“Everyone should give kiting a try, it really is a life changing discipline. Being rather addictive and an incredibly friendly sport, why wouldn’t you give it a try?”
Strzalko said it has changed her life, although she can sometimes become a little obsessed.
No predictions on how she will do, although, of course, nothing but her best will be given. “As long as I have fun and help get more people involved, then I will have a smile on my face.”
A pro for four years, Strzalko has only been contracted with kitesurfing company Slingshot’s international team for a year so she is waiting to be world ranked.
“I am very happy with my relationship with Slingshot, they are an amazing company to work for and have a really innovative team of people.
“If I do ever become ranked, then obviously that would be the icing on this very yummy cake.”
Surprisingly, the 34-year-old Englishwoman was never a fan of the ocean so it was through very tough persuasion that a friend enticed her to take her first kitesurfing lesson.
Despite nervously watching out for sharks and other sea creatures, Strzalko decided to get over her irrational fear and go with the immediate addiction to the sport. “After a month, I was hooked. Since then, I have never looked back.”
She is a full-time photographer and loves that too. “I feel very lucky that I get to combine my work with my hobby.”
She specializes in portraits, pets, weddings and all types of corporate photography.
“Cayman is such a fantastic place for this field of work. I am very lucky that the beautiful backdrop of Seven Mile Beach is often my office.
“I would love to say I am a full-time kite surfer but there is not much of a living in kitesurfing unless you are the best in the world, which I am not.
“So I am very happy to settle for a really great contract with one of the best kite companies on the island that enables me to travel and ride the best gear on the market.”
Jhon Mora, the world class kite surfer who runs a school here, taught Strzalko to kite. She found him to be extremely patient as well as a supremely talented kiter and “the best to learn from here in Cayman.”
She added, “Jhon has given me advice over the years and tips that always help me push myself even further. So if you want to get into it, he is your man.”
So in love with kiting is she that Strzalko claims she will one day be the “oldest granny kitesurfer.”
Ambitions of being a champ are still a dream at the moment. “I would love to win a competition but I also have to be realistic; I am competing against girls up to 10 years younger and although I like to think I’m a ninja, I have to accept I am not.”
Strzalko made a point of thanking the Cayman-based water sportswear company Waterman for being her first sponsor.
She said she would love to get selected for the Triple-S Invitational in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in June next year – a huge event that attracts some of the world’s best kiters. That’s her next goal.
Since leaving the rainy city of Manchester, she has settled here smoothly. “I love my home town, however, Cayman is most definitely a place I don’t want to leave any time soon.”
Strzalko has a sporty background, competing at different levels for her home town in swimming, trampoline and cross country. “I love the buzz that competition gives me. It’s great to have something that pushes you to your physical limits and constantly drives you to progress.”
She added that kitesurfing is an amazing sport worth a try. “It’s like Marmite – you either love it or hate it, but 99 percent people love it and get hooked. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.”