Strzalko's racing for cancer

A local kiteboarder has entered a 100-mile race in America this weekend as preparation for a charity event of the same distance from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman at the end of the year. 

Amy Strzalko has entered Kiteboarding for Cancer’s intense 100-mile race in Hood River, Oregon, on Saturday. The annual event raises thousands for the charity Athletes for Cancer. 

The conditions will be incredibly tough, with winds gusting from between 15 and 35 knots, which can be extremely challenging. 

Added to that, 100 kiters will be racing, and huge swells and a strong current are expected. Although it would be “amazing” to place high up, Strzalko said, she is not expecting to since races are not what she usually competes in. 

“This is new to me,” she said. “I will be on a regular twin-tip board instead of a race board, which is a huge disadvantage. But it’s what I am used to so I am sticking with it.” 

She is doing this event merely to take part. She has wanted to get involved every year but the dates never seemed to work. 

“Helping to raise funds for this amazing cause and using it as a training session for my 100-mile kite challenge in December from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman seem like perfect reasons to jump in.” 

This event will at least give Strzalko an idea of just how difficult, physically and mentally, the Cayman attempt will be. 

The favorites to win the Hood River race are the Bolstad family, Carol, Tony and Grom. Carol usually takes first in the women’s division and Grom, her son, usually takes first in the men’s. The whole family rides for Best Kiteboarding. “They are an incredibly generous family who open their doors to me each year I visit Oregon,” Strzalko said. 

“I am rooting for them for sure but no way gonna beat them.” 

Strzalko rides for the Slingshots international team. Her last competition was in Stevenson, Oregon, where she came fourth at Bridge of The Gods, a freestyle event involving performing as many tricks as possible and landing them in 10 minutes. They are then marked on difficultly, showmanship and technicality. 

Strzalko’s schedule up until December is to train like never before. 

Saturday’s event will take six hours in relatively big swells, sometimes up to 6 feet, but in December the open ocean crossing may take around eight hours and have swells of up to 10 feet, and creatures lurking beneath. 

“So the key is to get my endurance levels up, get stronger and fitter, so my body can handle what it has coming to it. 

“The fear of sea creatures is something I will have to try my hardest to put to the back of my mind and just ride like the wind,” she said. 

Kiting for Cancer came about after discussions with fellow kiter friends who are also keen to take on the challenge. Strzalko has lost a few close people recently to cancer and also knows some people battling the disease. 

“It is a cause that so many of us can relate to and lies close to many hearts, so I wanted to do something that could give back and put my addiction to kiting to some use,” she said. Entrants will donate all money raised to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. 

“Kiting is a huge part of my life and I know that it’s the same for others too, so what a great way to come together and work as a team to complete a testing challenge to help families in Cayman,” said Strzalko, who is working with a team to make this event possible. 

“I think, at most, there will be around 12 kiters in total, each having financial targets to hit. 

“We will also soon be approaching companies to offer either cash donations or some form of support to help make the event possible.” 

Some riders will do the full distance and others will be in relay teams, covering roughly 33 miles each. They don’t want too many kiters on the water at one time, for safety reasons. 

“This is not like a regular kite session. Inside the reef, it’s going to be dangerous and kiters will be taking part off their own backs,” said the 35-year-old Englishwoman. “The winds will be between 18 and 25 knots and have very big swells, so we need to make sure we can keep an eye on everyone out there and stick together. 

“We will need to ensure we work together as a team and build up a confidence in each other on and off the water. Training sessions leading up to it will be key.” 

This will be the biggest physical and mental challenge she will have ever done, and the same is true for many of the others. 

“I am terrified actually, but it’s one day of being terrified and challenged,” Strzalko said. “I can do that; if we can raise a ton of cash, it will all be worth it in the end.” 

For the race on Saturday, her initial target was $500. Strzalko was astonished and overwhelmed at the local support because in just one week, by Wednesday, she had received $1,410. She now hopes to reach $2,000. 

“Big thanks to everyone who has supported me on this challenge,” she said. 

To contact Amy Strzalko, email: [email protected]

Strzalko enjoys freestyle kiteboarding more than racing.


Amy Strzalko is raising money for cancer charities. – PHOTO: CHRISTIAN BLACK