Johanna Cecilia – Passionate About Kitesurfing
The beautiful and amazing, Johanna Cecilia, just recently decided to put her corporate career on hold to pursue her new found passion for kiteboarding and is now training to qualify for The World Kiteboarding League. We caught up with the Swedish lifestyle nomad and how she can inspire others to listen to their heart, and also let it lead the way.
JOHANNA CECILIA, PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in South of Sweden surrounded by only deep forest and dirt roads. My parents ran a horse business with riding school, breeding and training of youngsters. I could more or less ride before I could walk and my best friend was my two year younger sister and our horses. Weeks where dedicated to training of the horses and school work. Weekends were spent in our horse truck on the road with the whole family travelling to different competitions and shows around the Nordic countries. Our parents gave us everything and left little for themselves. I was 10 years old when I competed in my first Swedish Championship in show jumping. I learned about respect, care for other living creatures, how to commit and set goals and to plan the execution and training necessary to reach those goals. And most important of them all – never giving up.
When I approach my twenties the mutual family decision was to try something new in life thus we sold the farm and shortly thereafter I moved to big city life in London. I got a job as a management consultant in a London-based boutique healthcare consultancy. For the coming 2 years I worked on projects with the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies in the world and had a great time. My dream at this point was to become a medical doctor but I struggled to get accepted to medical school. So eventually I figured the route of combining business and healthcare was a better alternative. At this point I had only done a pre-medical year at university so I moved back to Scandinavia and finished a 3 year Bachelor in International Business at Copenhagen Business School. During my studies I was headhunted to one of the Big 4 accounting firms where I worked for one year as a management consultant in their Advisory department focusing more on the financial sector.
When I fell in love with kitesurfing I decided to resign from my job, placed my belongings in a storage, left my apartment in Copenhagen and bought a one-way ticket to Panama in end of February 2016. Since then I have more or less lived in my kite bag and been to places like Cuba, USA, Canada, Italy, Spain and this fall I will go back to NYC and Florida and then work my way down to Dominican Republic and Brazil.
Believe it or not – I loved my previous job! And I truly strive in a competitive environment. However I plan on living a very long life so there is a time for everything and I can do this job even better in the future. But right now I prioritise everything that falls under ‘exploring’ above all and training to become the best female kitesurfer in the world.
WHEN DID YOU TAKE UP KITE SURFING AND HOW HAS IT BECOME PART OF YOUR LIFE?
It is quite funny but I was not even able to get up on the board 6 months ago (!!) and today I do freestyle tricks that usually take people a couple of years to even attempt. So I think it is pretty obvious that I’m addicted to my kite! The amount of different feelings kitesurfing gives me is incredible; you get the adrenaline, the calm, the fear, the respect, the rush and the meditation in one go. I get properly love sick if I’m without it for a few days.
The first time I heard about kitesurfing was about about 2 years ago when I saw a youtube video of someone kitesurfing and it looked so cool!! I started googling and found out that Boracay, an island in the Philippines, was apparently the place to be for this. So I booked a 3 week vacation to go there thinking I would kitesurf every day - but no. I had maximum bad luck because this was the time of the typhoon and it was blowing something like 40 knots, which is not ideal for beginners. On top of that I was hospitalized in Tokyo for a few days for a serious stomach infection before coming to Boracay. Hence the first week in Boracay was full focus on recovery. All in all I had 2x2 hours of kitesurfing lessons out of the 3 weeks intended. I got back home and didn’t see a kite for another year.
My second attempt was in Sweden when I tried a different tactic and decided to buy my own kite kit. My brand new board, kite and bar was still in its plastic wrapping 6 months later. This was a lot due to my long work hours but also because I didn’t have any kitesurf-friends and I didn’t feel comfortable rocking up on a beach and be a liability to people I didn’t know.
So I got a little bit angry with myself and started googling new kitesurfing holidays over Christmas/New Year’s Eve. Found one with The Rider Experience in Panama and went for it! I swallowed half of the Caribbean Sea and was rescued by the safety boat every time – but LOVED IT! The Rider Experience team was very fascinated by my enthusiasm and they offered me to stay with them for the rest of the season in Panama. I flew home to Copenhagen on Monday, asked for three months leave on Tuesday afternoon that was declined so I resigned the same day. After one month notice period I was on my way back to Panama.
WHAT´S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO KITE SURF?
Right now it is still Panama. Constant wind 15-25knots, not so crowded, warm water, long downwinders, lagoons, sand banks, ship wrecks and cool people. But after saying this; I have not been to Brazil yet and I’m expecting this location to land very high up on my list.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST ABOUT KITE SURFING?
In kitesurfing there are so many constant elements of uncertainty. You have all these natural forces that you cannot control; you just have to obey to them in a crazy way. I think what’s inspiring is when you learn how to read and feel them and the constant work of finding that alignment. It’s so rewarding.
I think this feeling is something I have been missing since I stopped show jumping. A kite in the wind or a horse with its own feelings; both have equilibriums that can change in a split second.
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU?
I find it very provocative (in a positive sense) when someone tells me that there is something I cannot do because then I promise you it will happen one way or the other. I’m very stubborn and not scared of failing until I make it. I prefer going in hard and failing than playing it safe.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE BIGGEST SMILE?
There are SO many things that make me smile! I think my friends would tell you that I remind them of the ‘Miss Sunshine’ character because I smile, laugh and hug more and bigger than most people and sometimes annoyingly so. I strongly believe that you can change the outcome of another person’s day by giving them an unexpected smile or a hug. Quite often I challenge myself in giving strangers a smile when crossing paths on the streets – it’s so funny to see how they react because it’s so difficult to stay neutral when someone give you a smile.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY IN GOOD SHAPE?
There are no shortcuts to a good shape (I’m sorry to everyone on diets out there). I work hard to stay in shape and generally I do some sort of workout every day. I try to mix different disciplines in my training program to avoid overexertion and injuries. It also varies a little bit depending on my current location and what I have access to at the time, and if I can kite then that is what I priorities over other training forms. I run (max 7k), boxing, crossfit exercises and yoga-stretching. I also go to my physiotherapist on a regular basis.
WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE?
I started kitesurfing six months ago and my very ambitious goal is to compete in the World Kiteboarding League next year. Aim for the stars and land on the moon I guess.
SUM UP YOUR LIFE IN 5 WORDS.
Sandy; Adventurous; Unpredictable; Loving; Warm
ANY WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO REALIZE THEIR DREAM, IN THE SAME WAY YOU HAVE DONE.
No matter what your goals are in your work or personal life I strongly believe in the power of a sponsor. A sponsor is a person that you look up to and can work as a mentor or role model. Someone how is further and more experienced in whatever it is that you wish to achieve that can help you avoid detours. It is not easy to start from the beginning, especially if you don’t have access to a map. This person can be a friend or a stranger – just don’t be afraid to ask for it! The worst thing that can happen is that you get a ‘no’. Either way there is nothing to fear because I promise you the person you ask will only be flattered and happy no matter the actual outcome. And in my experience if you connect with another woman this bond will be even stronger and more effective.
For example, I can thank much of my fast kite advancement to the people I have been surrounded by the last months. Especially my very good friend Lisa that I met in Panama that I look up to and feel so comfortable with. We were always kiting super close to each other on long downwinders in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, when it was 30+knots, or when we were the only people out on the water during full moon. She was always pushing me to try new things and I was never scared as long as she was around because strangely I always had the feeling that she would sort things out if shit hit the fan.
Inspire each other!
TRIP OF A LIFETIME! Enjoy this video from her 5,000km adventure in a 4WD around Western Australia in early 2018.... always with her swimwear from Beachcuties Boutique in her bag of course!