So here we go….My name is Jenny and I am crazy about this sport. After nearly 8 years of watching from the beach, following Christophe’s developments and achievements, I was being faced with constant “NO! You can't kite, you are disabled”, “It is too dangerous”, “I can't help you”, or simply just ignoring me. I finally found a group of what I now call friends in Northern Ireland who made my dream possible and linked me to the GKF and to them I am forever grateful.
I have been into sport and the outdoors all my life. I had a sporting accident when I was young and was paralysed from the neck down. After two and a half years of rehabilitation I had my breathing and hands back! I continued with the standard route of wheelchair court sports and I competed to a high level due to my love of sport but I always had one eye on the ocean and outdoors. I wanted to be fit, I wanted to be active with friends- both walking and not; I didn’t want to follow the standard route and I wanted to be outside!
At University I studied Sports Science and Biomechanics. When I had free time I would kayak, absail, surf, and water-ski with friends. I have spent time travelling around the world both to compete and work as a strength and conditioning coach. In any country where there was water, I would scuba dive or surf and fall in love with the ocean all over again. I would just like to point out I learned the hard way of how to adapt these sports for me, I didn’t know anyone else. There ended up being some interesting adaptions to a surfboard, to name a few! In this case it involved half a football and gym mats!
I first watched kitesurfing in Sydney, Australia. I watched how they jumped and moved with such grace – from then I was hooked or actually I wanted to be unhooked ;-)
Once I returned to Europe I spent a few years searching for someone to teach me. I couldn’t find anyone and for the first time in my life I felt different, I felt disabled, because this sport was new and not open to everyone…
That all changed after years of research, youtube and emails….. and an instructor who told me I was crazy but he would teach me because he knew the passion within me was strong. The goal was to be a totally independent safe kitesurfer, just like any one else. It began with a blog on a forum which turned into an amazing adventure. It involved a group of friends on a beach in the middle of winter when its snowing and any sane person would be curled up on a sofa watching TV. But not us! They spent the winter teaching me to set up lines, launch, land, loop, inflate my kites, fly from my chair, adapt a buggy and after all the land work was done we moved to the water. ION supported me with a Jewel 5.5 semidry DL wetsuit to make those cold winter months a little warmer!
During all this time I followed Christophe's developments, spoke with him and others, crossed ideas and eventually had a wakestyle seat and board. I was then put in contact with Sandrine from GKF and was stoked to hear there was a campaign to get others like myself on the water; and so the trip to the first Cata-Kite Clinic for handicapped people arrived. I was a little STOKED!
Roll on a few months and I am sitting on a plane on route to Greece, with just a name, some emails and an amazing sense of excitement! The Global Kite Foundation made it possible for me to learn new skills around others who are paralysed, and they understood the extra needs we have being paralysed in this sport. I finally met Christophe and I got a firm grip on knowing that my dream is possible: to not only take part in kitesurfing but develop this sport for others (both abled and disabled). I couldn’t have found the Foundation at a better time. To be part of the first clinic of its kind is an experience I will never forget.
Jenny gets ready to fly on the Cata-Kite with Christophe and Stefan.
I want to take this sport as far as I can: I want to freestyle, I want to trick, but most of all I want to look back to the beach and see my chair sitting there and feel the freedom…
My main dream is to teach kitesurfing and watersports. I want to inspire other females to be strong and believe in what they have. I want other people with paralysis to know that yes one part of your life has changed but there’s now another part that will put your pieces back together physically and emotionally.
For me Catakite, Kite surfing and Kite buggying give me my identity. It makes me me. It puts the final piece in my jigsaw and allows me to express myself physically, using the elements that nature provides us with that I cannot do on 4 wheels (buggy wheels excluded!). What motivates me is knowing everyday how lucky I am.
Jenny is practing kiteloops on an Ozone trainer kite.
Jenny is testing the new seat that will allow her to kite independently.
Jenny and Christophe work out a brain-teaser during a post-training barbecue.