KiteSirens' Carolina Dickenson on Maui
It's always great to have extended Cabrinha family visiting our headquarters on Maui. KiteSiren and instructor Carolina Dickenson from Barbados just spent a couple of months on island to explore Maui's dynamic surf community. Time to catch up with Carolina and talk about her experiences.
Hey Carolina, thanks for visiting us on Maui! How was your trip?
Where should I begin?! It was beyond what I ever expected; truly AMAZING. Maui is the birth place of all water sports. Before you can think about it, the sport's pioneers are on the water already testing that product you haven’t even yet thought about. At first I was unsure about booking in the summer because winter is the season for swells on the north shore. But I had more than enough to keep me busy. I spent mornings hiking, and days on the water trying new gear and learning new skills. Since kiting is not allowed until 11am, some mornings I spent discovering waterfalls and trying to rock climb from ropes that I had way too much trust in! After that I hit the water and learnt to foil, picked up the Crosswing, and progressed my wave-riding skills on days that allowed for some wave fun. If you are looking for an active trip with lots of water time, and an opportunity to try new products in the industry, Maui is the place to be!
Did you get to try anything new and what were the highlights of your trip?
Maui IS the hotspot for water sports and made this my lifetime trip to date. I tried everything new that I could possibly fit into one day; I learnt to foil, and got hooked on the Cabrinha Crosswing! The highlights of my trip were downwinders on the Crosswing. I would set sail a few miles upwind and do really fun downwinders on the foil board and Crosswing. One evening I was way overpowered, and the water was quite rough. I didn’t realize until I got to the outside, and by this time it was too late to bail. Miraculously a lady on another foil wing appeared and happened to be on the same route. She paused along the way to give me tips and circled around like an angel! This reminded me why I dedicate myself to encouraging other women in the sport! It’s also an amazing feeling to be on the receiving end. Thank you Julie!
Not too long ago, you were working in banking until kiting stepped into your life. You are now running a kite school, founded a non-profit, and also manage the community KiteSirens. How did it all start?
It all started when I realized that at the end of most of my days I didn’t feel fulfilled with work that I spent hours doing. The phrase “kitesurfing changed my life!” is very overused, but really, it did! Soon after I learnt the sport, I quit my job in Offshore Banking, co-founded KiteSirens, and formed a non-profit initiative known as Sun Tribe. With Sun Tribe we developed a program tailored to girls in risk of social exclusion, where we offer them the opportunity to learn kitesurfing. Through this we use the sport as a tool to improve the girls’ self-confidence, and engage them in self-growth practices and techniques. To fund the project we then opened the kite school in Barbados, Kitesurf Intl. We partnered with Cabrinha, as a brand that we loved to use, and that listens to women’s voice in the industry. Through this partnership we then became the only distributor of Cabrinha in the region, and the only one in Barbados. That’s how it all blossomed. I merged my passion for the sport with what I see as my purpose of helping youth communities of girls to become self-confident women. And I do it working with a brand aligned with high quality and values.
What inspired you to create a community for women in the sport and what do you want to achieve?
To strengthen women’s voice is what inspired me to be a co-founder of KiteSirens, a community for women in the sport. My vision is for KiteSirens to be an avenue and a platform through which women can discover their needs, own them, and develop the skills to voice them. This applies to kiteboarding, and also transcends to their place within themselves, and as a nucleus of society.
The percentage of women to men in the sport is increasing, and as such our needs are being met more and more. This is a reflection of our current society. In kiteboarding we see it with female specific improvements in gear, for example the first Cabrinha Siren launched in 2013. The Siren was made with adjustments of the depower range of the Switchblade to make it more suited for women. It brought the depower range closer to the rider, which drastically improves the comfort of our riding. As women and as a society, we need to recognize the differences between men and women, accept them, and cater to them. KiteSirens is a vehicle through which women can share their experiences kitesurfing, and use them as tools for self-growth and empowerment. My ultimate goal is for KiteSirens to help women build the confidence to believe in their needs and to voice them. In this way, just like Cabrinha adjusted the Siren, our voice will continue to have a positive impact on how our society is built, and tend to the needs of men and women, as different and equal.
What are the conditions like in Barbados? What is your go to kite spot?
The conditions in Barbados are very stable and great for progression. We get trade winds, which blow smooth and consistently with ranges between 18-25 knots. The main kite spots are on the south east of the island, where wind is mostly side onshore with degrees of variations that turn it more onshore, cross shore, or side offshore. The waves on the main break, Silver Rock, are also lefts. It’s an outside reef break with deep water. So really, it’s a dream for wave-riding. My go-to kite spot is Surfer’s Point in Barbados. Kitesurf Intl is located on the inside of the bay, so it’s perfect for a quick work break. When there’s a swell, it’s an amazing wave spot!
What’s your go-to riding style and which gear do you use?
Before I tried the Cosswing my favourite style was strapless wave riding. But since I started with the wing I have grown a big interest in improving my foiling skills, and have become addicted to my progression with the Crosswing. I mainly go for setups suitable for strapless wave riding. For kitesurfing on waves my sidekick is the Drifter, favorite size being the 6m. I tend to go for the Trimlite control bar, mostly because I like the simplicity of the bar. I use a rope spreader bar so my go-to attachment is the Cabrinha rope slider, released in the 2020 collection. My board preference is the S:Quad 5’7".
What do you recommend to anyone who wants to start teaching?
Go for it, smartly! Pay attention to the destinations where you apply and to the school to which you apply. Either can make or break your experience as an instructor. Choose a location with conditions that you are used to, or where you will enjoy spending a lot of beach time. Teaching in a spot with high wind and choppy water, is very different to teaching in flat water and light wind. Also do your own homework on the schools that you apply to. You could be in paradise and working for a school that does not have business, or where the management or owners do not have your best interest at heart. Not having many lessons could be great if you wish to kite a lot, but if this is not a possibility under your arrangement it will be frustrating. Ask questions in your interview, and ensure that your wants are aligned with the school that you are looking at working with. Teaching kiteboarding involves your safety and that of others, so take it seriously. It’s also something that you truly enjoy, so pick somewhere to work where you think you will be happy, and pass on the stoke!
And what’s the main thing you tell your students when learning the sport?
Don’t pull on the bar and you’ll get the board! HA! No but seriously, you need patience to learn to kite. I remind all of my students of this so that they can enjoy the process more.
What’s next on your list?
I will be traveling between Barbados and Maui to promote a couple incentives. The main one being Sun Tribe and getting more local teenage girls involved in kiteboarding. I will also be launching the foil wing in Barbados! Stay tuned.
Thanks, Carolina and see you again soon on Maui!