Ambitious surfer Anke Brandt takes us through her kite surfing adventure and the making of her Guinness World Record in Bahrain.
Anke Brandt is walking on air. Last month, the intrepid German circled the Bahrain coast on a kite board for over 11 hours, setting a world record for women’s endurance. More than personal glory, the 30-year-old was motivated by the thought of raising money for a cause close to her heart. Anke speaks to us about her 250km expedition and her battle with gusty winds, strong currents and fatigue.
Woman This Month (WTM): Congratulations! How do you feel after winning this record?
Anke Brandt (AB): It’s hard to put it in words. It is very special, but it’s actually more about the journey than the actual record. This project cost a lot of time, money and dedication. Having such a great team behind me at all times was the key component that made it possible. In the end, it was an amazing team exercise.
WTM: What brought you to kite surfing?
AB: with my dad being a sailor, I was introduced to sailing at an early age. I was lucky to grow up by a lake in Berlin, where we had a sailboat. I was in a sailing club, where I learned windsurfing. When I saw kite surfing for the first time, I knew that would be something I’d like to try.
WTM: How long was this goal on your mind and what was the motivation behind it?
AB: The idea to kite surf around Bahrain was born last summer. I didn’t plan to break a record when I started to think about it initially. I wanted to challenge myself and do something different while also doing something I loved.
I’ve always wanted to do some kind of charity event for Wings for Life, an organisation that works towards the goal of making spinal cord injury curable. This was a great opportunity.
The initial plan was to go around the island in three days, but during preparation and planning I felt it was possible to do the trip in a day. Then, I searched for the longest distance that had been kite surfed before and realised that I could break this record!
WTM: What sort of preparation and training did you take on?
AB: I prepared in the three months leading up to the attempt. I’ve competed in long distance races before, so I was quite fit. I concentrated on general endurance and particular muscle groups. Then I experimented with food plans as it’s very important to fuel your body with the right food. This is vital not only for endurance, but also for the mind. If you feel good and eat well, you can cope with a lot more mentally, which is significant when you’re spending 12 hours alone on the water.
WTM: Tell us about the initial reactions from friends and family.
AB: Most thought it was a nice idea and encouraged me that it was possible. I’m not sure, however, how many actually believed I’d do it (laughs). But they backed me the whole time, which was great!
WTM: What challenges did you face on D-day?
AB: The coral reefs, changing winds, the Saudi Causeway and the debris in the water were obstacles we’d expected to face on the day. We were caught by surprise when the winds picked up so much that we’d to change to a much smaller kite.
At one point, I had a leak in the kite and the team had to pump it up in the middle of the ocean, which was tricky. Also, wind wasn’t blowing from the usual north-west direction, but very much straight from the north. This combined with very strong tidal currents made the progress slow and tiring. This was the main reason we couldn’t go all the way around Bahrain as planned.
WTM: What was it like passing under the Saudi Causeway?
AB: Going under the causeway was risky. I had to approach at the right angle in order to fit in between the two pillars with my 27m lines. It gets very windy on the other side because of the wind shadow that the bridge builds. That made it hard to control the kite. All in all, it was quite nerve-racking and exciting (laughs).
WTM: Were there any moments when you wanted to give up?
AB: Not really. I was frustrated by the slow progress and feared I wouldn’t manage to go all the way around. That was combined with the worry that my GPS tracker wouldn’t record properly or run out of battery as I couldn’t see it. So I feared I had no proof whatsoever about the distance travelled. That was a bit demotivating, but I managed to keep my spirits up. When the boys in the boat told me just before I stopped that I had made it, I knew it was worth it!
WTM: How much have you raised so far with this event?
AB: I managed to raise almost USD2,000, which is absolutely amazing! This was achieved through T-shirt sales, donations, a barbeque organised on the day as well as online donations at Justgiving.com/kitebeyond. It’s still open as I set myself a goal of USD2,500 since it was a 250km challenge.
I wanted to support Wings for Life as I believe they work towards a very important goal of facilitating the development of technologies designed to reduce the risk and promote the cure of spinal injury.
WTM: What is your ultimate dream?
AB: To be part of the Olympic Games if kite surfing is accepted as an Olympic discipline.