Q&A with Hagit Oz
Jewish + Female = Athlete : Portraits of Strength from Around the World
Questions & Answers*
What does your training schedule look like now?
I haven’t had a sponsor since 2002, so I keep kitesurfing for my hobby, but I look for a big company to take me and help me to keep doing this all over the world. For now I train in Israel and try to keep my level. First of all, my goal is to have fun. It’s not an Olympic sport, so it’s not easy to get sponsorship. It’s a new sport that has only been around for five or eight years. I am the first woman in Israel to learn the sport. I was a windsurfer all my life, gymnastics and dance and a lot of sports. I love the sea. It’s my feeling, my breathing. When I look at the sea I can cry, it’s so amazing. Everytime, I see something else. To do sport on the water it is different every time. It makes it interesting.
How did you get your start in kitesurfing?
When kiteboarding came to Israel, I saw the video, and it was amazing. It made me want to do it – push the limit, do all I want to do, make my dream come true and keep doing it in competition. It’s extreme, for boys, but it’s not like that. It takes some courage. You need a lot of power. It’s a kite, and you have a harness. It’s like dancing, and girls are better than boys in coordination. It looks very good, nice in the pictures.
When I started kitesurfing, it was one girl in Israel with the boys. Just now it’s starting to grow more. Forty girls now. In a couple of years, it’s going to be amazing.
Can you tell us more about kitesurfing?
It’s like a show on the beach. Very popular for advertisements. You can see the kite from afar. Advertise on the kite. It’s not like an airplane; there’s no engine. The kite depends on the wind, so you make the board and the kite do what you want. It’s not like an agent; there’s no boat or jetski. It’s just you and the kite and the wind. An amazing thing. Natural. No rules, for now, but you need to be careful because it’s over 30 meters of length. Landing on the beach can be dangerous for the people on the beach. You do jumps, high jumps, small jumps, waves, surf on the waves, whatever you want to do.
How do people learn to kitesurf? What are the rules?
Videocassette, Internet, you can learn it from the champions. What’s important in competition is your style, variety, technique, jump height and what you are doing there. The landing is most important. There are no points. But it changes all the time. Each competition.
In 2002 you held the record for longest hang time. For how long were you in the air?
When did your family come to Israel from Iraq?
In 1951, when my father was little. My grandmother and grandfather are from Iraq. My mother was born here in Israel. My grandfather was a manager of a train in Baghdad.
What are some of your creative pursuits? It sounds like your family is creative as well.
On the sand I play guitar after kitesurfing. It’s part of the culture. My mother has a lot of people who sing together too. She sings and is a yoga teacher. I do yoga too. I have a sister who’s a lawyer and a brother who’s a trainer.
Now, for a living, I’m a personal trainer. My brother is a guitar teacher too, a painter. My father was doing art metal. I worked with him one year, windows and doors, like a man. Things that boys do I enjoy doing. I have a very nice family.
How does it feel to have opened the door for other women kitesurfers?
It feels very good, but I want more girls to do it. It’s an amazing sport. I get a present for all my life. I want all the girls to feel like me, to feel the fun of the sport. It’s a present. This life, crazy life, you live it and you don’t look around. When you open your eyes, you can find something else to do with your life. It’s fun. To learn new things.
I think if all the people around the world would kitesurf, there would be no war. I’m sure about it. You can enjoy your life and don’t feel pressure, because the water makes you feel comfortable. You push your limits. I can’t find anything else that makes you feel like this.
Who are your role models?
Julien Sudrat and Mark Shinn. But there are a lot of kiteboarders who are very good, including smaller kids now.
What has been your biggest challenge and your biggest reward?
It’s an extreme sport so all the time there are challenges. Every time you break your limits. Mine and others, girls or boys, human beings have their limits. You need to know what yours are and every time you learn something else. You’re told you can’t do it. Then you dream about it and think about it, you want to do it. And then you persist and this is the sport. Something you think you’ll never do. Wow, how can I do it? It’s scary, dangerous, looks like I can’t do it. But if we believe in ourselves …you feel amazing. Very satisfied. You are the one who sets the limits in the air and your mind and do it. To advance it takes innovation and invention.
Any advice for girls just starting out in kitesurfing?
To do a course, in school, to learn it slowly. To listen and never give up. Each step is not easy. But you’ll feel like a queen if you do it. In your hands, you kitesurf. The beginning, 16 hours, this is the course. Then you can be alone, with other guys from the beach. Just try the sport. Need to explore. Have motivation to learn it and persistence to keep at it. Don’t let the men influence your decisions. They’re strong, but the girls can be better than the boys in this sport. She needs to know it and I will tell her. Be sure about it. Have confidence.
Where do you get your confidence from?
I think I was born with it! Parents. They give you the assistance. Mine pushed me to do things that I love. To go with my dream.
*All interviews were conducted by Jodi Werner Greenwald, the calendar author, for express purposes of the Jewish + Female = Athlete project during 2005.