Freedom’s co-editor, head photographer and all around nice guy Jason Wolcott caught up with North Team rider and bikini test pilot Colleen Carroll recently and decided to get some insight on one of the top female athletes in the sport.
FKM: I had the pleasure of hanging out with her and the other half of kiteboarding’s power couple Craig Cunningham last summer and could not help but fall in love with her work ethic and no nonsense approach to kiteboarding. I could not help but notice how hard Colleen rips bringing a fluid style, power, and fearless rail game to the table. Colleen lives life out of a suitcase, a true jet setter if ever there was one in the humble sport of kiteboarding spending her days bouncing from windy spot to windy spot with consummate travel partner, boyfriend, and style master in tow. We caught up with this American beauty while she was spending a rare few weeks at home in Oregon enjoying summer in Hood River.
FKM: How long have you been kiting and how did you get started?
CC: The very first time I tried kiteboarding was sometime around 2003/2004 in Hood River, Oregon. I was with my brother and some of my dad’s friends had taken us out a few times. We actually didn’t take to it right away and I didn’t really get the hang of it until 2008 when I bought a few kites of my own and was able to go regularly at my local beach.
FKM: How has your relationship with Craig Cunningham affected you as a rider.! He is one of our favourite male riders and you seem to give him a run for his money on the water!
CC: Travelling and kiting much of the year with Craig keeps me on my toes. While one of the nicest guys I know, he is also a no bullshit kind of fella when it comes to me and kiting. He pushes me constantly to ride better and work on my style but doesn’t hold my hand while doing it. Of course this can be frustrating at times but in the end I’m a much better rider for it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
FKM: You basically live life on the road, tell us an amazing story from your travels.. (short is fine…)
CC: This is a tough question! I’ve been so lucky to visit many amazing places lately so several stories come to mind. However, one of my most recent trips was to Venezuela with some of my North Team mates. Currently, Venezuela’s economy is suffering and is quite unstable politically so I was a bit apprehensive to agree to the trip from the beginning. I had to get a special visa to be allowed into the country and had to make a special trip to San Francisco just to apply for it. I ended up being granted the visa and set out for a 3 week trip to the Latin country. We spent one week in the well-known kiteboarding destination just off the mainland, Coche Island, which was great but where our story became really special was when we travelled to the beautiful archipelago of Los Roques National Park. We lived for 10 days on a 42ft catamaran and sailed from one tiny atoll to the next. More often than not there wouldn’t be another kiter or even another person in site and yet we spent our days kiting some of the very best flat water conditions I’ve ever ridden. In addition to the epic kiting, our encounters with the locals were warm and welcoming. I’m so thankful I was able to make the trip happen despite the warnings my government issued about travelling there and know that it will be a trip I’ll remember forever.
FKM: What would you be doing if you were not kiteboarding?
CC: Likely working in wind energy, something I still would like to do someday.
FKM: Who are your biggest influences?
CC: Well, you already pre-empted one of my greatest influences in kiteboarding and that’s Craig Cunningham. I often look to Craig’s creativity and style when I’m on the water looking to try something new. I also follow professional wakeboarder Sophie Hogben quite closely. I really admire her style and that she’s always pushing her riding to the next level. I love seeing what she comes out with next and whenever I can, try to take influence from her riding to my own. As well as a few specific people, I find that I feel the most inspired on the water when I’m riding with a good crew of friends. Lately it’s been so awesome riding in the park with a huge group of friends in the Hood River Slider Park that are all pushing themselves and working on new tricks.
CC: North Kiteboarding, Ion and Sensi Bikinis.
FKM: I know you work a lot with Sensi’s Bikini’s, tell us about the collaboration.
CC: Owner/designer of Sensi Bikinis, Sensi Graves, is one of my closest friends and is also running a bad-ass bikini company out of Hood River, Oregon. I help her with testing the suits and this last year we even collaborated to create the Colleen Top, my first pro model bikini top. We both love to be active and look good while doing so, so we have a lot of fun working together on new ideas for suits and ways to build the brand.
FKM: Best advice to someone who wants to aspire to have your jet setting lifestyle?
CC: Stay organised and stay stoked! If you want to travel the world kiteboarding as a professional kiter, it’s incredibly important to document your travels and kiteboarding expeditions in a way that your sponsors (or potential sponsors) and followers can easily tune in to. Keep a regular blog or be diligent about putting out quality social media posts. And if you get the opportunity to work with professional photographers, make a plan for distributing the media and stick to your deadlines. Not only will your sponsors be happy about this but photographers and magazine editors will be happy to work with you again. And most importantly, stay stoked and spread your good vibes at every beach you go to, even if your session doesn’t go exactly as you would have hoped.
FKM: Favourite place to ride?
CC: ‘The Slick’ in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with the entire Real Watersports Slider Park out. And as a close second, Hood River.
FKM: What 5 things do you never leave out of your suitcase when you pack for a trip?
CC: Laptop, Waterfi, Sensi Graves Bikini, sunscreen, yoga mat.
FKM: Favourite quote?
CC: Be Silly, Be Honest, Be Kind – Ralph Waldo Emerson
FKM: Tell us something about you we don’t know?
CC: Before travelling for kiting, I used to chase an endless winter snowboarding as much as possible.
FKM: You are more a free rider than a competitor, why?
CC: For a few reasons. One of which is that I’m just not that competitive when it comes down to it. While I do get into the competition mood when I choose to participate in one, overall I find competition less inspiring and progressive than free riding. Not to mention one of the things I love most about my life as a professional kiteboarder is that I get to travel the world with my friends to the best kiteboarding destinations of my choice. And finally, one of the biggest reasons why I don’t do too many competitions is because my most favourite discipline in kiteboarding is park riding and there simply aren’t very many comps for this.
FKM: Any new projects in the works?
CC: Always! One that I’m really excited about is a continuation of a project I collaborated on last year with Sensi Graves, Lindsay McClure, Laura Maher, Jen Jones and Wiley Watson called “Where the Wind Blows”. It’s set in Hood River Oregon and highlights life in The Gorge in regards to recreation, environment and food culture. This year we have a new spin on the series and look forward to producing 4 web episodes documenting our to be determined adventures.