Rider Portrait: Katrin Kolo

Introduction and Background

Could you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into pump foiling?
I’m Katrin, almost 53 years old and have 3 children. As a choreographer and former dancer, I was fascinated by the “dancing” pump foilers on the lake and one day asked what this sport was called. I googled it and got in touch with Zeno. I’ll always remember my first try: Easter Sunday, 9 o’clock, sunny morning, water below 10°C, me in a 2mm shorty, 2mm shoes, a normal bathing cap and – thank God – 5mm gloves. Hilarious!

What motivated you to pursue pump foiling, and how long have you been practicing it?
I was immediately hooked. After my first session I had to have an operation on my ankle. As soon as I was able to jump again, I booked another session with Zeno. By then it was warm enough to continue with my shorty. That was about 22 months ago.

Achieving the One-Minute Milestone

Congratulations on achieving a full minute of pumping! Can you share what this milestone means to you?
Thank you!!! I did it!!! I dare to say that I can now pumpfoil…not just try. Although there’s still a lot to learn.

What challenges did you face on your journey to achieving this milestone, and how did you overcome them?
First I had to get over my fear of jumping on the board. I’ve always been afraid of skateboards and never tried anything like this. Secondly, the decision to buy and choose my own setup. I had never spent so much money on anything before, especially knowing so little about it. Thirdly, finally buying a winter wetsuit and daring to squeeze into it. My claustrophobia makes me panic and faint when I try on tight clothing. Later I developed several health problems that I had to deal with before I could continue.

My enthusiasm and the support of the community have been the driving force throughout. Last but not least, I was lucky enough to meet the best pump foiler and – I’d say now – the best teacher I know halfway through my journey. Yvon always believed in me and gave me the best coaching I could imagine.

Valuable Tips and Techniques

What were the most valuable tips or pieces of advice you received that helped you improve your pump foiling skills?
Jump on your new stage” was the first thing Zeno said. He was right, because the fear I felt was similar to stage fright: You want to jump, but you’re scared to death. You have to be just as focused and confident to succeed as you would be on a big stage. And of course there are often a lot of people watching… and applauding, even if you fall. So I was able to directly apply my experience as a stage performer.

Try different materials, different starts early on in your learning journey” was Sorin’s advice, which I didn’t listen to for far too long.

Look far ahead, keep your body upright, use both legs, bend your knees…” are just some of the things I constantly hear Yvon shouting over the water, even in my head when he’s not there.

Are there specific techniques or exercises that significantly contributed to your success?
Yes, definitely! Three things:

  1. Someone holding the board for me until I had the feeling of gliding upright, so that my body knew what it was looking for when I pushed the board myself.
  2. Learning the drop start and the inverse start that Yvon invented from the beginning. Both were gentler on my body than other starts, gave me an easier initial speed and made me land in a fairly upright position. Not forgetting that both allow you to start from a wide variety of docks.
  3. Last but not least: Spiraldynamic technique! When I started pump foiling, I asked everyone “what do you do when you land on the board?” and they simply said “you pump”. As I had severe problems with my shoulder, hip and back, I found a Spiraldynamic therapist. She watched videos of pumping and helped me to reconstruct and understand the movement and the coordination required for the “pumping” movement. We then developed a series of specific exercises that I try to do: keep my upper body upright when I jump on the board and consciously relax my lower back muscles. I try not to use my arms and upper body primarily for pumping. The ideal pumping motion that propels me forward comes from my legs, especially my thighs and lower abs. Now I’m basically pain free and consciously use this movement technique not just for pumping.

The Role of Equipment

How important is the equipment in pump foiling, and did it play a significant role in achieving your recent milestone?
Equipment plays an important role. It makes it harder or easier: Aside from personal preference, I’d say there’s a more appropriate equipment for each person, depending on height, weight and muscular condition, as well as personal needs for stability, agility and speed.

I started with a rather heavy but very stable equipment, which helped me to overcome my fears, but also caused or aggravated my health problems. When I switched to lighter equipment, with a fairly large front and rear wing for stability, I was soon able to pump a few seconds with less effort. Just a month before my minute, I started trying different foils that behaved differently. I think this helped me to refine my technique, which quickly led to the minute.

Can you tell us about your gear setup?
As you can use the same board for all your existing foil setups, I invested in a good and – in my opinion – very light and crisp board, which I really like. I chose a Ketos which was customised to my liking in terms of colours and design elements.

In the beginning I had a full Indiana setup board (Steve Fleury Board) and the Frontwing 1100pStep by step I changed to smaller stabs (borrowed them for a session before buying). Later I changed to Axis 1300 and a 460 stab, aluminium mast 82cm. Personally, I must admit that the sheer range of options available on an Axis is as tempting as it is expensive. I recently discovered and fell in love with the stability and agility of the cloudIX (76cm carbon mast, FS1780 wing, FS157 stab) which I received as a test kit. Last weekend I managed to launch the Axis 1201…next weekend I’ll try the new material from cloudIX…I’m not sure yet what I’ll continue with…

Training and Preparation

What does your typical training session look like, and how often do you practice?
I am very lucky and live right next to the lake, so sometimes I just do a 30 minute session. I try to pump 2-3 times a week. However, I have found that taking a break for 1-2 weeks can have a positive effect.

I always warm up to wake up my body and mind and also do some coordination exercises to access my body memory. I always carry sunscreen, tea and plenty of water.

Do you follow a specific fitness or training regimen to enhance your pump foiling skills?
I do stretching and strengthening exercises inspired by spiraldynamics especially designed for pumping… unfortunately not as often as I should.

Can you discuss the role of female mentors or role models in pump foiling and how they have influenced your motivation and progress?

There are not many women out there yet. I guess I have to see myself as a role model of a middle-aged woman and multiple mother who can pump for a minute. I have only met one other in Geneva. But there are two very good ones among the first Zurich pumpers: Sarah and Anja. That encouraged me to give it a try, and all the other women who are joining are very motivating. There are now a few of us at different ages and stages of life. We also support each other on a very personal basis with things other than pumping.

Specific Challenges and Advantages for Women

Have you faced any specific challenges as a woman in pump foiling? How did you address them?
Women have different muscular conditions in their bodies and when you had children this is even more the case, especially for the muscles needed in this sport. At my age I also realised that the hormonal changes of the menopause have a very important effect: pain in the joints, weight gain, loss of muscles and difficulties in building them up. In fact, it was not a doctor who discovered this, but one of my pumping colleagues who suggested that I check my hormone levels.

Do you believe there are unique advantages that women might have in pump foiling, whether in terms of balance, technique, or endurance?
Let me put it this way: If you cannot excel with muscle power, you need a technique to help you. This is not limited to the female body.
To be honest, up until now I have seen more disadvantages for women, which should definitely change:

  • The material is designed for an average person of about 80kg and 180cm tall.
  • Finding time to train alongside work and family commitments is difficult in our culture.
  • Spending a lot of money on your hobby is difficult when you are not the main breadwinner in the household and/or have children to support.
  • Female patience is balanced by our doubts and fears and is not very helpful. I think that a strong motivation to strive for success might get you ahead faster than being too patient and accepting your constant failures.

Advice for Women

What specific tips or advice would you give to women?
Stop filming other pumpoilers, even if they are your partners! Do it yourself!

…and particularly regarding training and technique?
This is probably not just for women: Look for light equipment that is easy to lift out of the water, as this will be your main activity for at least a few weeks (or sometimes a month). Always do at least a short warm-up and regular exercises to build up your thigh and lower abdominal muscles, as well as stretching exercises for your whole body. Find the right balance between accepting that it will take time and not being too patient. If you are not progressing as you would like, change things… try different equipment, different docks, different starting techniques… be brave!

Future Goals and Aspirations

What are your future goals in pump foiling? Are there any specific achievements or milestones you’re aiming for?
Have maximum fun pumping with as little effort as possible! I guess the rest will come with time… riding waves, new starting techniques…

How do you plan to contribute to the pump foiling community moving forward?
I’d love to use my experience to promote this sport and introduce new people to it, especially girls and women. If I find the time, I would love to make some videos with the exercises I have developed with my Spiraldynamic therapist.

Personal Reflections

How has pump foiling impacted your life outside of the sport? Has it influenced your approach to challenges or goal-setting in other areas?
I am not sure if I started pump foiling because my life needed a change, or if pump foiling changed my life. Either way, I have definitely set other priorities in my life since I took up the sport. I used to identify completely with my job. Now I try to work as little as possible and have as much time as possible for pump foiling, my children and other people and things I like.

What has been the most rewarding part of your pump foiling journey so far?
Becoming part of a really wonderful community and, of course, the feeling of flying over the water.

Thank you very much, Katrin, for taking the time for the interview. Would you like to give any shoutouts to anyone?
To you, Patrick, as my pumping companion almost from day one! To everyone I’ve mentioned before, to the foilaholics in Zug, to Julien, who was the first to impress me with his pumping elegance, and to the great pumping ladies: Anja, Bettina, Birgit, Dominique, Elena, Laragh, Marva, Naomi, Sabine, Sarah and all future pumpers!

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