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Rita on the list - Behind the clip: Head Up Again

Behind the clip: Head Up Again

Kiting is everything to GKA competitor Rita Arnaus, but when she suffered a bad knee injury earlier this year, it meant months off the water, and the rest of the year’s competition schedule missed out on. Rita has made a video, Head Up Again, about her recovery process, as part of ION’s “Write Your Own Chapter” Series. We heard more from Rita, and about the series from David Mariot, ION’s Marketing Manager.

PHOTOS: Virginie Martinez

Rita: When kiting came into my life it resulted in a huge change in me, not just as regards my perspective on life but also about myself. This sport means happiness, adrenaline, freedom, family, friends and travels. It is more than a sport, it is a lifestyle. I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to kiting because of the way it made me feel right from the beginning – desire, passion, a flame burning inside of me – I felt kiting was calling me, pushing me to change my life and do that thing that makes me feel alive. Becoming a professional kiter meant pushing my limits and discovering new phases of life, learning different ways of thinking and living. The person I am today, I owe to this sport and to the competitions.

But with this comes injuries. I’ve had a few before, being off the water for three months when I tore my hamstring tendon on my left knee – I had a bad diagnosis at the beginning so it took longer to recover than expected. Besides that, I’ve torn my ankle, had bone edemas, tendinitis and lots of concussions, and having to deal with pain daily in my neck is part of the life of an athlete. The risk of injury is something I’m aware of, but I don’t let it affect me. When we train we know we are going to crash lots, so we accept it – the reward of landing a new trick is so big that all the crashes are worth it! At some point, you kind of learn how to crash but sometimes it’s inevitable to have a bad crash. But it’s true that the older you get, the worse some crashes feel. So preparation out of the water is super important. I think this plays an important role, if you train hard off the water, you know you are ready to take those crashes.

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However, I was competing in the semifinal of the first stop of this year’s GKA Freestyle Tour in Qatar, when I decided to do a Backside 3 for my second trick of the heat, a trick that I learned many years ago and am consistent with. But I didn’t grab the bar when I was turning in the air, the wind dropped out, and I landed with my leg straight. This injury was my worst so far because it is one of those that takes a super long time to recover from. There is no normal time for recovery, every knee is different and you never know how it will go. It felt like a big hit. As the days passed and before getting the results of the MRI, I had some tests with doctors and everything was pointing to a broken ACL… devastating, but I had no other option than accepting what it was. I didn’t want to break into pieces and feel demotivated. I worked very hard in my mind to stay positive. I believe everything happens for a reason and I accepted it was time for me to rest and embrace this process of recovery. Life was testing me and I wanted to take it day by day and not be too harsh on myself.

I decided to make a video about the recovery process. I really enjoyed making the video and the times I met to shoot with the videographer, who is a very good friend. I could compare each session with the previous session’s shooting and I was able to see my progress. I liked the idea of going more deeply into it and showcasing the progress. My recovery went through all kinds of states, from going to the physio four times a week, to training eight times a week. I have also been traveling a bit so I managed to combine it all. Listening to my body and taking some days off has also been super important. Sometimes the injury needs time and the body needs energy to recover so I pushed it just enough for me to feel good and not too tired. Mentally it was also a relief to be able to do other kinds of workouts at the gym instead of only focusing on the knee. I needed that kind of endorphin!

It was crucial to have good control of the whole process of recovery. As well as improving my knee mobility, I had to deal with a lot of pain during the first few months in order to gain flexion. The hours I’d spent at the gym pre-injury paid off but still, I had to work very hard to gain muscle mass and improve the mind-muscle connection. I learnt a lot, I feel like I took a master’s degree on knees! I have learned a lot about mobility, stability and explosion exercises which help to improve the control of the knee; it is not only about how strong the muscles are but how much control you have over them.

As for the emotional journey it was definitely interesting. I did feel for many days that time wasn’t passing, I felt stuck and I was not seeing any progress. Some weeks felt monotonous, leaving me wondering if I was ever going to be back on track again or how long it would take. At some points I felt like I was doing something wrong and started having many doubts. But I didn’t let these thoughts linger for too long in my mind. I stayed focused and determined, meditating and staying positive. I have learned a lot. What I would highlight is: don’t fear, whatever has to happen will happen. Go with the flow, don’t force anything, accept every situation and learn from it.

I’m now craving competitions so much! I want to get back on top and keep on pushing my kite level. I feel there is so much more to learn. I don’t know exactly when my knee will be ready so I have to take it very easy. I feel now is the time to go slow and enjoy fully, getting my tricks back and improving others.

David: The Write Your Own Chapter video series kicked off in 2021. At ION we embrace a whole variety of action sports. Whatever conditions are on the menu today, we adapt to them. We cannot be at the oceanside every day. This is why ION is as much about water sports as we are mountain bikers. We explore, go on adventures, seek thrill, fail but then succeed, and set out to inspire others. Write Your Own Chapter showcases these brand values embodied by athletes. The episodes cover all ION sports and all disciplines, from kiting to freeride mountain biking, windsurfing, or surfing.

‘Head Up Again’ is the 22nd episode of the series. So far, the series has seen three other kite episodes. ‘The Fine Line’ showcases Aaron Hadlow’s special relation to the trill of Big Air kiting. ‘Park is Easy’ featuring Noè Font celebrates the efforts of those who ride park (or don’t) and contribute to it in any shape or form. The most recent kite episode is ‘The Art of Adapting’ – beautiful to watch because it not only show’s Gabi Steindl in her natural Western Australian habitat but tells a profound story of her incomparable bond with Jaimen Hudson. Not forgetting Clément Roseyro’s episode ‘Know me’, not solely showing kiting but, true to Clément’s personality, the clip shows all kinds of water sports.

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One of the non-kiting episodes that stands out to me is episode 11, ‘Front Yard Runs’. What a mission to shoot this one was. Wakeboarding world champion Dominik Gührs took the winch and ticked off the most famous and touristic spots in Munich. Most of the scenes were hit-and-run style where we only had a couple of tries before getting shooed away. When we turned up to the popular river wave with a winch, wakeboard and film crew, nobody knew whether the local river surfers would call us off right away or not. I’d say the shooting went down fairly harmoniously but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else to try and replicate!

We keep on getting great feedback on the video series, proving that times have changed and action sports have become less single-minded but more open towards other action sports. Just to give some examples, many kiters admire surfing and join the line-up occasionally too, while foilers originate from different water sports, and downhill mountain bikers enjoy wakeboarding. Whatever sport is your favorite, Write Your Own Chapter addresses all of us, this makes it so special. We’re currently working on more episodes to be published in 2024. I can’t say too much but there’ll be some Italian power in the series soon.

Watch the full video here.

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