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TheKiteMag 51 Splash Down   Lukas Stiller 8 copy 1200x800 - Splash Down

Splash Down

Alina Kornelli, who loves to dabble in all kite disciplines and nowadays wingfoiling too, has her eyes set firmly on the 2024 Olympics. Her competition schedule saw her take part in the Formula Kite World Championships in Sardinia last year, after which she stayed on to road trip the beautiful Italian island and do a photoshoot. Did she manage to score the specific shot photographer Lukas Stiller had in mind though…?

WORDS: Lukas Stiller

I often feel like I could take part in various projects, events, training sessions or photoshoots at the same time. But as an Olympic athlete you really have to focus on your path and try to fill the gaps between training and competition with carefree freeride sessions. In October, I’d just successfully finished my participation in the Formula Kite World Championships at Poetto Beach, Cagliari, my last big competition for 2022 – exciting that this discipline will be part of the 2024 Olympic Games for the very first time! Now it was time for working on creative campaigns with my main sponsors, VW Nutzfahrzeuge and CORE. And where better than the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, with its 2000 kilometers of coastline, endless windy beaches with soft white sand, crystal clear waters, and granite rocks framed by wild Italian flora and fauna… just perfect, not to mention the fact that in the south of Sardinia, where Cagliari is located, the winds are usually much steadier than the north of the island.

On my road trip in the VW Grand California provided by VW for the event, I was accompanied by photographer Lukas Stiller, who is well known in the kiting world for some pretty insane shots. It’s not the first time we’ve worked together – two years ago, we arranged a winter snowkite trip to Switzerland and last year we traveled to Denmark. It took several days for Lukas to drive the long way down from Sylt, north Germany, where he had spent his summer. His van has been perfectly designed and equipped for his job as a photographer – every single camera and battery pack has its own spot and can be charged anywhere. Not only was his camper perfectly furnished, but my van was also a luxury home for the coming week, with a comfortable kitchen, hot shower, fridge, electricity, beds, and of course plenty of space for all my gear. It was great to be so independent for the shoot – we could both just follow the wind along the coast. I fell in love with being able to explore everything by car on land and by kite on the water. After so much serious kiting on race foil equipment in Cagliari, I was really happy to just be on the water playing around in front of Lukas’s camera. I love these more relaxed sessions between training and competitions

The biggest advantage of the trip was definitely the time of year. I was so surprised how calm and empty the island was, with perfect wind, water and air temperatures, yet it was still within the tourist season. After the experience of Denmark’s “summer” with highs of just 20 degrees Celsius, it was so great to catch some warm days in Sardinia – we’d been afraid that October would be too late for nice temperatures! We would check the wind and weather forecast every day and decide spontaneously where to go the following day, slowly making our way from Cagliari to Sant’Antioco, the peninsula located more in the southwest. That side of the island offers everything for kiters, with a number of spots close to each other to cover all wind directions – there’s an attractive wave spot called Chia, flat water spots like Punta Tretu or Porto Botte, a big bay at Porto Pino, or a couple of spots around the peninsula of Sant’Antioco. The most frequent winds are the northwest Mistral, the southeast Sirocco, and in some locations, a thermal wind. In general as it gets closer to winter, the stronger the Mistral wind gets. But the wind remained light throughout our trip and I barely used my twintip.

Before starting the road trip, Lukas had a specific shot in his mind: a drone shot of me with my kite, next to a lighthouse, standing on a big rock in the middle of the sea, just north of Sant’Antioco. We arrived to catch a session in the afternoon sun and get some cool drone shots of the camper as the sun went down. However, the launch spot for the lighthouse was full of rocks and had no beach at all, so I decided to go out wingfoiling. Lukas launched his drone and let it fly around me and the lighthouse. After 20 minutes he flew it back in, changed the drone batteries, flew it out to me again, took the exact shots we’d been talking about, then… bang… the drone crashed into my wing, cut the cloth, and slowly sank into the deep, crystal-clear, blue water… Ciao, SD Card…

When you’re in the middle of nowhere, with little to no tourism, few English-speakers, and small Italian villages with small supermarkets and the cheapest good quality coffee, the ‘dolce vita’ is very nice. However, it does make it pretty hard to buy a new drone for all the shots we wanted to get. So that night, Lukas decided to drive back to Cagliari… He got lucky, and bought the last drone available in the shop. We took this as a sign to attempt our original idea, the drone shot of me kiting. The next day I gathered my foil board and kite, but it was a way bigger mission to launch. I made it work after swimming with the kite into the wind, unrolling the bar in the water, and launching the kite from the water in very light conditions. When learning how to foil in 2019, I never imagined how diverse foiling could get. I love the opportunities a foil gives me to get out in more conditions and wind speeds, making the list of accessible spots bigger.

The wind was lighter than the previous day and we couldn’t get really close to the lighthouse to bag the exact shot we had been dreaming of. But we did our best and I think we did pretty well and got some great shots. We also spent a memorable, rare golden week of summer in October. And one thing is for sure: we will get back to Sant’Antioco one day, seeking that hard-won lighthouse photo.

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