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When we recently went on the XP Sertões downwinder in Brazil – check it out on our Instagram – we met a Brazilian who has perhaps done more in her life than the rest of us put together. Not only does Karina Oliani spend time doing the sport we all love, she is also a doctor, adventure athlete and philanthropist who wins trophies, breaks world records, climbs the world’s highest mountains, and enables medical care for isolated communities. After many years traveling the globe, when she needed a relatively quiet holiday, she visited the beautiful lagoons of Lençóis Maranhenses, northeastern Brazil.

PHOTOS: Caio Florentino
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rom a young age, I had a passion for adventure, delving into a diverse range of extreme sports, not just kitesurfing, but also free diving, rock climbing, and mountaineering. I certified as a diver in 1994 and became a diving instructor in 2002, accumulating an impressive 5,000+ dives in locations around the globe. I also achieved recognition as a two-time Brazilian Wakeboard Champion and a three-time Brazilian Snowboard Champion. On top of that, I love tackling uncharted challenges – I entered the Guinness World Record book for being the first person to cross the longest zipline traverse over a lava lake. I was also the first Latin American person to fly a Jet Suit!

My journey into the medical field seamlessly intertwined with my love for adventure. Trained as a medical doctor, I combined my medical expertise with my passion for exploration, taking me to some of the world’s most challenging and remote environments. I am an honorary member of the UK-based World Extreme Medicine. My work in wilderness medicine led me to become the founder and first president of the Brazilian Wilderness Medicine Society. My dedication to humanitarian work has been a cornerstone of my life’s mission. I have volunteered in isolated communities across the globe, bringing much-needed medical care and support to those in need in more than 20 different countries.

As for my mountaineering achievements, I first visited Nepal as an altitude doctor, then a few years later, in 2013, went back to become the youngest Brazilian woman to reach the top of Mount Everest, taking the South Face route in Nepal. In 2017, I conquered Mount Everest once again, this time via the North Face on the Chinese side. This achievement made me the first Latin American woman to summit the world’s highest peak from both sides. In 2019, I reached the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth, known for its extreme technical difficulty.

So as you have guessed by now, outdoor sports have always been part of my life and I love how I can alternate between different sports and learn so much from doing more than just one sport. Kitesurfing is of course one of these sports. I first learnt over 20 years ago in northeastern Brazil. My combination of being a kitesurfer and a doctor led me to organize an initiative – a downwind event, together with Jailson Sena, a famous Brazilian kitesurfing personality, that brings together kitesurfing doctors to provide essential medical attention to the remote villages along the northeastern coast of Brazil. This is a part of the world I have come to know well and love to kite in.

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“Imagine gliding effortlessly over shallow, crystal-clear lagoons surrounded by immense white sand dunes.”

Two years ago I found out my life was about to change completely – I was pregnant. Knowing that I’d have to stop kiting for a few months, I wanted to go on a kite holiday to a very special place before my belly grew too big. So I headed to the northeastern region of Brazil for a two week break. Tucked away in this part of the world lies a hidden gem for kiting enthusiasts: the surreal landscape of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. This captivating destination is a feast for the eyes and a paradise for those seeking unique kiting experiences. Imagine gliding effortlessly over shallow, crystal-clear lagoons surrounded by immense white sand dunes. That’s the allure of kiting in Lençóis Maranhenses. Only during the rainy season is it possible to kite here, with the national park transforming into a water wonderland as the lagoons fill with rainwater. As you carve through the water, the breathtaking backdrop of rolling dunes and clear blue skies adds to the magic of the moment.

Getting to Lençóis Maranhenses involved an adventure of its own, a journey to the remote village of Atins. Accessible only by boat or official offroad vehicles through rugged sand tracks, mangrove forests and over river crossings, from the bigger town of Barreirinhas, Atins is a charming, rustic village that serves as the gateway to the national park. It is renowned for its close proximity to some of the best kite spots in the area, while maintaining a laid-back atmosphere, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Accommodation in this tranquil village with sandy streets is often simple and eco-friendly, blending seamlessly with the environment. This creates an authentic and eco-conscious experience that many kiters find appealing. You can interact with friendly residents, sample delicious regional cuisine, and gain insights into the traditional way of life in this coastal village.

Atins and Lençóis Maranhenses is a destination where the thrill of riding the wind meets the serenity of a remote Brazilian village. And it was just the adventure I needed for my holiday before embarking on the biggest adventure of my life…

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