Marja Hofman | Be as old as you feel
In 2008 my family and I were about to make some big changes, moving from the Netherlands to Houston TX for a year, the four of us (my husband and my 2 daughters) stopping off in Thailand, back to Houston and finally ending back in the Netherlands while my husband continued to Saudi. At 40 years old, the journey that started bought a lot of change for us as a family and as I had been running for more than 20 years and into fitness sports like Bodypump and Bodybalance, when my husband chose to learn Kiteboarding, it wasn’t of interest to me.
During our stint in Thailand, my husband arrived home excited after his lessons ended with a bunch of new gear, he told me lessons for me were part of deal! “No way!”, I told him I never wanted to learn kiteboarding, it was out of the question. Quite honestly, I was scared and all I could see was obstacles.
Of course I gave in with a some persuasion and I will always remember the day I went to the local kiteshop for my first lesson. As soon as I hit the water I knew this was something I wanted to learn.
From the moment I started, I loved it. There were a lot of bruises and trust me, I wasn’t a quick learner, but despite all of that, every split of a second I made it on my board was invigorating, I enjoyed it and it just motivated me to keep going.
It wasn’t long before me and my two girls travelled to Vietnam, Mui Ne, to kite. The journey was a hassle, my first time travelling with all of my gear but it was worth the effort! A whole week I kited from 10 am until 5 or 6 pm. It was constant improvement and the best way to progress.
Kiteboarding isn’t always easy sailing but now at 50 years old, I find myself more determined. I remember one time that I was on the water and the wind direction changed completely. A calm onshore turned 180 to an offshore wind and I had no choice but to self rescue*, swim with my kite to the coast. When I almost hit the beach my husband finally arrived in my 'rescue boat', it was kind of him to come to my rescue but something in me was determined, I politely declined and I made it to the beach all by myself!
*a self rescue is the act of bringing the kite into the water, pack up your lines and use it as a sail to rescue yourself.
Yoga helps me too. Alongside my running I started practising in Thailand. It gave me so much strength and confidence and it definitely helped me out on the water and a few years later when we had moved back to the states, I did my yoga teacher training. I taught for 2 years, becoming stronger each day and this was important to me, I became in tune with myself and I realised that I was less fearful not only in kiteboarding but also in daily life. Living in the moment was the right mindset switch for me.
The past has been there and you don’t know what the future will bring.
Kitesurfing really changed everything for me, when we moved back to Houston, we found a great spot only an hour drive from our home and as a family, we were committed. We would travel to Mexico as a family of four dedicated Kitesurfers; can you imagine a family of four, three board bags and our regular suitcases? The excess baggage costs alone were enough to send you crazy.
And it’s not stopped, just last year our eldest daughter, Maureen, passed her IKO course in Dominican Republic. Visiting her was one thing, but spending time with her on the water. It’s special, for me, those moments are so incredibly precious: having my daughter as my kite buddy.
My passion for the sport became more apparent when I had an accident in 2013. Somebody I didn’t know launched me and it went wrong. I fell but I didn’t know the damage until the following day when the pain became worse. Despite scans not showing any big damage on my shoulder my orthopaedic decided I needed surgery.
It was almost 5 months that I couldn’t use my right arm. As long as I kept my elbow by my upper body, things were doable but any other movement was horrible. They found both a ripped tendon and muscle, and whilst he had fixed them, the surgeons recommendation was not to kite anymore.…
Deep inside I felt a flame burning, I felt a drive, a motivation to prove that I could kite again. I only didn’t know how and when to start again. My determination came back and I joined a masterclass about injury prevention by Youri Zoon’s (2 times PKRA World Champion) physiotherapist. He was convinced that I could get back on the water if I worked hard on the flexibility and strength of my shoulder.
With my mind strong and my yoga background, I was already practicing - it didn’t take long until I was on the water again and after one week in Zanzibar, Tanzania, I did my first downwinder ever – a full 11K, full of pride - the beer afterwards was well deserved!
So here we are, in 2020, I’m 50 years young and at the end of August, during Kite Girls get together weekend in Holland, it felt good to be back in the Netherlands, Bergen aan Zee, the 5th time I hit the Dutch water and I loved it. Despite the injury and accident, I had no fear launching on the beach. It was all those years of convincing myself I could make it and that was such an unbelievable feeling.
At my age it’s easy to feel a bit left out on the beach but for this event I was just one of the girls. The small talks on the beach, the masterclasses etc made me really feel part of a sisterhood.
When I’m kiting, nothing else matters. Every time I am out on the water, I am completely focused. To be one with my kite and my board. Like in real life: if everything is adjusted to each other it goes smoothly but if only one friction is not feeling well or in the right proportion or position you feel uncomfortable.
Being in the moment, being mindful, means that I don’t think about what can happen. I just fly…
People say that when you become older you get more fear. For me it’s just the other way around. From my own experience and now working as a mindful coach, I have a lot to do with women who are overthinking. Proving them with tips and tricks is inspiring but to know that I’ve tested them all myself first just gives me the strength to help.
And if...if I am a bit fearful I visualize that feeling of riding my board over the waves and flying my kite effortlessly, everything starts to become easy again.