By Sarah Westergren, Staff Writer
Daniela Moroz has kite surfed since birth– quite literally. In fact, Daniela’s mother, Linda Moroz, entered a local kitesurfing competition where she finished in eighth place during the beginning of her pregnancy. A first of many competitions to come, Daniela kicked her career off to a strong start.
Fifteen years later, Daniela went on to finish first in the women’s division, taking fifth place overall in the same competition. Now a renowned world champion, tenth grader Daniela Moroz takes pride in her success, and continues to strive for greatness with her mother by her side.
Kitesurfing is a water-based sport that combines characteristics of windsurfing, paragliding, snowboarding and gymnastics. Required equipment includes a harness, board, wetsuit, and kites of varying sizes. Once in the water, competitors aim to perform tricks during ‘freestyle’ sessions, or race through courses. Deemed a difficult sport due to the unpredictable and choppy nature of waves, few attempt to tackle kitesurfing.
Yet at just 11 years old, Daniela began taking kitesurfing lessons. Moroz quickly took interest in the sport, and entered her first competition in 2013. Supported by her parents, Moroz continued to fall in love with kitesurfing. By 2014, Daniela had mastered the art of foiling, a difficult technique that allows experienced kitesurfers to cruise above the water at almost thirty miles per hour.
“I attribute all of my success to my parents,” Moroz said. “They were the ones that introduced me to the sport in the first place, so if it wasn’t for them, I would not be the same person I am today.”
Daniela’s passion for kitesurfing seems to have only grown since her introduction to the sport. After just one lesson, Moroz understood how truly incredible the sport was.
“There are no words to describe the stoke that comes with doing it,” Moroz said. “It’s definitely tricky at first. But once you get the hang of it, you’re hooked forever.”
Of course, feeling ‘hooked’ to a water sport without a source of water poses its difficulties.
With few places to train, Moroz primarily practices at Crissy Fields in San Francisco. Though a long car ride, Moroz finds the commute worthwhile, and practices when she can.
“You have to be really committed if you want to do well, which is the same for any sport,” Moroz said. “It takes a lot of time and hard work and effort, but if you’re willing to do that, it will pay off and you’re sure to have success.”
Unfortunately for Moroz, the price of hard work and effort is high; at stake is both her academic and social life. Because she misses school, Moroz admits many Campolindo teachers understand her busy schedule, and are often flexible with make-up work.
Social life, on the other hand, is much harder to reschedule. While her classmates head to the mall, Daniela’s diving head first into the cold waters of the Delta. However, Moroz admits several of her closest friends are those found competing against her.
“People from school just don’t really understand what the sport entails and the lifestyle that results from being competitive in the sport,” Moroz said.
The lifestyle of a kite surfer is far from simple. Moroz explains her competition routine is a series of intricate rituals most unlike the lives of her classmates.
“Much of the time, there is a plane ride involved,” Moroz said. “I try to start packing the weekend before I leave to pack all the gear.”
Once on the plane, Moroz quickly gets to work adjusting her internal clock, sleeping and eating according to her destination’s time zone.
Moroz then spends several days immersing herself in the culture and investigating weather patterns.
“There is a registration and opening ceremony the night before racing starts, so I always go to that,” Moroz said. “Those evenings are always fun because I can reconnect with all my friends from other countries and catch up.”
The next morning, Moroz attends a briefing where the day’s schedule is reviewed. Afterwards, it’s time to compete.
“I try to remind myself that I’m going to these events to learn and kite, and most importantly, have fun, and whatever happens, happens,” Moroz said. “I also never set any expectations for myself. I just do my best and try to sail clean with no mistakes.”
Moroz has thus far competed in seven international competitions, earning titles such as the prized 2016 International Kitesurfing Association (IKA) Formula Kite World Champion and top female finisher at the Hydrofoil Pro Series. Most recently, Moroz traveled to Rockingham, Australia where she ended the top qualifier in the women’s category. Over 55 athletes entered the race, with competitors from 17 different countries. Of those participants, Moroz ranked an impressive 18th place overall.
While she left victorious, Moroz admits competitions like those hosted in Australia present their own set of challenges. According to Moroz, wipeouts and other injuries are a big part of the sport. In one story, She recalled of a particularly unfortunate incident involving her board and a head full of stitches. Luckily, Moroz tells such injuries rarely occur, as proven by her accomplishments and ever-growing stack of medals.
“If someone had told me at the end of August that I would win the world championships, which were in the middle of September, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Moroz said. “I still can’t really believe it’s real. I guess I feel like I’m still the same person, now I just have a big title to my name.”
Moroz may boast more than a fancy title in the near future. Lamorinda residents just might recognize one of their own representing team USA for the 2020 Olympic Kiteboarding team.
Unfortunately, the decision to name kitesurfing an official Olympic sport will not take place until January of 2017. Until then, Moroz can only hope and continue to advocate for the sport.
“I would definitely encourage people to try it. It’s a truly incredible sport and a lot of opportunities can come out of it, from being a team rider or manufacturer or product developer,” Moroz said. “And if it seems scary, do something every day that scares you, am I right?”
After all, who knows what might come out of it?
To read more about Daniela and her success, you can visit her website at: