Six world titles and only 18 years old?! Kitesports might be seen as niche but if anyone’s going to change that, it’s likely to be the Brazilian-American with the big smile who’s always catching big air – and she wears her authenticity with Pride too. We caught up with her on IWD2023 for an exclusive Q&A…
We don’t often get offered exclusive interviews at Sports Media LGBT+ – and even more rarely with multiple world champions!
However, a little over a month ago, we received a message to tell us about an athlete who’s been taking her sport by storm for several years and who also has a powerful message to share about being yourself.
In truth, that description doesn’t really do Mikaili Sol justice. The 18-year-old is a phenomenon in kitesurfing, which you might have had a go at on a beach holiday but probably don’t check in on regularly.
So believe us when we tell you that Mikaili is a very special talent indeed – and she’s exactly the sort of fearless livewire who could give kitesports a global lift-off.
Born in the city of Fortaleza, she moved at a young age around the north coast of Brazil to a beach village, where she started kitesurfing.
Mikaili has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport, capturing four junior world titles and then landing her first in the seniors – at the Global Kitesports Association (GKA) Air Games in 2018 – at just 13 years old.
She bagged another world crown later that same year in Freestyle, following it up on the 2019 tour with a third title – and after a year off from competitions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, she returned to the top of the podium in 2021 as GKA World Champion.
Mikaili achieved that feat with a history-making 317, a rotation and double handle-pass trick that no woman had ever previously pulled off in competition.
In 2022, she added both Freestyle and Big Air Tour titles to her resume and she has begun 2023 with a second place in the GKA Kite World Tour opener in Qatar and then a first at Salinas del Rey in Colombia last weekend.
Mikaili has dual citizenship and is competing this year under the American flag – her mother’s homeland. “I feel more American than I do Brazilian,” she says, “but there’s a part of me that is still very Brazilian!
“And I’m not giving anything up, I’m just changing the flag on my bag.”
Read on for our Q&A with Mikaili Sol…
Sports Media LGBT+: Hi Mikaili, thanks for chatting with us! You’re a multiple world champion in your sport and you’re only 18 years old – that’s incredible and almost certainly a unique achievement. Tell us about your greatest career achievements so far – is there a moment that’s been the most special, and why?
Mikaili: I’ve been kiting since I was eight. I have six world titles so it’s hard to know what my greatest achievement has been!
I guess it would be my second world title because that was about proving to people that I wasn’t a one-timer – that I’d just win once and would never win again. So that was a big part of it. I was 14 when I won my second one.
I’ve just won here in Colombia after losing at the event in Qatar. I feel like my greatest achievements are after I’ve lost and then been able to come back stronger and continue to win. That comes when I learn from the experiences and don’t shut myself off or not believe in myself.
It’s about wanting to do better and making sure that in the next competition, I get the win!
For readers that haven’t been kitesurfing before, how accessible is the sport? I read on one website that it’s “easier than it looks” and if you’ve skateboarded or snowboarded before, it’s fairly easy to pick up. How true do you think that is?
Kitesurfing is a very accessible sport. Yes, if you do snowboard or skate, it does make it easier but at the same time, you have a whole other aspect to it where you’re not just thinking about your feet. You have to think about where the kite is, and what you’re doing – there are a lot of other factors that come into play.
But if you do snowboard or skate, or even ski or surf, it definitely does help your learning progression and it’ll likely be faster for you to pick up than someone who doesn’t do those sports.
How long it takes to learn mostly depends on how athletic you are. Sometimes it can take three days, sometimes it can take a week or two weeks! It just really depends on how good your body awareness is and how fast you learn things.
As a teenage international athlete who’s often travelling, you’re learning more about the world at the same time that you’re learning about yourself, like all young adults. You’re also letting fans into that journey via social media – why is that important to you, and how do you think it can help other people?
I feel like my life is very interesting! I started competing when I was 10 so basically for the last eight years, I’ve been on the road, going to different places in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America – just learning about and seeing different cultures worldwide.
Most people my age are either finishing high school or are now going into college or university. Comparatively, their worlds might be very small but my world is very big and I’m fortunate to have access to it.
I think it’s really cool for those younger or even older people to see that. Maybe they don’t have the same opportunity to experience what I’m experiencing. I like sharing that with the public, and people like to see what you’re up to.
I don’t think I’m the best at social media but I’m trying to get better because I think it benefits everyone – to see that there’s a bigger world out there, particularly for people my age, there’s so much more than just where they live in the United States or the country they’re from.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘Embrace Equity’ – celebrating the achievements of women and pursuing fairness. How equitable is kitesurfing and how successful has the sport been in promoting itself to diverse audiences?
I feel like kiteboarding is a very diverse sport. There are people involved from many different places and everyone’s accepted here. You can be who you are, and everyone will like you for that – you don’t have to be something you’re not.
Some people in sport do try to change their image to be more ‘fittable’ for the public but I feel that being authentic, being real, being me is the best way to promote myself.
Anyone can play a game and play a role, and create a personality that everybody likes, but if you’re not being your real self, then what’s the point in following you? There’s no real reason to follow their life if everything they do isn’t from their true self.
In our sport, there are people that are very authentic – they have very strong personalities and you can see that. That’s what I like about the kiteboarding world. It’s great to see those different personalities.
As for me, I just feel very accepted. Everybody cares for me, and loves me, and is there for me no matter what. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and what you look like. It’s just very diverse and it’s very cool to be in an environment that’s so accepting.
We’re an LGBT+ in sports destination and we really love storytelling – we see that when athletes share who they are and are authentic, fans relate strongly and are appreciative. However, we also know that not every athlete feels safe to share, for various reasons. You’re already on this amazing journey – how conscious are you about making being LGBT+ a part of your own story?
It’s very important to me. Starting the sport at such a young age, some people definitely tried to shape me into their view and I kind of pushed back against that and just tried to be myself.
Now that I’m 18, I’m trying to show people the real me, regardless of what that is. I’m pretty open – I’m gay, or lesbian, whatever you want to call it! If people know, they know, and if they don’t, they don’t. It’s not like I try pushing it out there but I’m not closed off about it either, you know?
People can accept it and if they don’t, that’s their opinion – if I’m going to get hate or whatever, it is what it is. I just wish people would be more like us in the kiting world, where everyone is very accepting, caring and trustworthy. I feel very safe here.
What would be your message to young athletes who look up to you?
Try to be your real self and showcase who you really are. It’s very important to let others know that you don’t have to try to be something you’re not.
I think that’s what makes a person great – when they’re comfortable in their true self and can show that comfort, their personality and their energy. I don’t know how else to explain it – it’s something that’s in them.
I certainly try to be like that. If you can do that, you’re definitely going to be easy to relate to. And if people like you for who you are, then why change?
Thank you so much to Mikaili and her team, and good luck for the rest of the season! She’s next scheduled to compete in the GKA Big-Air event in Barcares, France, in April, with the next Freestyle event in Dunkerque in August.
Follow all her adventures on Instagram at @mikaili_sol and check out her official website.
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