Fresh out of the University of King’s College Bachelor of Journalism program I became assistant editor at SBC Kitebaord Magazine. It was a good gig, and a great way to start my career. I was also lucky enough to meet and interview the babely Nina Johansson. I’m not sure if she ever finished her Masters (she’s now a real estate agent in Oahu), but I’m sure she still throws a kite up now and then… and turns some heads…
Nina Johansson is arguably one of the most photogenic females out there on a kiteboard today. That smile would make the most diehard anti-kiter think maybe, just maybe, kiting is the best sport on earth. To Johansson it is.
With an open-minded history of trying just about every outdoor sport there is, the 29-year-old moved to Hawaii four years ago to escape her mountainous past.
“I lived in the French Alps for many, many years,” says Johansson, “just skiing, mountain biking, climbing. And I was involved in snowboardercross, where I blew up my ACL. Then, the following year, I was in a really bad avalanche accident, and I had to get away from the mountains. So I came over to Hawaii, and it just felt like home.”
Originally intending to learn to windsurf on Maui, Johansson quickly switched to kiting.
“I was learning on the North Shore at Backyards, which I didn’t know at the time is one of the hardest spots to learn,” she says. “It was just super hard. And I guess I kept it up for one summer, and I was like, Nah, I’ll try kiting. And kiting was just so much easier.”
Now the half-Swedish, half-Thai lives in Oahu, where she spends nearly every summer day on the water. Most of her winter days are spent in school, where she is working on her master and bachelor degrees in advertising and public relations. And though here success in kiteboarding is undeniable, she doesn’t express interest in following the competitive circuit.
“I’m not really super excited about contests, unless it’s for something fun,” she says. “After I did snowboardercross in the mountains, that’s when I realized that I wasn’t really into it. I just wanted to freeride. For me, it’s just more enjoyable to go ride with my friends.”
Close friend and sponsor, Dave Turner of Litewave, has no problems with Johansson’s non-competitive attitude.
“Comps don’t really do anything for me as a sponsor,” he says. “Travel stories and feature articles are where it’s at. Nina and I typically do one demo tour trip per year.”
And though Turner realizes she is not the most progressive rider in the sport, he says her attitude makes up for it.
“Nina has the best time anywhere she goes. She is the most positive and outgoing person I know. Out-of-industry mags are even interested in her. I think that when she’s really famous, I’ll be her roadie and give up Litewave.”
Having moved from mountain sports to water sports, Johansson is constantly in a world of dudes. While this doesn’t seem to affect her, she wishes more girls would at least be willing to try outdoor sports.
“There are not that many girls out there doing outdoor sports,” she says. “There are so many girlfriends of kiters that just sit on the beach, read magazines and think, I can’t do that. Well, yeah, you can. It would be great if they didn’t feel inhibited by it. I’d love to see more of, I can try it, I can do it. With everything, not just with kiteboarding.”
For Johansson, the old cliche that the sport she is involved with is a way of life undoubtedly applies.
“Some people have religion. I feel like for me it’s outdoor sports. If I don’t get out there, I’ll go crazy,” she explains. “My goal is just to stay healthy, just to enjoy it and always learn. I love kiting.”
Nina Johansson is sponsored by Litewave, Globerider, Da Kine, Peak Performance and Venus.