Increasing your sponsorship deals is an important part of being a professional kitesurfer, or any pro athlete.
Since many kiters are aspiring to be pro kitesurfers, and based on the response to an article I wrote last year “How to Get Sponsored”, I thought I would do a follow up article on becoming a sponsored rider. I feel it’s important to show the progress I’ve made since creating my profile on Hookit.com. Their platform for sponsorship was instrumental in me gaining confidence in pursuing kiteboarding as a career.
When I first started I had no idea how the business of sport worked, besides competing of course. I first heard about Hookit.com when a representative from Monster Energy drink told me to register on the site, and when a sponsorship opportunity opened up I could apply. Upon creating my profile I discovered many great opportunities for sponsorship with companies like GoPro, Fuel Clothing, Skull Candy, Dakine and more. I began to learn what companies were looking for in athletes and what I needed to work on. I ended up getting 8 different sponsorships in my first year. I began to promote myself within the industry using my sponsor’s brands to gain recognition.
Jessica Winkler (Epic Kites) | PKRA Mexico
The first media connection I made was with inMotion kitesurfing. Brendon provided a platform for me to gain the exposure and credibility required to attract bigger sponsorships and interest from the industry. He published articles I wrote, and promoted them tirelessly. Fortunately these articles were well received by the public and lead us to create the Most Influential Girl Kitesurfer competition (MIGK). The MIGK is an online competition intended to showcase female kiteboarder’s talents in our sport, as well as their commitment to the industry. The success from our first year was outstanding, so we intend running this competition on a yearly basis.
I realized people started believing in me when I began to believe in myself. This in turn made me spend more time on the water, really pushing myself to do more complicated tricks. Eventually when I could afford it, I hired a photographer to take good quality photos so I had something to present when applying for better sponsorship deals. In addition I set up fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and my own website www.jessicawinkler.com. At first it feels egotistical to do all this, but it’s important in order to establish your professionalism as an athlete. Once you see yourself as a professional, others will start to see you as one as well.
Jessica Winkler (Epic Kites)
Here is a list of steps you can take to become a pro kitesurfer, or to increase the value of your sponsorships.
5 Steps to Becoming a Sponsored Kitesurfer
#1 Register on Hookit
Register on Hookit and keep your profile up to date. Post all your sessions, photos and competition results (if you compete)
#2 Promote Yourself
Set up fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, My Space and any other sites you frequent.
#3 Post, post, post….
Content is very important, and helps get you the exposure required to attract quality sponsorships. Let people see what you are doing to pursue your career. Write interesting, unique articles and try and get them published on kitesurfing websites like inMotion Kitesurfing, or start your own blog.
Get in the water and push your boundaries as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to take a course or hire a private instructor to help you get to the next level.
Always have fun and enjoy the ride!!
One year after embarking on this journey, I received the biggest sponsorship offer of my life, Epic Kites. Getting the opportunity to ride professionally for a big name kite company actually brought a tear to my eye. I felt completely overwhelmed with joy and a sense of accomplishment.
Jessica Winkler (Epic Kites) | PKRA Playa del Carmen
After the announcement of me joining the team, amazing opportunities keep presenting themselves. A local Mexican airline magazine contacted me for an interview, as they are writing an article about kitesurfing for their in flight magazine. In the July/August edition I will be featured representing the sport within the Yucatan. It’s a pretty big honor for me, and I’m very thankful. The second big thing is I was head hunted by an extreme sports agency, Viral Technologies, who wanted to represent me. They will now take care of all my future sponsorship and media deals giving me more time to concentrate on running my kite school and training for competitions.
Since the Epic sponsorship, I’ve been going through a lot of different emotions. The world changes a bit when you are looked at as a Pro all of a sudden. You realize you need to walk the walk. You’ve spent so much time and effort marketing yourself to get to this point and now it’s time to live it. It’s an interesting shift. The biggest thing I’ve learned on this journey is you have to believe in yourself. You can do it, but it takes hard work and patience.
Jessica will be participating in the PKRA women’s freestyle and downwind competition on May 18th in Bucerias, Mexico. She also recently competed in the PKRA freestyle exhibition and big air comp in Playa del Carmen in the men’s category, as there wasn’t one for woman yet.
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By Jessica Winkler