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Waves, Wind, and a World Record

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Anke Brandt is a professional kitesurfer. She earned her first Guinness World Record in 2014 after she rounded the island state of Bahrain on her board. In April this year, Brandt decided she wanted more. “My goal was to surf from Bahrain to Abu Dhabi,” says the Munich-born sportswoman. “That’s 491 kilometres and the longest distance that a female kitesurfer has ever covered. I wanted to explore my limits, raise awareness for spinal cord research, and collect donations.”

Adventure Ocean
Bahrain was the ideal starting point for Brandt’s journey. “I lived and worked here for six years, so I was familiar with the water conditions and the weather,” she says. Spring promised the best prospects, because the wind is relatively constant in the Persian Gulf, even at night. “Moonlight was very important for my project,” she explains. “At night, the sea is like a black hole. In conjunction with physical exertion and fatigue, that can be very dangerous.”

After months of preparation, the time for the record finally came shortly before 3pm on April 17. Brandt launched her kite. A five-member crew escorted her by boat to ensure her safety. The 32-year-old ran into trouble right at the start of her crossing. Her kite crashed into the water and the waves swept Brandt into the ropes. It was a dangerous situation. “The ropes were curled around my left hand and the kite was gathering full momentum,” she says. Despite being in severe pain, Brandt managed to free herself somehow. The crew breathed a sigh of relief and the recordbreaking adventure was back on track.

Thoughts on the high Seas
Night fell after a few hours. The sky was clear and starry. Brandt surfed slowly, but steadily. “It seemed as if the moon was following me like a spotlight,” she says. The boat ensured that she kept sufficient distance from the gas and oil platforms. She regularly lay down in the water to recharge her batteries and strengthen herself while the kite was bouncing around in the wind above. After a long night, the sun finally crept above the horizon like a large orange ball. “It was an infinitely beautiful moment,” she says. “I started thinking about my old dad, a real seafarer who must have passed on his love for the sea and wind to me.” Brandt was overcome with a peaceful calm. “I thought about how miserable it must be to lose this sense of freedom because of physical limitations,” explains the top athlete. “I have sustained injuries quite often and it is amazing how our bodies recover. It’s a miracle, really. But why can’t the spinal cord heal? This can’t be possible…” In order to support spinal cord research, Brandt launched a fundraiser before her venture and asked people close to her for financial support for Wings for Life.

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New World Record 
Despite a few obstacles on the water, the professional kitesurfer stuck to her recordbreaking plan. “In the end, the crossing to Abu Dhabi took a lot longer than I initially expected,” she says. After covering 491 kilometres in an unbelievable 30.5 hours on the water, the wind ebbed and the athlete ended her mission. “I pulled in the ropes with blood-stained fingers and let the air out of the kite,” she says. Happy, tired, and grateful, she sank to the floor. She was handed the official Guinness World Records certificate in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. “This was only made possible by my team consisting of friends, family, and sponsors,” says Brandt, who raised more than 2,000 euros for Wings for Life and the spinal cord research it supports. “I am delighted that patients with spinal cord injuries have more hope for a cure.”

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