KiteSista Meets: The Crathorne Girls

KiteSista Meets: The Crathorne Girls

Crossing the English Channel, sleeping the night at Argentinean border control, there is definitely a sense of family and adventure when it comes to Polly, Jemima and Lucy Crathorne.

A few months ago we showed you a video from the Crathorne girls Polly, Jemima and Lucy in Brazil.

If you liked this video you will be even more impressed when you learn that Polly who was British Freestyle Champion in 2012 was also the first women to kitesurf across the English Channel along with her sister Lucy and father in 2009 aged just 16. Lucy now 24 has been kiting since she was 13 and is a qualified instructor, and the youngest of the three Jemima was vice champion in the British Freestyle Amateurs division in 2012.

It sounds like we should be interviewing their dad on what it is like living with the 3 of them, but that is another story, today we have the pleasure of talking to all three Crathorne sisters.


KSm: Hello Girls, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Before we find out a little more about what you are currently up to, …let’s go back to where it all began. We hear that your kitesurfing story begins with a pencil case, …can you tell us a little bit more about this and how each of you got started?

Lucy: Haha, yes! When I was 13, I had an Animal pencil case with a smiling Kirsty Jones on. Our Dad is quite an actionman so could not have been more keen when I said I wanted to try kitesurfing. Incredibly, the school in Wales, where we had our first lesson was run by Kirsty herself! She was so encouraging and excited that girls were getting interested in the sport – we were hooked from day one!

Polly: During the several years spent enviously watching Lucy and Dad on the water, I used to practice kite-skills on the land with the trainer kite. I finally got handed a board when I turned twelve. It was in Coche, Venezuela where the wind often blows offshore. A fisherman in a boat was told to follow my water-starting efforts out to sea. He carried my instructor, while I went on my own little downwinder. I would just keep on going into the horizon until I was scooped up by the boat and we would start again. Maybe this is where I got a taste for long distance crossings.

Jemima: My first experience on the water was in Egypt when I was nine. I was so excited to have a go that I hardly noticed the harness I was wearing was so big that it engulfed my entire body!! Since then I have only been taught my sisters and Dad.


Polly: Jimmy was such a quick learner, she seemed to skip a lot of stages and was backrolling before she could even tack!

KSm: Kitesurfing is clearly a family thing for the Crathornes, do you think you would be in the position you are today without the support from your parents and motivation from your sisters?

Polly: This is an easy one: No, I would definitely not be doing what I am doing without team Crathorne! My mother and father are the best team leaders us girls could ask for. From driving up and down the country in our “Kite RV” for the British Championships; to standing on the beach for hours in the characteristically miserable English weather; to choosing windy destinations for our trips. As for these girls, well, is it really cheesy to say, they honestly are the best ‘kitesistas’?!

Lucy: Yes, we’re so lucky to have a Mum who puts together these awesome trips and adventures for us as well as capturing every second on camera and a Dad who is Mr.Positive about kiting anywhere, in any wind, at any time of the year.


Jemima: I couldn’t say it any better. But seriously, kiting altogether is such an inspiration.

KSm: You have been on some interesting kiting adventures as a family, tell us about some of them

Polly: One of my favourites was Chile, we did it as a road trip, staying in tents – these later got stolen – but it meant we really got to know the country. We had an amazing time on the coast, kiting in really wild locations as well as inland, leaping into freezing Andean rivers. It got a bit sketchy when we had two punctures but only one spare tire in the Atacama Desert. We had to walk to the Argentinian border, where we slept the night in Border Control.


Jemima: Last Christmas we returned to South America but this time drove from coast to coast. Starting on the east coast of Argentina we drove through desert, mountain and pampas to reach the west coast of Chile, kiting in all the dams, lakes and oceans that we could.

Lucy: One of early kiting trips was driving a 4WD along the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. It was so wild and there was nobody for miles – not ideal when we got a puncture – apparently a reoccurring theme in our travels!

KSm: How fierce is the competition between the members of the family, …and who is the better kiter? (we do like to start a family feud).

Polly: Ooh, what competition?! We all have our own styles but I would like to nominate my mother for the ‘most improved’ award this year.

Jemima: There is really not much competition between us, even when we have been in the same heat together in competitions we cheered each other on just like any old fun session.

Lucy: As people like to point out I’ve definitely been overtaken by these two, but then relatively speaking I’m practically an OAP for the sport at the age of 25!! The main competition when we go away is who can get the ‘deepest’ tan (sorry Jimmy, you always lose).


KSm: You started competing pretty early on in 2008 but it did not immediately all go to plan, tell us a little bit more about this and also how you found the motivation to continue to compete after this?

Polly: Aha! Yes, if I had had a plan at the first competition I entered, then it certainly wouldn’t have gone according to it. Apart from being ‘otherwise occupied’ when the beginning of my heat was announced…

Jemima: (Polly was in the loos)

Polly: Well, apart from that, things didn’t go swimmingly – although I did do some swimming. The shore dump and onshore wind combo at Brighton (UK south coast) turned out to be too powerful for me to get out into the comp zone. The solution to this was holding onto the harness of my loyal father as he bodydragged out to sea and upwind of the competition zone. He would then pass me the kite in time for my heat. As there were not many girls competing in 2009, I only had one heat to compete in. It consisted of me riding around rather aimlessly in the area before getting slammed onto the beach by the waves. The motivation after that? That was the easy part.


The BKSA crew were so nice and encouraging. At the prizegiving – which was fish and chips on Brighton Pier – other competitors told me similar stories of their disastrous first competitions. There was also the fact that I could not do much worse the next time round. The following year I did the whole tour and came 2nd overall in the Ladies Amateurs.

KSm: You are a big gymnastics and skiing fans and Polly has been coaching since age 15! How important and helpful do you think these skills have been in your kitesurfing progression and also balance time on the water with other sports?

Polly: Kitesurfing is quite different from anything else. Which is what makes it so flipping great. To begin with, I thought these other ‘skills’ would not help. But when it comes to learning tricks there is definitely a certain mentality involved with training a trick over and over again.


As for balancing time with other sports, kiting has definitely won. Since starting university this year I have tried out quite a few sports, including roller hockey. But the only thing I have stuck with is skating, it’s quite a handy way to get to lectures!

Lucy: I didn’t own a pair of trainers until I went to university so I was at a distinct disadvantage!! My riding has improved so much since then and I’ve discovered it definitely pays off to be fit for kitesurfing. Now I make everyone participate in ‘Lucy’s stretching class’ after sessions – I am pretty sure it’s the only reason Dad is able to get out of bed the next morning!

Jemima: I absolutely love skiing and gymnastics as well as kiting (although, kitesurfing is the best sport in the world). The years of competition experience in national skiing and gymnastics contests have been great prep for kiting events, it has taught me to keep calm (“and carry on”).


KSm: You seem to like a challenge and we cannot believe you kited across the English Channel at 16 in 2010 with your mum and a friend in a support boat and a compass glued upside down to your Dad’s board. Please tell us a little bit more about this?

Polly: Well, it was a rather last minute decision. We had always joked about crossing the Channel when (non-kiting) friends would ask if we were scared of being blown to France from our beaches on the south coast of England. But it became reality when Dad took the day off work…


Lucy: His friend Patrick had managed to borrow a boat for the day. Therefore the next logical step in Dad’s mind was that we MUST cross the Channel. Despite there being barely enough wind to keep a kite in the air and at some points being almost a mile apart, we made across what it often described as the M25 of shipping lanes.

Polly: We hadn’t taken it very seriously, we were just riding our normal kit and flying our Cabrinha switchblades. No directional or raceboards were used. Dad glued a compass to his board but when we got down to the beach we realised it was 180°in the wrong direction, pointing straight back towards London! Oh and we had our passports in plastic bags stuffed down our wetsuits. The weather conditions were less than ideal, but we struggled on to France, where the French port police where waiting. We quickly packed up and hopped on the boat back to the UK.

KSm: Do you have any other such feats or challenges planned for the future or nestled away on some secret bucket list?

Polly: That would be telling! But there is definitely something up our sleeves involving long distance crossings. We like it remote and wild, so I guess it will be something along those lines. There is so much unkited territory, we are heading to quite a chilly part of the world this Christmas to see if we can kite in some pretty crazy places.

KSm: Now onto the girly stuff, …Polly, tell us more about Muther Of All Things, …we are huge fans and the swimsuits look amazing on you, how did this relationship come about?

Polly: Thank you Kite Sista! Not only does is their stuff pretty cool looking but it feels great on the water too; MOAT successfully fuses fashion with function. Well, it was pretty dream come true for me, I wrote to the girls at MOAT just explaining my love for their gear and they sent back a positive response (and some rash vests and swimsuits to go with it).


KSm: Being three sisters and travelling together are you all constantly borrowing and stealing each others clothes and cosmetics?

Polly: Cosmetics? We don’t actually have many of those. But rash vests or boardies often get swapped around – with permission of course!

Jemima: I get all the hand-me-downs from Polly and Lucy, so I’m always sorted for gear on the water.


Lucy: We are relatively low maintenance (much to our father’s relief), all our luggage is taken up with kite – and often camping – kit! So we’ve learnt to pack really light. I’m often caught red-handed stealing Polly’s MOAT swimsuits – they are AMAZING!

KSm: What is the most ‘borrowed’ or popular item between the 3 of you?

Lucy: Its not an item of clothing but… Our 8m Cabrinha Chaos Kite – it’s a super nice kite so there is always a rush to be the one to use it – I normally win using the classic “I’m the oldest” trump card.


KSm: What should we be looking out for next from the three of you?

Lucy: We’ve got a few more adventures in the pipeline – it’s just finding enough good excuses to take time off work and school to make them happen.

Jemima: I will do some more BKSA events and I would love to do a couple of European events in 2015!

Polly: I have just joined the UK Student Kitesurfing committee, they organised some awesome events last year, I cannot wait to get helping with next season’s competitions (get your university involved if you haven’t already chaps). I’m heading to some fun events this summer, like the 2015 Cabrinha launch in Poole this week and the National Watersports Festival in September. I want to help promote the fun of kiting at beaches around the UK.

KSm: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, as is tradition we leave you the floor to finish with words of wisdom, thanks, or in fact anything you wish…(as this is an opportunity for all three of you, you may want to ask publicly for the return of any previously borrowed items)

Jemima: Thanks Lucy and Polly for being my kitesistas!!!


Lucy: Kitesurfing is such a fun sport but the best part about it is that it can be done in so many amazing and interesting places – I’d encourage anyone to use their kiting as an excuse to explore the less conventional destinations in the world.

Polly: If your brothers, sisters, mothers, uncles and great-grandfathers are not kiting, get them on the water. Nothing beats kiting as a family!
And I would like to say thank you so much to my incredible sponsors for the megababes that they are: Cabrinha (, NP Surf ( and Muther of All Things ( Happy kiting y’all!

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