Interview with Kirsten Landman
How did you get into the motorsports?
I got my first bike when I was 8. Because my family rode, my uncle rode, my daddy had bikes. My parents were scared from motorbikes, so I had my little bikes, I had my PV 80 and then my dad outgrew that very quickly and then I got a little 85. My parents didn’t want me to ride motorbikes, because it’s dangerous. Then they bought me a go card, we raced that for a while. I had a proper bike when I was 16. I started taking it seriously when I left school. That’s when I got my first sponsor, when I was 19. After school, I took a year gap and concentrated on my riding.
At 2013, I picked up my sponsor with KTM South Africa and from there my riding just elevated. And it’s now officially a full-time profession. As after Romaniacs…
You had a big injury and then you made a great comeback…
Yes, in 2013 I was at this dessert race in Botswana, it’s like an offroad race, 500 kilometers a day. At the second day of the racing, I hit a tree stump and had to stop all of a sudden and the bike washed and there was a tree stump sticking on the right and it hit me in my abdomen. It burst out my small intestine, severed my pancreas from it.
I’ve only got seen late; it was a hospital in Africa and wasn’t the greatest one. I had to be flown out of Botswana back to to South Africa, and by the time I got operated, 36 hours passed and you know, 8 hours is critical, so it was really bad. I was in a coma for 11 days. I was on life support and I nearly died.
The doctors said to me, how am I still alive, they don’t have any idea. They said it was a miracle because every single organ went septic. I was in a coma for 11 days. They had to put me to sleep because I was so aggressive, the morphine made me so aggressive. I was fighting it the whole time. My body needed to heal. So, what they did was cut me open, because everything was infected, they clean everything out and then they put it back, and they leave you open so that they can keep opening and cleaning, opening and cleaning. After that, as soon as I came to my senses again and knew what was going on, I said to my parents, “Can’t wait to ride.” And even when everything was going bad, when they were discussing, even then my parents said, if she feels ok, she’ll ride again. I think that’s what made me recover so quickly.
I don’t regret the accident for a second because my life changed, because of the accident. Before that I took silly things, small things for granted. Now I live life to the fullest. I’m having the most that I ever had, when I’m racing. I keep my loved ones very close, enjoy my sports. I love everything I do.
How long did it take, from there to Romaniacs?
2013 July, I had my accident and then I was back on the bike, properly in January 2014. My first Romaniacs was in 2014. Six weeks after my accident, I had a relapse, there was a complication from the op. Six months passed, until I was fully strong again. I lost like 11 kilos at that time, I looked like dead.
There was a photo of you, of your bike on the Sea to Sky Facebook page. And it said something like “Make it to the end”, what does it say exactly?
Oh yes, yes. On the left hand it says, “Keep the wheels turning” and on the right one it says “Get to the finish.” My motivation. Every time I’m tired or I feel like giving up, I just see it there.
So what’s your goal for Red Bull Sea to Sky?
Last year when I came here, I didn’t have any expectations. I was just like, “ride and enjoy it.” But I ended up getting to the finish. So now I’m a bit more confident, I am more experienced. But at hard enduro, anything can happen. But of course, I definitely want to get to the finish and better my position. Last year I finished 58, so this year I want to try definitely finish, if not higher, then 58.
You did 47 at Romaniacs, right?
Yes, it was 47.
Today, there were like 20 racers on the field. But the press did not go to any specific racer, they just came to you, for an interview. Do you feel any positive discrimination here? If so, do you enjoy it or does it offend you? How do you feel about that?
Today was the first time it has ever happened, actually. Normally, at the races the main attraction in on the number ones, and the main racers, the ladies are acknowledged but not as acknowledged. Because we are females in a male dominated sport so we don’t get as much attention. But today, all these cameras were on me and it was cool, it was really great. I enjoyed it.
And that’s also good for other people to see it, in order to grow the sport. There’s actually so many women out there doing it, you know? Who that race, who that ride. Maybe, what I do can motivate someone, that’s great you know.
So many people on earth make a living out of jobs that they hate. On the contrary, you’re making a life out of something you love riding bike and meeting fascinating people all around the world. Tell me, what does it feel like?
It’s the best thing in the world, to be able do what you love everyday. Before, I was based in South Africa, which was great but now being able to travel abroad, meet new people, learn about different cultures, and make new friends… Like, I made so many friends all over the world in this last two years. It’s been unbelievable. This is my job and I love it.
You’ve raced both Roof of Africa and Romaniacs. Now you are here at Sea to Sky. You know that there are 3 different stages to it. How does it differentiate from the other races?
Romaniacs is just – from the get go, and five days of riding, just in your face, it’s so hard, it’s mentally exhausting. It’s so tough but it’s so rewarding at the end, if you do it well. The mountain race here is similar to every day in Roof of Africa. We also have big rocks but they’re in your face the whole day. And you have two days of that. It’s a great race but it’s so tiring. But this race, it has everything. You can enjoy it, enjoy the view and the environment. I recommend everyone at home, who want to make hard enduro, I say come and do Sea to Sky. Even if you don’t finish, you are having the best time.