She regularly meets killer whales and started her hiking career in a Barbie sleeping bag: meet Kari Schibevaag. Born in 1978, Kari is a world champion kiter who, despite the air under the kite, has her feet firmly planted on the ground.
Imagine a windswept plateau, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The wind forms a vast and wavy snow-covered frigid landscape. Imagine a coloured kite racing towards you, growing closer until you see the person underneath controlling the kite, wrapped in layers and layers of wool, helmet and glasses. Her face is full of freckles and the smile shines brighter than the sun. Hi Kari!
Kari was born and raised in Stavanger and has always been very active. She started playing handball at an early age, but after two knee injuries she had to stop. After her studies she became an instructor at Tryvann ski school where she first met kiters. Not long after, she participated in the snow kiting World Cup in France in 2008 and won. She then began to focus professionally on kiteboarding on snow and water.
In the 2009 water kiteboarding World Cup she won a number of competitions, she had top positions in several disciplines and she won the cup overall. In 2010 she was the first kiter to win the World Cup in snow kiting on both skis and snowboard.
“I love to challenge myself and push the boundaries, preferably by being out and about and using the wilderness actively,” she says. “Hiking, kiting, skiing, stand-up-paddling, snorkeling, surfing, as long as there is some action involved, it is perfect for me! I compete less now, but rather focus on shorter and longer trips that I’ve dreamt of for a long time. This summer I reached the summit of Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. It was a totally wild hiking experience!”
Kari has many fond memories from trips through the years and tells of an absolutely wild encounter with a pod of killer whales whilst on a stand-up-paddle tour. But her favorite aspect of it all is simply the wind and the weather.
“I’m happy being in the Arctic, with wind, powder snow and good people around me - far away from everything. When we have packed lots of good food and a comfy sleeping bag to crawl into in the evening after a super day out.”
Her first sleeping bag was covered in a Barbie theme, but she has upgraded her equipment a bit since then. Currently, Helsport's Spitsbergen sleeping bag is her favourite.
“It's my new best friend! It is a little funny that I am so fond of the Arctic since I hate to freeze. But it is very comfortable to have a good and warm sleeping bag to crawl into when the day is over.”
It is a little funny that I am so fond of the Arctic since I hate to freeze. But it is very comfortable to have a good and warm sleeping bag to crawl into when the day is over.
“I've tried many different sleeping bags throughout the years, and I have realized that the equipment has a lot to say for a successful trip. It has to work and I have to keep warm. I would rather spend money on good equipment that lasts a long time and can be repaired if it breaks, instead of buying new stuff all the time. It is better for the environment as well.”
Kari tells about the first trip she made to Svalbard and the discussions she and the others had about being on polar bear watch.
“There were different opinions in the group whether we should have a polar bear guard or not, and the mood wasn’t great when we discussed this. If you are going on a long trip, it is very important to have things in place before the trip with those you travel with! It will make things a lot easier along the way. For me, being on polar bear watch was one of my greatest experiences. It was really cold, everything was frozen around me, but it was completely quiet. I had something hot to drink and could enjoy the insanely beautiful light in Svalbard.”
For beginners, Kari recommends following your heart, not other people’s.
“Go on the trips you want, not the ones social media wants. Remember that you are the one who should be having a good time. Eventually, you’ll become acquainted with new aspects of hiking and find out what gives you pleasure. The most important thing is that you enjoy it and that it makes you happy!”