Mistral Team Rider - Ingrid Bakker

11 January 2024

Wingfoiling is a sport that women fall in love with. It's obtainable; it's cool and ultimately empowering in a world dominated by male water sports enthusiasts. The good vibes and talk about the sport being fun on all levels are spreading the word and driving participant numbers of women upwards. Add to this the fact that women are creating their wingfoiling community together with the fact that it's low impact, and while it offers a challenging learning curve; it's addictive enough to keep the learner engaged.

One such convert is 32-year-old Dutch rider for Mistral, Ingrid Bakker. Born in the medieval town of Amersfoort in the Netherlands, she currently lives in Driebergen in Utrecht. She's been a lifelong water sports enthusiast since she was ten, starting by teaching herself windsurfing; her first board was a Mistral Shredder, one of the brand's classic shapes from the 90s. Switching between conventional volleyball, basketball, and tennis sports when she was 15, she discovered Hobie 16 catamarans, then transitioned to 18s competitively. When catamaran sailing became an Olympic class after 2012, she trained and sailed with the Dutch Water Sports Association in the Nacra 17 Class, focusing on making the Dutch team.

She eventually quit competitive catamaran racing in 2013, where she competed in national, European, and world championships. 'I was somewhat disillusioned at this point and felt the need for a change. I was Googling Windsurfing Instructor, and by chance, a job came up in Curaçao, an island Kingdom of the Netherlands close to Venezuela. I moved there to reconnect with windsurfing and the joy of water sports, which is free from competition.'

Windsurfing and SUP were all part of her working life here, where she lived for five years. She studied remotely for a Law Degree during this time, returning to the Netherlands to sit for exams.

'Honestly, I was planning to stay in Curaçao for the rest of my life; however, Price Waterhouse Coopers Ltd (PWC), a multi-national services brand, were chasing me to come and work for them and in the end, my parents encouraged me to do so, and it turned out to be a good decision as they found projects for me in neighbouring island Bonaire, Aruba, St Martin; more or less wherever I wanted. I surfed and windsurfed these places, so it was a good life, and when in Curaçao, I picked up Kitesurfing and SUP. Five years of this was not so bad, and when I finally returned to the Netherlands in 2018, I resolved in my mind that one day, I would open a training centre for water sports somewhere in the world. When I was cat sailing, I coached Dutch and Belgian kids as an instructor. I started a Slalom Windsurfing Training Group in Curaçao, and two of those kids moved to the Netherlands and are competing in the iQfoil Olympic Class, which is so great to hear. It's a passion of mine to coach and see people improve. '

2019 came the pandemic virus, at which point Ingrid took up running, mountain biking, and then swimming at the advice of her boyfriend, intending to compete in triathlons. She competed in the Xterra events in Europe and qualified for the World Championships.

'It was in July of 2022 that I first saw wingfoiling for the first time in Switzerland, but at that time, I was fully committed to training for the Triathlon Worlds in Italy, training up to 16 hours per week. In July 2022, when I returned to the Netherlands, I signed up for some wingfoiling lessons with my boyfriend, and right away, we bought a wing foil set, but it was not until October I managed to find the time to fully dedicate to wingfoiling, which I did right through winter missing only one weekend. I could only manage up to one and a half hours because of all the falling into cold water.'

With a winter of training and learning, she signed up for the annual Défi Wind in France 2023, like the true competitor that she is. 'It was incredibly windy, and we were only on the water for one day out of the two. I was using a 2.0m wing in Force 8-9 and could do all the races and loved it. I then did the Round Texel in Holland, a highly technical race I had done before with Hobie Cats. It was 28 degrees, and there were light winds over 100km (61 miles), so hydration and energy food were a concern, which I learned from triathlons. I stopped every thirty minutes and won, at which point Mistral approached me.'

In May of 2023, she switched jobs to be closer to work, just a 20-minute bike ride, working four days a week and gaining an extra training day. 'In April, I took the IWO (International Wingfoil Organization) course for Wingfoiling as an instructor in keeping with my vision for setting up a water sports centre in the future.'

Despite recently qualifying as an IT Auditor and taking a Post Graduate Course in Data Science, she still dreams of the beach and warm water and having her establishment for water sports. Gym, mountain bike riding, and trail running are mechanisms that keep her fit and help with her wingfoiling.

'It's distracting and difficult to see so many people wingfoiling daily on Instagram, and here I am stuck in the office! With catamaran sailing, I needed a continual flow of results to ensure sponsorship. I chose to go with Mistral not because I needed to as such, as I have other brands who sponsor me, but because I really love the brand. I wanted to be a Team Rider with a group of people with the same passion.'

Wingfoiling is appealing to women in significant numbers. In France, the number of women wingfoiling is rapidly catching up to that of the men, and the standard, in many cases, is equal to that of men.

'When I have competed here, it reminds me to self-reflect and think about my ability. I think I can be and need to be much faster.' Going faster and improving abilities means there's a need for improved equipment to match.

'So far as my equipment, I use all SAB/Mistral foil setups and the Mistral wings. I have been using the Mistral Skywave 75L, which is fast, though I would like to change the shape a little for freestyle, lower the volume and move the foil further back and the rear strap for freestyle and waves. I would like a board around 65L for racing just a few litres under my body weight. The plan is to have a custom board made for me early in 2024 as I want to enter World Cup events in April, May and June, which will probably be in Italy, Switzerland and Greece. I have ordered a longer mast just over 1m and a smaller surface area front foil. Many top race riders are using SAB Red Devil foils regardless of who they are sponsored by.'