Frances Kelly may not have competed in kite surfing for two years, but that didn’t stop her from earning her highest-ever finish, placing second during a stop in Morocco for the GKA Kite World Tour in September.
The 32-year-old, based in Jordan River, has only been kite surfing competitively since 2019, where she finished the season ranked fourth in the world, and in any capacity since 2012. Still, her early success has her pumped for a chance to make it to the No. 1 spot at the last stop of the world tour in Brazil at the end of November.
“It was my first final ever, so I was over the moon,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t quite able to win the final, but the other girl (Capucine Delannoy) was absolutely ripping. She is a very talented athlete, so there is no shame going down to her. I’m super excited for more to come.”
However, Kelly’s two days competing in Morocco came with their ups and downs. She said the journey there was nerve-racking as flight delays meant it took five days for her and her fiance Luke Millard to get there, and she had to fight her way onto the podium after finishing dead last in an earlier heat.
But in both the quarter and semifinal, she managed to push her way to victory and earn a spot in the final.
“I got into the lead on the last wave (of the semifinal), but we were so close to each other, we were standing on the beach waiting for the final score to come in. Hearing I won that heat. It was the best moment for sure. One of my friends was at the judging tower and heard my name, so she shouted it and came running toward me to tell me the news.”
Kelly first got on a kite surfing board in 2012 during a vacation in Aruba and quickly realized it was something she wanted to do as often as possible, simply because it looked so fun when she sat along the South Island coast watching others.
In 2018, she and Millard decided to take up kite surfing professionally. The couple launched Flukes Kite Surfing and an accompanying YouTube channel to help others get into the sport they have fallen in love with.
“For me, becoming an instructor was so desirable because I really struggled to learn to kite, so I really wanted to help others, especially girls, getting into this sport that can seem so daunting and intimidating.”
With the next stop in Brazil, Kelly aims to reach the top spot on the podium for the first time, but she will also be happy to keep her spot in second place.
The real work will begin in the 2023 season, as she is set to have an entire competition season.