Women make up 10% of Kitesurfers—Michelle Sky (@michelleskyhayward) is one of them! A Jill of all trades, Michelle is a successful professional Kitesurfer, swimwear model, blogger and writer. How can a single person do so many different things and stay balanced? We managed to grab a few minutes of Michelle’s time to chat about her love for the ocean, how it feels to have been crowned South Africa’s Kitesurfing champion and the importance of switching off !
Tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up, what your family life was like and where you lived.
I grew up in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in a small town called Alexandria. For the first half of my school years I was home-schooled since there weren’t any good schools in the town. And then when I was 12 I went to boarding school in Port Elizabeth. The town I grew up in is very small and surrounded by farms, so I spent a lot of time on farms, riding horses and quad bikes! I had a very happy childhood with my dad, mom and 2 beautiful sisters.
Were you always in love with the ocean or was this something that developed over time?
Although I didn’t live at the sea and I have never been a good swimmer, I have always been very passionate about the ocean and the beach! I have always loved how vast and deep the ocean is, all the life that the ocean and the beach contains and the freedom I feel when I am there. As a child, my favourite holidays were at the beach, studying rock pools, playing in the waves, building sand castles, collecting shells and pretending I was a mermaid.
How does it feel to have been crowned South Africa’s Kite Surfing Champion?
It was such an amazing feeling because I had worked so hard for it! I love South Africa so it is a great honour as well.
What do you love most about kite surfing?
I love that it connects you to nature, the feeling of being out in the ocean with the wind blowing is an amazing experience! It makes you feel free and close to God. I also love that it is an extreme sport and adrenaline filled, but it can also be relaxing.
What is the secret behind your success?
Hard work! And consistency. You won’t always see immediate results, so you need to keep on working hard, little by little every day, and soon you will start to see success.
Was there one moment in your career you consider to be a defining moment?
About three years ago I closed down my business to pursue my kitesurfing career further and work on my passions of writing and social media. I use to own a Pilates studio and although it was successful, it was not my passion. It was a defining moment because it took a lot of courage to close down my successful business and throw myself into the unknown. But it was the best decision I have ever made!
What is it like to be a defining force in a male – dominated space?
It has it’s ups and downs. On one hand I love it because I stand out and sometimes surprise people with my capabilities. And I love that I can inspire other women in this way. But on the other hand, I have sometimes gotten negativity from men in the industry. As a women, you stand out a lot more for doing an extreme sport, and I think that upsets some men.
What have been your biggest achievements so far?
Moving to Cape Town, getting married, becoming the South African Champion, being named a finalist in Mrs South Africa and appearing on TV and in magazines.
What advise(s) would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footstep?
I would say go for it and work hard. But most importantly, think long term. Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in extreme sports, social media or expand on a hobby that you have, start to work on things that you can do forever. When you are an entrepreneur you need to be doing a few things at the same time to make sure you get a good income and also to make sure you have different career options and opportunities available. For example, if I get injured and can’t kitesurf for a certain amount of time, I still have my writing and social media work to fall back on.
Who started your career? How?
I did! I did not get a lot of support when I decided to close down my business. Not many people understand why I would do this. But in my heart I knew that this was the right decision and that it would all work out.
What are some of your daily inspirations, challenges and rewards?
Strong South African women are such an inspiration for me! I am very passionate about my country and at a time where many people are emigrating, I admire women who choose to stay in this country, raise their families here and make a success out of whatever they do. In terms of challenges, I am my biggest critic and at times I put so much pressure on myself to do more and be more. I struggle to separate myself from my work and forget to take a step back and look at what I have achieved. So anytime someone comes up to me to congratulate me on what I am doing it is very rewarding.
What do you find is the hardest challenge balancing your work and personal life?
I am so busy at times that I feel like I don’t have any time to see my friends and family! I also really enjoy my work, especially the social media side of things, so I have to force myself to get off my phone!
What is your self-care philosophy?
You can’t take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself. Don’t feel guilty for cancelling on plans when you feel like you’ve been neglecting yourself and you just need a night in or some “me time.” Make self-care a daily habit. Go to bed early so you can get enough sleep. Wake up early so you can read or exercise before you start the day. Take a break in the day, even if it is just to stare outside, go for a walk or drink a cup of tea.
Take us through an average day in the life, the first thing you do in the morning through to the last thing you do at night.
I wake up at 6am and the very first thing I do is switch on my phone and before I check any messages, etc I read a devotional on my Bible app. My husband, Neil, and I then spend some time together chatting. I then do a short workout at home. I sometimes get so busy that I don’t have time to exercise or I am too tired at the end of the day. I then have breakfast and check my phone and social media at the same time. My day (or should I say life!) revolves around the wind. So, if the wind is blowing that day or if I have a photo shoot or interview planned for my sponsors then that is my top priority. Other than that a lot of my day is filled with admin work like e-mails, social media work and so on. I am also currently a finalist in Mrs South Africa which is a lot of work and takes up quite a few hours of my day. (I am currently busy with things like, planning a fundraiser, getting in sponsorship and working on recycling projects) And of course I also do boring things like the washing, grocery shopping and running errands! At the end of the day my absolute favourite thing to do is to cook. I really love cooking and my husband loves eating so it works haha! So at night time I cook while my husband and I watch Netflix or chat. I go to bed really early so by 10pm I am usually asleep. Sometimes to break the routine my husband and I will go out for a drink or dinner during the week or even stop by the beach during the summertime. And then over the weekend I have no routine and always do different things and go out a lot more. During the weekend I also try to do other adventurous things if I am not kitesurfing.
What does your perfect day look like?
My perfect day would be a day where I don’t do any work, stay over at a hotel and just eat lots of sushi, spend time with my husband and friends and of course, kitesurf!
What is your day on a plate?
2 cups of coffee, LOTS of water, oats, raw veggies with hummus, a protein shake, chicken salad or pasta, sourdough bread and a sometimes a glass of wine while I’m cooking. In summer, more salads and in winter, more soups.
You look amazing! What is your philosophy/secret when it comes to food and exercising?
Make small, consistent changes to your diet and exercise regime. Drink a little more water, cut out one unhealthy choice, work out an extra day in the week. And the next thing you know, you will be a whole new you!
Red wine. It must be a Cape Town thing!
Something you can’t live without?
What is next for you?
I am currently a finalist in Mrs South Africa, so at the moment I am focusing on that journey as much as possible. I have also started to write a self-help book for women, so that is something I definitely foresee for myself in the future. We are also in the process of buying a house, so that will be an exciting project to buy furniture, renovate a bit and get a dog!
What are your utterly obsessed with?
What is something people don’t know about you?
People often don’t know that I grew up in a small town, speaking Afrikaans and running around farms. They always think I am a city girl.
Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to talk about?
I am a part of a few exciting projects at the moment. I am the face of Aquasky water. This is a company that makes water from the air and I am very excited to be a part of this because they are working on becoming the most sustainable and eco-friendly water company out there. I am also a brand ambassador for 2 amazing charities: ARRO (Animal Rescue Rehab Organisation) and the Gift of Sight. I am also busy planning a fundraiser for the Women4Women charity.
Sweet or Savoury? Savory
Hot or cold? Hot
Lips or Eyes? Eyes
Smoothie or Juice? Smoothie
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Favorite restaurant in your hometown? There are no restaurants there! There is only one little grocery store and a few other shops.
Describe yourself as a person in 3 words Adventurous. Diligent. Compassionate.
Your favourite thing in your closet right now? My leather jacket. I wear it all the time!
What’s on your cell phone playlist at the moment (3-5 favourites)?
NOTD & Felix Jaehn – So Close
Switch – Symphony
Lil Nas X – Old town road
Beyonce – Spirit
Bonray – Turn my eyes
One book you read that positively shaped you? The Bible
Favorite Tv show? The Office
One superpower you would like to have? The ability to read people’s thoughts
Best gift you have ever received? My love language is gifts so that’s a tough question! I don’t easily forget a gift, so I have way too many memories to only choose one. For me, I don’t care as much about the gift, as I do about the thought that it took into giving the gift. The best gifts for me are ones that are thoughtful and out of the blue.