To the Lighthouse

It was a pretty specific shot that Alina Kornelli and Lukas Stiller had in mind when they road-tripped down to southern Sardinia in their pimped campervans. However, despite the ambient tranquility of their surroundings, technology had other ideas about how smoothly their photoshoot would pan out…

Words: Alina Kornelli
Photos: Lukas Stiller

In October, I’d just finished my participation in the Formula Kite World Championships at Poetto Beach in Cagliari, my last big competition in 2022. This new sailing discipline will be part of the Olympic Games scheduled for 2024 in Paris and Marseille, for the very first time in history. For now though, it was time to change up my gear and work on campaigns with my main sponsors, VW Nutzfahrzeuge and CORE – exciting, as I finally get a good excuse to go for some wingfoil sessions! No better place to do it than the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and its 2000 kilometers of coastline, crystal clear waters, windy beaches, soft white sand, granite rocks framed by wild Italian flora and fauna.

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On my road trip, I am accompanied by my companion, the photographer Lukas Stiller, who is well known in the kitesurfing world for some pretty insane shots. It’s not the first time that we’ve worked together. Two years ago, we arranged a winter snowkite trip to Switzerland and last year we traveled to Denmark with kites and camera gear. Now that CORE have launched a wingfoil range, I’m stoked to be able to get on the water with the new gear. I love having wingfoil sessions between training and competitions, to improve my skills and to bag content.

It took several days for Lukas to drive the long way down from Sylt (North Germany), where he had spent his summer, to the south of Sardinia. Lukas’ van has been perfectly designed and equipped for his job as a photographer, every single camera and battery pack has its own spot and could be charged anywhere. And not only was his camper perfectly furnished, but my van was also sort of a luxury home for the coming week, with a comfortable kitchen, hot shower, fridge, electricity, beds, and of course plenty of space for the wing gear. It was great to be so independent during that shoot… we could both just follow the wind along the coast, and that side of the island offers everything for wingfoilers: there’s an attractive wave spot called Chia, flat water spots like Punta Tretu or Porto Botte, a big bay at Porto Pino or a couple of spots around the peninsula of Sant’Antioco.

The biggest advantage of that trip to Sardinia was definitely the time of the year. I was surprised how calm, windy and empty the island was, despite the perfect air and water temperature, and still within the tourist season. I just fell in love with being able to explore everything by car on land and with the wing on the water. We checked the wind and weather forecast every day and decided spontaneously where to go the following day and slowly made our way from Cagliari to Sant’Antioco, the peninsula located more in the southwest. In general it says that the closer the winter comes, the stronger the northwest mistral wind gets. But the wind remained light throughout our trip.

Before starting the road trip, Lukas had a specific shot in his mind: a drone shot of me with my wing, next to a lighthouse, standing on a big rock in the middle of the sea, just north of Sant’Antioco. We arrived to catch the afternoon sun and the wind was blowing side offshore at 8 knots. After the wingfoil session, the plan was to get great drone shots of the camper standing next to the cliffs as the sun went down.

The launch spot for the lighthouse was full of rocks and had no beach at all, but getting out there isn’t impossible when you have a wing and a wingfoil board. I set up the wing gear in between the big rocks and made my way into the water. I turned the board upside down because it was super shallow with a lot of rocks underneath and paddled out on the bottom of the board with the foil up. Once it was deeper and I was feeling a bit of a breeze, I flipped the board around, pumped and got up. Lukas launched his drone and let it fly around the lighthouse and around the wing. After 20 minutes he flew back, changed the drone batteries, flew out to me again, took the exact shots we’d been talking about for a month and… bang. The drone crashed into my wing, cut the cloth and slowly sank into the deep, crystal-clear, blue waters of Sardinia. Ciao, SD card!

When you’re in the middle of nowhere, only surrounded by small Italian villages, with little to no tourism, few English-speakers, small Italian supermarkets and the cheapest good quality coffee, the ‘dolce vita’ is very nice.  However, it does make it pretty hard to buy a new drone for the forthcoming days and all the planned shots we had to get. So the same night, Lukas decided to drive back to Cagliari… He got lucky, and bought the last drone available in the shop.

The next day we tried the same shot again with the foil and kite, which turned into an even bigger mission. I made it work after swimming with the kite to the wind, but unfortunately the wind was even lighter and we couldn’t get as close to the lighthouse as we had been on the wing. Sometimes you win and everything works out perfectly and sometimes you lose! That afternoon we lost, but fortunately we got some other great shots and spent a rare golden week of summer in October. And one thing is for sure: we will get back to Sant’Antioco one day, seeking that hard-won lighthouse photo…

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