Kitesurfing has had quite a topsy turvy year, here are some highlights (and low lights).
The PKRA (Professional Kite Riders Association) World Freestyle Tour ran a new judging format this year, with more reward for style and performance. The most incredible climaxes in both the men’s and women’s events were another end result.
Going into the last two events, Men’s Champion Youri Zoon from Holland and two time runner up, Alex Pastor from Spain, were remarkably locked even on the same points. The fierce competition didn’t let up right till the last second of the last event, with Youri winning the double elimination final against single elimination winner, Alex, forcing a super final. Youri would have to beat the Spaniard once more, this time with it all on the line. He did so by just 0.2 of a point; the closest final result we’ve ever seen. Incredible stuff. Italian Alberto Rondinha, whose had a very consistent year and stomped the first moby dick 5 in a competition in China, picked up third spot.
Gisela Pulido from Spain, Bruna Kajiya from Brazil – both recent female champions – and dark horse Karolina Winkowska from Poland could have all claimed the title going into the last day. It was the Pole though who kept it tight right through the New Caledonia event and claimed her first World Championship.
The dominant wake-style of competition freestyle is now more polished, powerful and stylish. Watch the double elimination contest highlights from the final event here:
MEN’S PKRA FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS 2012:
1 Youri Zoon (NED) Slingshot (now Best)
2 Alex Pastor (SPN) Airush
3 Alberto Rondinha (ITA) Cabrinha
WOMEN’S PKRA FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS 2012:
1 Karolina Winkowska (POL) Slingshot
2 Bruna Kajiya (BRA) Airush
3 Gisela Pulido (SPN) Best
Wanna see the wake-style freeride video of the year, though? It could be this:
The biggest highs and lows came in racing. Just a couple of months after kitesurf racing had been announced in June as an Olympic sport to debut in Rio 2016, the decision was then reversed and windsurfing was re-instated (for a new sport to enter, one must leave, to maintain the numbers).
There were indeed plenty of toys thrown on the floor around the windsurfing pram over the summer and then some strange excuses about confusion over language difficulties were then given by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) as to the reasons behind the reversed decision. Sir Richard Branson, who this year also became the oldest man to kitesurf across the English Channel, said it was a “sad day for one of the best entertainment sports in the world”.
Here’s a video of Richard Branson’s Channel Crossing Record from this year:
Windsurfing and kitesurfing are both more accessible than any of the other sailing sports, so to remove windsurfing in the first place seemed unfair. But kitesurfing is still relatively young, progressing and evolving rapidly, is very attractive to the youth and has proven before that what we think we understand about its limits now, will have completely moved on in just a couple of years time. Nevertheless, it’s a bitter pill to swallow for those who could have tasted Olympic glory.
This year’s PKRA World Race Tour Champions were Bryan Lake from the USA and Katia Roose from Holland. John and Erika, the Heineken siblings from the USA took the IKA Racing Worlds ahead of 200 other riders.
The KSP World Tour returned for its second year to take an invited list of the top wave riders to the best locations to battle it out in credible wind and surf conditions.
The biggest change in competition wave riding in 2012 was best described by North Shore veteran surf photographer, John Bilderack, who shot the Mauritius event and wrote in Kiteworld mag: “This year no serious contender had any illusions about what it would take to win. It would take a strapless board, a completely balls-out effort and a real application of big wave surfing.”
We saw the evidence for large chunks of the ten day holding period at the awesome One Eye in Mauritius at round two, glimpses of it in Ireland and in the first few days of the final stop on Maui. The hallowed break of Ho’okipa finally turned on for the last day and we got the finish we wanted. The lead swung back and forth until the young Australian ripper, Keahi de Aboitiz, took the event win and the tour title, beating Cape Verdean, Mitu Monteiro.
If you’d asked most people at the start of the year who could take out a world title based on progressive strapless wave riding, many would have agreed on Keahi de Aboitiz. When he dropped this video in July, people really began to see the light
Young Hawaiian charger, Moona Whyte, made a real name for herself at her first world tour event, taking the win on Maui. Jalou Langeree from Holland also made it to the final and had already done enough to seal the deal on her first overall title.
A small crew of Brazilian surfers popped up on the KSP tour this year, bringing a really fluid, powerful and tight brand of riding (backside in particular) to the game. Next year we will surely see an explosion of young surfers blowing minds as the number of riders seeing the benefit of picking up a kite when the surf gets blown out for paddling continues to increase.
Here’s a round-up of the 2012 KSP season:
KSP MEN’S OVERALL RESULTS:
1 Keahi De Aboitiz (AUS) Cabrinha
2 Mitu Monteiro (CPV) F-One
3 Airton Cozzolino (CPV) North
KSP WOMEN’S OVERALL RESULTS:
1 Jalou Langeree (NED) Naish
2 Ines Correia (POR) RRD
3 Ninja Bichler (GER) North
Kitesurfers were the kings of speed for a couple of years there but we now find ourselves quite a way off the pace after a sailing boat called Sail Rocket fulfilled its promise and pulverised the 55.65 knot record set by kitesurfer Rob Douglas in 2010. The Sail Rocket pushed the record further still over several days in Namibia in October; eventually leaving it standing at a whopping 65.37 knot average over 500 metres.
Skipper Paul Larson keeps a fascinating blog at: www.sailrocket.com
Kitesurfing speed events, such as the NASSI in America, Salt and Speed in France and the Luderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia, have all taken place since the Sail Rocket’s record, but none have seen kitesurfing take back top spot.
Here’s a video from the day the Sail Rocket stamped its name all over the speed sailing record books:
Even Hurricane Sandy couldn’t help the kiters in the USA. Here’s Damien Leroy getting interviewed about their antics on CNN in October:
RED BULL RETURNS
In December, Red Bull announced that its King of the Air event would return after an eight year hiatus, making its comeback at Big Bay, Cape Town, South Africa at the beginning of February 2013.
The event, at one of the windiest spots on the planet, should see the sport’s most extreme athletes do battle at high altitude in the strongest winds possible. Demonstrating the increase in consequence we’ve seen in ‘big air’ manoeuvres since Red Bull’s last event, riders will send their kites on a wide, powerful arc (often beneath them) through the most powerful area of the wind window at the apex of their jump, bringing the ‘wow’ factor back into kiting competition.
This isn’t going to be an event about wake-style, racing, surfing, or mimicking any other sport… it will be about taking ‘kite’ boarding to the next level. Yee haa!
More at: www.redbullkingoftheair.co.za
To choose from hundreds of the latest and great action sport movies on-demand, head to www.epictv.com
I also write and present an online TV style kitesurfing entertainment show called the Kite Show. We just released the Christmas Special episode. Watch the whole episode here: www.thekiteshow.tv , or jump straight to these chapters that I think you might like:
Joining me as guest host is Lewis Crathern. After a bit of chat at the beginning, we get onto our pick of the best videos released in 2012.
Here’s a round up of the 2012 World Tour news:
Here’s a compilation of the best clips sent into us by the sport’s top riders. Well, why not?