ROUND ONE: MONDIAL DU VENT – LEUCATE, FRANCE
17 – 22 April 2018
THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS
Report: Jim Gaunt / Photos: Toby Bromwich
These light airs of southern France have been delivering some stunning weather… for letting the wildlife loose!
Warning: Kitesurfing kites are not designed for tow-up and these stunts, executed by professional riders at their own risk, should not be copied.
Edgar Ulrich sending it for the video cover above!
The diversity of riding talent here who amassed together as 53 riders to compete in the first GKA Kiteboarding World Tour: Air Games came from all corners of the twin-tip riding world. United, they will compete in a new format to find the ultimate rider and crown them official World Champion.
However, as we know, the wind didn’t show up to the Leucate party. Riders like Sam Light have been filling their time at the local cable park, preparing for the next challenge; the Triple-S, while others have been exploring new ways of taking to the skies.
On Sunday there will be a kite tow-up display for the weekend crowds here in Leucate after some serious training and preparation has gone into the procedure since the forecast confirmed there wouldn’t be enough wind. Tomorrow will offer the last long session for the 31 riders who have signed up to take part in the display, allowing them to get their final feelings for the flight.
The first and most important challenge is ensuring it runs safely and after four days of training, re-grouping over the safety standards and procedures, everyone is comfortable with their preparations.
“The challenge is putting on a good show for the spectators.” says Jaime Herraiz, GKA Sports Director. “We’re blessed to have attracted some wild riders on this tour who are constantly driven to explore the elements. People travel from far to meet the riders and see the sport at events like this and, sadly for the first time in almost 20 years, there has been no wind at all for the Mondial du Vent festival this week. However, we still want to give them a flavour of the spirit of kitesports.” he commented.
We’ve released several videos through our social channels (FB / Insta) and each one explains that this is dangerous and not something to try at home, but when you put a group of cutting edge riders together with a great crew and safety team, then nature’s opportunity seems to expand.
In this particular video with Kevin and Jesse, Jesse explains how the forces of wind differ in a no-wind tow-up so that rather than the wind travelling into the kite from the side, it comes from below and there’s an intuition and artful handling needed to pilot your way down through the drop.
Sunday’s two hour show will see two jet skis in operation and there will be times when two riders are in the air at the same time. As Jesse Richman wrote on Instagram today, “No wind, no worries…
A qualification run will take place on Saturday afternoon, after which the ten best riders will be selected for the show. What qualifies them as the best rider? Well, it will be the common opinion of everyone that they’re mixing style and fun, but most importantly control and safety.
The standout this week is undoubtedly Jesse Richman who has been repaying the debts to his mentors in his early career who spent the time to help him along his path. For the last two days he’s spent hours in the water offering valuable advice and coaching to the other riders. Let’s not forget that Jesse was a world record holder in tow-up, reaching 790 feet in 2013 and has hundreds of jumps under his belt. Tom Hebert joined him in training the crew in their progression sessions.
Other standouts: Tahitian Antoine Fermon wowed everyone on the beach with the extra height he managed to eek out from the ski and the instantly raw megaloops at the apex.
Kite Park League Champion Annelous Lammerts has demonstrated that she’s a rider dedicated to excelling in all forms of riding in the last few seasons and took well to the discipline through focus and heart. Another strong female rider, Angely Bouilot, has taken her looping flair behind the ski and looks really dialled in. Kevin Langeree has been putting in plenty of runs, Liam Whaley entered the fray late this evening and French hotshot Paul Serin is in the mix. Don’t be surprised if a new names make the final list as Edgar Ulrich looks astoundingly at ease, too!
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
That the risks are real. This really isn’t something to try yourself. These guys are the most experienced kite handlers in the world and understand the risks… but flight is a hard thing for them to resist with a wing in hand and an opportunity to soar.
Jesse Richman and Kevin Langeree talk us through the tow-up.