Leucate, France, April 12, 2008 – The start of the second leg of the PKRA World Tour in France was a huge success. The opening salvo couldn’t go any better. The weather cooperated all day with strong, cross-offshore wind packing an average speed of 25 knots. Even the sun was up all day but the gusty condition demanded a lot from the riders so most of them weren’t able to really perform to the maximum. Most of the competitors struggled in the condition with only a few riders managing to land doubles and very powered moves. The men were on their 7m to 9m kites while the smallest kite for the women during the games was a 5m.
The competition started out early as scheduled. The mandatory skippers meeting was held at 8:00 a.m. under a biting cold weather condition so most of the riders had to endure the chill and go for glory. After an hour, the trials for the men’s freestyle event got underway.
The usual names made it through the top as expected, but there were a lot of notable heats worth mentioning plus several upset heats. The most notable performance during the game goes out to Lewis Crathern (Slingshot, UK) who landed several powered moves with really low kite angle. Kevin Langeree (Naish, Netherlands), who won the singles elimination, was also a stand out, driving really powered moves with a low kite. In the women’s event, Gisela Pulido (Slingshot, Spain) and Bruna Kajiya (Best, Brazil), who won second and first places respectively were once again the stand outs from among the female riders. The crowd was very supportive too, cheering their hearts out whenever their favorite rider was on the water.
Overall, the competition saw a really good day, with the singles elimination wrapping up at 5:30 p.m. An awarding ceremony was held at the beach for the winners immediately following the conclusion of the freestyle event. After a short break, the riders for the course racing competition headed towards the starting line. The wind was very inconsistent during much of the heats but the riders managed to run two course races.
Men’s Freestyle Single Highlights
In the second heat of the men’s freestyle event, Silvester Ruckdaschel’s (F-One, Germany) return to the tour was short-lived, courtesy of Spain’s ace kiteboarder Cesar Portas (North) who went out with a variety of moves. Even Sweden’s Mikael Blomvall (Nobile Kite) who was sporting a new sponsor had a short-lived PKRA comeback courtesy of Ali Barrett (Slingshot, UK) who came out firing powered moves Aaron Hadlow style.
Kevin had an easy win over Tom Hebert (Airush, New Caledonia) in the fourth heat. Tom really struggled in the conditions and crashed a lot of his big moves, giving Kevin the advantage.
“My first three heats are quite easy. My first heat against Tom went pretty well and I landed everything but it was very cold. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t hold on to the bar sometimes,” says Kevin during our interview after the games.
Also in the same heat, Bjorn Viane (Flexifoil, Belgium) had a short-lived comeback as Crathern took him out with more powered and technical moves. Some of Crathern’s moves even saw the kite almost skimming over the water.
A big disappointment came in the sixth heat, with an upset courtesy of Sebastien Garat (RRD, France) who was playing on his home turf. Garat defeated current world number 5 Alvaro Onieva (Best, Spain) in a crash-packed heat under gusty conditions. Onieva crashed heavily and his kite bridle became tangled, effectively ending his heat a minute or so early in the game.
In the ninth heat, Blomvall had a close one with Portas with the Spanish ace going for huge moves in the gusty wind hoping his strength would pay off. Unfortunately, Blomvall is also a fairly good strong wind rider had a different thing in mind. His new sponsor was able to perform and beat the top ranked North rider, landing a blind judge with aerial handle pass, front mobe and mobe over Portas’ higher kite blind judge 3, back to blind airpass and slim.
In the next heat, Kevin once again took the heat against Crathern who had super low kite moves, but a few crashes meant he couldn’t ride out of the moves. Kevin on the other hand, just busted out his regular repertoire of tricks, even lowering his kite to take the easy win and continue his push towards the final.
In the thirteenth heat, Michael Schitzhofer (Naish, Austria) continued his charge to the podium, taking down a renewed Blomvall. The Austrian rider eventually fought his way into the top four, landing a regular and switch slim along with a 313, blind judge 3, back to blind airpass, front mobe and nose grab slim.
Russian Petr Tyuskevich (Cabrinha) knocked down Tom Court (North, UK) in the next heat in a very close, evenly-matched battle. Alex Pastor (Naish, Spain) went up against Aaron Hadlow (Flexifoil, UK) also in the same heat and lost. The current world champion was riding very strong moves, landing several regular and switch moves.
In the final event, Kevin came out firing and never looked back. Aaron had a little difficulty along the way, nearly crashing with the jet ski at one time, managing to secure only the second spot to his closest rival to the PKRA crown. Kevin landed a front mobe to blind, blind judge 3, front mobe, non-inverted slim, kiteloop 5 and a regular and switch back to blind airpass. Aaron’s moves include a blind judge 3, regular and switch slim, mobe and back to blind airpass. In the battle for third, Schitzhofer came through with his highest ever finish in the Tour, nailing a regular and switch slim, blind judge 3, 313, non-inverted slimchance, back to blind airpass, and a front mobe. Tyuskevich struggled early on in the game and but managed to land a slimchance, 313 and front mobe.
First Round Results:
1. Kevin Langeree – Naish, Netherlands
2. Aaron Hadlow – Flexifoil, UK
3. Michael Schitzhofer – Naish, Austria
Womens Freestyle Single Highlights
In a near upset, Ania Grzelinska (North, Poland) nearly took down Gisela Pulido (Slingshot, Spain) in the second heat. Although Ania landed more moves and had more variety, Gisela had much higher technical difficulty and took the win. The third heat however, was a different story. In a huge upset, Karolina Winkowska (Naish, Poland) was taken out by French rider Claudine Podvin (Best). Winkowska was going for her bigger tricks while Podvin went for the less technical but more consistent moves which eventually paid off. Karolina struggled in the conditions and missed several landings which gave the win to Podvin. In the battle for third place, Susi Mai (Cabrinha, Germany) landed a railey to blind and a superior variety of spins and big air tricks to take the win over Podvin.
The winners final was a close heat which saw similar moves from both Bruna Kajiya (Best, Brazil) and Gisela. Bruna landed her moves with better style and more power. A non-inverted slimchance and s-bend were the deciding factor for the win.
“It was pretty hard in the final but I got to do some nice tricks. I landed a slimchance that was really powerful and I think that won my heat. I’m super happy, really tired but happy. It’s all worth it, and let’s see how it works tomorrow,” says Bruna during our interview following her heat.
First Round Result:
1. Bruna Kajiya – Best, Brazil
2. Gisela Pulido – Slingshot, Spain
3. Susie Mai – Cabrinha, Germany
Course Racing Event
Two races were held after the awarding ceremony for the Freestyle singles elimination. The wind was on and off which made for a difficult race for the riders. Sean Farley (North, Mexico) took the first race while Charles Deleau (North, France) was the first rider to cross the finish line in the second race. Local racer Raphael Salles (F-One) came in second while Spain’s Sami Gali, who is also judging the Freestyle competition, took the third spot.
We managed to interview Sami after the competition and got his feedback regarding his race.
“On the first race I used a totally new board which I had never tried before and it turned out to be a very good one. After about two minutes into the race, I got tangled. I was behind Sean, starboard tack when all of a sudden another competitor crossed my path and didn’t give me the right of way so we tangled and I protested. On the second race, I was second on the last buoy but due to a competitor who was blocking me and the buoy, I only managed to finish third.”
Men’s Race Result:
1. Sean Farley – North, Mexico
2. Charles Deleau – North, France
3. Raphael Salles – F-One, France
1. Charles Deleau – North, France
2. Raphael Salles – F-One, France
3. Sami Gali – Best, Spain
Women’s Race Result:
1. Steph Bridge – North, UK
2. Angela Peral – North, Spain
3. Gina Esteva – Best, Spain
1. Gina Esteva – Best, Spain
2. Steph Bridge – North, UK
3. Fabienne D’Ortoli – Cabrinha, France
Tomorrow’s skippers meeting is scheduled at 9:30 am with first possible start at 10:00 am for the second day of the Mondial du Vent – PKRA 2008 World Tour in Leucate, France.