Starting out with a glassy, windless morning, the conditions soon began to improve on this second day of the Hainan Island PKRA tour stop, as the afternoon neared. While still light, the conditions turned out to be suitable for the first racing competitions of the event in 12-15 knots of wind. Sending up their 12-18 meter kites, riders welcomed the idea of a new racing format – slalom, and as such, some of the best freestyle riders took part, as they could ride without gear restrictions as normally seen in course racing.
As the competitors entered the water, it was clear that this would be a very interesting set of races. Riders like Bruna Kajiya (BRA) and Kevin Langeree (NED) happily lined up at the start, and prepared to take part in serious battles to the finish. From the beginning, it became clear that those who had the best start gained the biggest advantage. Competitors started on a port tack between a buoy and a boat - going out about 300 meters - and then around another buoy to complete another 300 meters. They then continued onto the finish line alongside the beach, and in front of the many spectators, coming in incredibly fast as they bared off the wind. In total, the course’s length measured approximately 1 kilometer.
In recounting the exciting moments of the race, Bruna Kajiya commented, “ Slalom is actually more fun than (course) racing! I really enjoy it and it is really exciting to watch, especially if you are racing with your friends and it is really tight and close. I think it was pretty cool!”
Gisela Pulido also chimed in, saying, “It was so much fun! It was really nice because we were really close together at the buoys and passing each other. It is so much different than freestyle. In freestyle you are always worried about crashing tricks and choosing the right kite size. In Slalom you just go for it and try to get a good start, go really fast and not crash and keep your speed at the buoys and the fist one to cross the finish line is the winner.”
After many close heats, it became apparent who shined on the race course, Kevin Langeree excelled at the starts and Victor Hays (FRA) made an impressive mark when he passed Christophe Tack (BEL) in the last seconds of one race, which qualified Hays for the final. Pulido also did well for the women, beating out her normally close competitors, Karolina Winkowska (POL) and Bruna Kajiya. And while the local Chinese riders didn’t quite make it into the finals, it was apparent that they have much experience riding in such conditions, and did very well against the top PKRA riders.
After such an incredible day, all the riders are very much looking forward to the continuation the event and the beginning of freestyle heats. Everyone came away from today’s experience with a new level of excitement, with smiles and laughter the most noticeable feature across every competitor’s face.
Day three looks like it will be a full one as well, with conditions expected to improve. The single elimination will likely begin, and a first possible start of 11am looks hopeful. For more information and updates on the event, check out www.ProKiteTour.com or the PKRA Facebook page.