The best kiteboard riders in the world are in Germany once again for the 4th Tour stop of the 2009 PKRA World Tour. For the fourth straight year, the Professional Kiteboard Riders Association (PKRA) is holding the competition at St. Peter-Ording - the largest beach of all PKRA Tour stops. A total of 60 men and women are participating in this event which will run until August 2 for a chance at over 50,000 Euros in prize money.
Dubbed as the “Best Organized Kiteboarding Event in the World,” the Germany event kicked off day one with the trial elimination round of the men’s division. Cloudy skies with brief rain showers prevailed during the day. The temperature was at a bearable 18° Celsius with the winds increasing at a steady pace averaging approximately 15 knots.
Day One got underway with a 9:30 am riders meeting at the beach. The 10:00 am start was delayed by about an hour due to some technical problems so a second announcement was made by Race Director Olaf Van Tol at 10:45 am declaring an 11:30 am start. There were a total of 49 men registered so 33 battled it out in the trials. Most of the riders were on their 9 to 11-meter kites
Kiteforum.com’s founder Toby Bräuer was at the scene all day for some ultimate board-off performance to the delight of the crowd. The spectators at the beach began to gather in numbers as the day wore on to cheer for their favorite riders and see who would win a spot in the highly anticipated Singles Freestyle competition.
Around 1:00 pm, the weather took a turn for the worse. Overcast skies with sections of cumulonimbus clouds hovered along the beach forming a line of severe thunderstorm with strong winds and rain soaking the competition area. An hour later, the announcer declared that due to the extremely high tides and strong onshore winds, the event site would be flooded and all vehicles parked at the designated parking areas would have to be moved as quickly as possible to avoid having a severely salt water-drenched vehicle.
At 2:20 pm, another announcement was made advising everyone that the Singles Freestyle competition is postponed for the day after the men’s trials due to the extremely high coastal tides which reached its peak at 4:30 pm.
There were mostly new Dutch and German riders in the trials which made it slightly difficult for the judges to cope with identifying who’s on the water and made sure they were judging the right competitor. Nevertheless, all went very well and each rider in the heats was identified properly and everyone was judged correctly.
While not everyone could execute them, it was apparent that riders had to be able to perform not just regular or sent handle passes, but powered handle passes to qualify for the main event. Some of the common tricks saw from the riders were blind judge, 313, blind judge with aerial handle pass, slim, mobe, kite loops, krypts, raley to blind, back to blind air pass, kiteloop with aerial handle pass and sent handle passes.
All qualifiers performed a very high level of riding but there were plenty of crashes along the way because of the onshore and gusty winds. Compared to the pre-qualified competitors who can perform and land up to 20 moves in a 7-minute heat, the qualifiers were able to do about half of that. A reminder of just how good the twelve pre-qualified riders are in different conditions.
It was also obvious that experience played a major role in today’s events, especially in positioning during the heat. In the onshore winds and sandbars on the inside, the more experienced riders started as far upwind as possible to keep out of the shallows and upwind away from the beach and shore break. On the other hand, the less-experienced or underpowered drifted close to the beach, limiting the area where they can land their tricks. They also had to fight upwind each tack before a trick which limited the variety of moves they could perform. Riders starting and staying upwind had plenty of free space to perform their moves than be kiting on the same line as their competitor and tangling or running into traffic at the bottom of the competition box near the shore.
Overall, the event went smoothly with not too many mishaps other than a couple of disqualifications due to line entanglements. During heat #12, Monty Scholz, (Naish, GER) was disqualified due to a line entanglement with another competitor. Unfortunately, he was leading the heat before the mishap. In Heat #15, Erik Volpe (Slingshot, ITA) was also disqualified due to another line entanglement with one of his opponents. In the following heat, Stephan Brenner (Catapult, AUT) lost after breaking his leash while Tom Schüller (North, GER) crashed his kite hard onshore in heat #17. Fortunately for him, a kind and eager spectator ran out into the cold North Sea to help him re-launch his kite.
The day concluded at 3:30 pm while tomorrow’s mandatory riders’ meeting is set to take place at 10:00 am with a first possible start at 10:30 am.