Future of Freestyle Kiteboard Tour Uncertain After Row Over World Championship Contract
Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria—The future of freestyle kiteboarding’s sole world tour was shrouded in cloud of uncertainty today (SUN) after its contract to stage world championships was ended by the sport’s governing.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) terminated the agreement with the Professional Kite Riders Association (PKRA), and by extension the new owners Virgin Kitesurf World Championships (VKWC), in a late-night lawyer’s letter.
After months of fruitless discussions and wrangling over contracts with the secretive new owners of the world tour, which has so far staged three events in Morocco, Venezuela and Spain, the IKA pulled the plug and intends to oversee the running of the forthcoming two confirmed events in Fuerteventura, Spain, and St Peter Ording, Germany.
The IKA, a not-for-profit company, is sanctioned to award world championship titles by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) within its rules, under the umbrella of the International Olympic Committee. It began working with the PKRA and issued it contracts to run world championship events and titles in 2009. But since September last year it has been in talks with the tour’s putative new owners of the tour to establish fresh contracts for world championship titles it sought to stage in freestyle, big air, slalom, wave and an overall title.
At the launch of the VKWC in January the tour’s owners said they would inject fresh capital and expertise to transform competition kiteboarding in order to earn the sport the recognition it deserved with big-money prizes, state-of-the-art media — both television and on-line — while promoting the riders as world-class athletes.
However, following a failure to reach a satisfactory agreement with the VKWC, sponsored by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin and Zed, a multinational founded by Javier Perez Dolset, who is also an investor in Best kiteboarding, the IKA executive moved on Saturday night.
The seismic decision also reflected disquiet among professional kiteboard riders and leading industry players like North Kiteboarding and Naish, alarmed that the sole freestyle world tour should be so closely linked with another brand, Best, a sponsor of many leading kite professionals.
One of the first priorities for the IKA at the upcoming event in Fuerteventura will to be to hold discussions with all the riders to gauge their dissatisfaction, or otherwise, with the new judging criteria which it believes was foisted on competitors with little consultation.
The IKA said that in its talks with the VKWC it consistently wished to establish strong guide lines and structures that would advance kiteboarding for the good of the sport and the riders.
“A new contract would have enhanced fairness, transparency and independent judging for riders, with the aim avoiding conflicts between the tour owners, brands, judges and riders,” said an IKA statement. “Additionally, the new contract would have required improvements to the newly introduced PKRA [VKWC] scoring and qualification systems, which the IKA is aware have created significant dissatisfaction amongst riders.”
But the IKA is adamant that under its planned new setup the standings from the three competitions so far will be recognised, even if a decision is ultimately taken to change the judging criteria. It may also mean that there will be qualifying for each event, rather than the just two qualification slots mooted by the VKWC.
“The main thing is that the riders can’t suffer from this,” said Markus Schwendtner, IKA CEO. “All the results so far this year will stand. But we will take over the contracts for Fuerteventura and St Peter Ording. The events will happen under us.”
Effort to seek a response from Alex Lorenz, the VKWC’s CEO, and Virgin failed to get a response.
Writer: Ian MacKinnon
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