The first event of the 2017 Kiteboard Tour Asia is a wrap. Pranburi, Thailand hosted a busy week of TT:R twintip racing and Freestyle X competition. The KTA Media team provides an in-depth report from the event, below.
The 2017 KTA season is officially underway, as marked by the completion of the first event on the calendar in Pranburi, Thailand where, on the back of the Thai National Kiteboarding competition, the Moose IKA Asian Championships and KTA Freestyle X was launched. It was something of a benchmark event, not only for the KTA, but also for the sport as a whole as the IKA 2018 Youth Olympic Games race format was rolled out for the first time. It certainly added a heightened level of expectation and requirement to proceedings, as the eyes of the sailing world and IOC turned towards Asia as the week unfolded.
The KTA likes first’s though, so it was a welcome challenge and great to be the focus to test out the new Olympic format. The event itself would be blessed with stable winds of 15-20 knots over the duration of the first weekend for the opening competition, the Kitesurf Association of Thailand (KAT) event, which closed with an impressive freestyle final between Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA) and Alex Cagarin (UKR) for the men’s and Kathrin Borgwardt (GER) and Young Eun Lee (KOR) in the women’s. In the end, it was Kathrin who walked away with the women’s title and Yo with the men’s. A relaxed prize giving ceremony on the beach saw winners awarded with Moose trophies, and closed what was for sure a successful event for the Thai Nationals.
As the weekend’s proceedings came to a close, the second leg of the event was just getting started – registration for the Moose IKA Asian Championships and KTA Freestyle X. Everyone made their way to the Kite Cable Thailand on Sunday night for the opening bash, courtesy of the title sponsors Moose Cider who put on nothing short of a kicking party to start the week of competition. Unfortunately, the wind on Monday was a no show, which seemed unthinkable after such great weather over the weekend. Still, it did nothing to bring down the mood of the riders who took a chill day to unwind after the first leg of the competition and reflect before going into round 2.
By Tuesday we were gifted, once again, with good wind conditions and the first day of the Moose IKA Asian Championships was ready to go, on Pranburi’s clear blue waters. Riders were briefed at the morning skippers meeting on the new race formats for the week. This was that historical moment for the kiteboarding, as the testing for the future courses pegged to be used in the Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018, began. Taking into consideration the fact that the course was new to most, it definitely created an extra edge on the normal race challenges. Along with the show of determined skills on display, there were also moments of drama as riders settled into the new format.
Sailing races of any kind, including kiteboarding, can at times be rather detached from the spectators on the beach. By nature, many courses will be set far out to sea or designed in such a way that the fleet often splits direction right at the start of the race making it near impossible to tell who is where, if you should take your eyes off for more than a second.
However, a downwind slalom course brings the action right to the shore break, meaning spectators get treated to an up close look at riders taking hard corners, fighting for position, and sometimes getting into some gnarly tangles. Not forgetting, of course, the addition of the Boarder X jumps that were added on day 2 of proceedings and brought yet another dynamic to the format. From the rider’s feedback, they preferred the jumping action to the straightforward slalom course of day one. It not only added to the excitement of the racing but also to the potential for overtaking and the outcomes of races could change dramatically if a rider miscued a jump or took too much air-time clearing the obstacle. It was also a firm favourite for the spectators, who loved the visual impact of the riders firing around the course and taking the jumps. It was kite racing in its element and at its best! Overall, the collective view was that the course is a smart choice from the IOC and one which is going to turn heads at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Bearing this in mind that it’s important to draw attention to the rather impressive fleet of 11 youths who competed in Thailand with rider ages ranging from 10-16. All eyes were on these guys with everyone’s attention turning towards 2018 and as anticipation rises in lieu of the 2020 Olympic decision to be made in May. Although for the ‘full Olympics’ it is the foil board format that is being strongly advocated and anticipated as the equipment of choice, but that, for now, is another story. Fantastic battles were witnessed as this event’s young group of riders went for it full blast! Considering the age difference, it was surprising to see just how closely they fought each round of the racing and certainly, they showed that they were no less skillful and daring than the adult fleets. Once again, it would be Philippines’ favourite Christian Tio leading the way for the youth fleet in an almost flawless performance over the week, though rising local star Sarun Rupchom (THA), managed to take some firsts from Christian throughout the week. So, a young face to watch out for in the future, as is his fellow countryman Sirawit Prangsri, who was also very much in the mix and giving the other two a solid run for their money.
For the men’s fleet, after several days of hard fought competition, things ended once again with Yo Narapichit Pudla at the top of the leaderboard, a familiar position for Yo as 6 times Asian Champion. He was followed closely in second place by (SWE) and 15-year-old Christian Tio (PHP) in third. As a sponsored rider of North and Red Bull, Christian proved himself as quite the racer, a nice addition to his already hefty collection of freestyle accolades.
It was 16-year-old Jingle Chen (CHN) who took away the female title this time, she did not falter from her top position in a single heat throughout the week. When Jingle casually hopped off her board in the shore break after effortlessly leaving the rest of the women’s fleet trailing behind her, she smiled with ease and explained that, in fact, it wasn’t as easy as it looked- foiling has been her main focus over the past few months and riding a twin tip again felt very challenging- especially given the level of her competitors. Clipping at her heels in second place was Aya Oshima (JPN) and Kathrin Borgwardt (GER) in third.
But it wasn’t just racing that went down over the week in Pranburi… Freestyle X, the competition format originally coined by the KTA, brought the other element of kiteboard competition into play. The rules for Freestyle X are that you will be marked 50% on new school tricks and 50% on old school – the idea is that the best overall rider will win, not just the wakestyle expert or big air junky. From what we saw, the format definitely pushed a lot of riders out of their comfort zones.
Unlike the TTR racing, the Freestyle X ran in two divisions – men’s and women’s. The men’s heats were conducted in a very traditional, timed format, with 8 minutes per heat and 8 trick attempts per rider, with 2 riders on the water at a time. Riders were marked on their best 4 tricks- 2 old school and 2 new school. The women’s division was small compared with the men’s, so instead of a timed heat with 2 riders each, the competing girls were out on the water together with an unlimited time to complete their allocated 8 attempts each. As the wind continued to blow throughout the event, we were graced with conditions to compete through to the finals. In the end, it was Aya Oshima (JPN) who walked away with the Thailand freestyle title, with Kathrin Borgwardt (GER) in second place, Young Eun Lee (KOR) in third, and Fon Benyapa Jantawan (THA) in fourth.
The men’s division split at the semi-finals, with A and B level final heats. In the B level it was Eric Rienstra (USA) who grabbed the first spot on the podium. Eric is a regular on the Kite Park League tour, and he has an impressive repertoire of tricks up his sleeve. In the A final, to nobody’s surprise, it was Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA) and Christian Tio (PHP). Taking on the multi-time Asian Champion is certainly not an easy task, but one that 15-year-old Christian took in stride nevertheless. Both riders fought hard, clearly pushing their abilities to the absolute limit. Yo, riding on a race kite, seemed to have the upper hand slightly in keeping upwind in relation to the competition box, whereas Christian, on his North Vegas, quickly lost distance, costing him valuable time. The word from the judge’s tower was that, in terms of their new school performances, it was a tie but when it came to their old school, well there’s just no beating the master Yo who stole the show and nabbed the number one spot on the podium.
Then, after a full week of rivalry and end to end daily competition, the riders and crew took to the water for a final ‘head-clearing’ expression session. The pressure of competition was off and the final view of the Moose IKA Asian TTR Championships was one of kiters doing what they do best, kiting. There’s no better way to finish that amazing week in Pranburi. It was sportsmanship and camraderie at its best. Proceedings were formally wrapped up, with the awards ceremony and closing party at Wilburland, calling an end to what was a hugely successful week for all involved and a perfect start to what is sure to be one of the best KTA seasons to date. There’s plenty more to come, folks. Keep an eye out for news on our next event in Korea, the first 2017 round of the IKA Kitefoil Gold Cup coming up in May.
IKA Asian TTR Championships
1 Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA)
2 Atte Kappel (SWE)
3 Christian Tio (PHP)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)
2 Aya Oshima (JPN)
3 Kathrin Borgwardt (GER)
Christian Tio (PHP)
Sarun Rupchom (THA)
Sirawit Prangsri (THA)
KTA Freestyle X
1 Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA)
2 Christian Tio (PHP)
3 Eric Rienstra (USA)
1 Aya Oshima (JPN)
2 Kathrin Borgwardt (GER)
3 Lee Young Eun (KOR)
The Moose IKA TTR Championships and KTA Freestyle X was sponsored & supported by:
Sports Authority of Thailand, Moose Cider, Cabrinha, Evason Hua Hin, LiP Sunglasses, BBTalkin, Ley Café, Kite Cable Thailand, Yamaha, Surf Spot, Kitesurf Association of Thailand and the Hua Nin Racer Marina.
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