The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada is just a couple of weeks away now, set to take place from the 9th to the 11th of June on Hayling Island. There are still tickets and places available, so there is plenty of time to get involved. The festival has changed a lot over the years and this year looks set to be the biggest celebration of kitesurfing the UK has ever seen! We sat down with Dan Charlish, the organiser and creator of the event to find out what was making this year’s event so special! Links to get tickets are at the end of the interview…

Dan, it’s been a while since the inaugural Armada that saw high winds and participants heading down the coast for miles, in your eyes what has been the biggest change to the event over the years?

The first year was a fantastic experience and gave the event a great platform to build on – but people wanted more in terms of bringing the kitesurfing community together over a weekend – so I think it is the growth into a festival that has been the biggest change. This is now our 5th year; time has flown.

You’ve got some huge names coming this year, who’s on the list and why do you think the Armada attracts such kitesurfing royalty?

Yeah, it’s going to be awesome having Aaron Hadlow, Nick Jacobsen, Gisela Pulido, Tom Court and of course Lewis Crathern all there, as well as other great riders. I don’t know why exactly, it’s fantastic they feel they want to support what we are doing and I think Lew has been a great ambassador for us.

You are introducing a new Kite SUP Run event, why did you feel the need to add the other two elements to the challenge?

Well, fundraising has always been at the heart of the Armada, but it was easier to do when we were doing massive downwinders as the fundraising challenge. However, with the growth in numbers and safety challenges of the big downwinders, we had to come up with something that was still a challenge but didn’t send hundreds of people across Chichester Harbour and out to sea!

Just kiting a mile is no challenge for most people so adding the triathlon element with the SUP and Run seemed like a fun idea – and we can keep everyone relatively close to the festival. And if you do the Kite SUP Run challenge you get your kitesurfing ticket for the whole weekend free (usually £40), which is hopefully an added incentive to go for the fundraising option and help support the grassroots of the sport through our Kite & SUP Youth Tour!

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The event usually attracts lots of brands, what are kitesurfers likely to see at this year’s event from the kitesurfing world?

We have had fantastic support from the kitesurfing industry, and even more, brands have stepped up this year meaning we have had to double the size of the brand marquee. It’s going to be a monster! So I think kitesurfers can expect to see the biggest collection of kitesurfing gear ever displayed in one place in the UK to date! Probably.

Is it still free to just rock up and enjoy the atmosphere and music?

Absolutely, the festival is still free entry for anyone who just wants to come and have a look. If you want to come down for the whole weekend, you can get a camping or campervan pass for £30-£70 depending on tent size. We have invested in an outdoor Live Music stage and now have bands playing all day all weekend. It will be great to create a proper festival vibe, fingers crossed for the weather!

So, yes, whether you are kitesurfing or not you can enjoy the live music, catch a talk or two from some legends in the sport, check out all the new gear, entertain the kids at the FatFace Family Zone, grab a beer and some food with your friends and get involved. There is even a hot tub, and massage area hosted by Neilson called the Neilson Recovery Zone which should be fun!

How many kiters are you expecting to attend over the course of the weekend?

Last year we had over 450 kiters involved and thousands of visitors – hopefully, this year we will go beyond that. Of course the forecast makes a difference, but to be honest, now it’s a summer weekend, more and more people seem to just book the weekend regardless, and come down for the festival – that has been a massive help in planning everything!

The British Kitesurfing Championships are running an event there this year, between that and the Kite SUP Run Challenge will there be any room for anyone who just wants to go for a kite session?

Yes the BKC is a really important event, and we have supported it for the last two years, so it’s great to now host as well. And we also have taster sessions, foiling clinics, boardercross, big air comps and the Guinness record attempt, but obviously pending wind conditions and not all at the same time! There will also be recreational kiting all weekend, we have zoned the beach, and it will all work – Bully says so at least!

What’s the toughest aspect in terms of the organisation of the whole event?

Simply covering the growing cost every year. We spend most of the year just trying to get the sponsors in place so the festival can happen and to ensure that the money raised on the water can 100% go the charities. But we are approaching an interesting time with this being Virgin’s last year. They have been a fantastic support, but who knows who may want to take over as Title Sponsor and help take the Kitesurfing Armada Festival to the next level?

Has the team grown that helps you put it all together?

The team has been amazing, and we have a solid crew – myself and Julia organise the event outside of our proper jobs at youth charity Snow-Camp. Lewis is a fantastic ambassador and gets involved loads in the run-up, and over the weekend, Andy Gratwick keeps everyone safe on the water and brings an epic team of volunteers and staff to help run the event. It’s Bully’s beach, and he busts a gut to make everything happen and there is nothing he doesn’t know about the beach and the conditions on the water and Andy Pope makes it his business to solve literally any problem we might face! Plus, we have a bunch of amazing volunteers who help make everything happen. It’s a proper community effort; I love it!

The last question, in three words, sum up the Kitesurfing Armada…

Best Festival Ever!

Cheers Dan thanks for taking the time and we’re really looking forward to this years event!

Get your tickets HERE and come and see us at the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada 2017!

Fri 26th May, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

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