Moose IKA Asian Kiteboard Championships kick off the 2017 season in Thailand
Report and Photo’s by KTA Media
The 2017 KTA season is officially underway as marked by the completion of the first event on the calendar that took place on the golden beaches of Pranburi, Thailand. The Moose IKA Asian Championships and the KTA Freestyle X were launched just after the Thai National Kiteboarding competition took place.
It was a real benchmark event, not only for the KTA, but also for the sport in general as the IKA 2018 Youth Olympic Games race format was rolled out for the first time. This certainly added a heightened level of expectation and requirement to proceedings, as the eyes of the sailing world and the IOC would certainly be turning towards Asia as the week unfolded.
The KTA embraces firsts however, 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 laid back prize 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 were coming to a close, the second leg of the event was just getting started - registration for the Moose IKA Asian Championships and KTA Freestyle X opened up on Sunday afternoon and ran all the way through Monday morning, with people signing up right until the last minute.
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 a kicking launch party to start the week of competition. Unfortunately, the wind on Monday was a no show, which seemed unthinkable after such a great weather 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 ramp up on Pranburi’s clear blue waters. Riders were briefed at the morning skippers meeting on the new race formats for the week.
This was a historical moment for 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 and certainly on the show of determined skills on display. There were also a few dramatic moments as riders settled into the new format.
Sailing races of any kind, and that includes kiteboarding in this case, 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 riders feedback they preferred the jumping action to just the straight forward 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, kite racing indeed in its element and at its best!
Overall the collective view was that the course is a smart choice on the part of the IOC and one which is going to turn heads at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Bearing this in mind 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 ensued 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 skilful and daring than the adult fleets. Once again though 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 start Sarun Rupchom (THA), manged to take some firsts over Christian throughout the week.
So, a young face to watch for in the future, as is his fellow countryman Sirawit Prangsri, 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 leader board, a familiar position for Yo as 6 times Asian Champion. He was followed closely in second place by Atte Kappel (SWE) and 15 year old Christian Tio (PHI) in third. As a sponsored rider of North and Red Bull, Christian proved himself as quite the racer, a nice addition to his already sizeable 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 at 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 to ride 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% old school - the idea is that the best overall rider will win, not just the wake style 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 were conducted in a very traditional timed heat format, 8 minutes per heat for 8 trick attempts, with 2 riders on the water at a time. Riders were marked on their best 4 tricks- 2 old school, 2 new school.
The women’s division was predictably 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 an A and B level of 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, so he has an impressive repertoire of tricks up his sleeve. In the A final, to nobody’s surprise, was Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA) and Christian Tio (PHI). Taking on a multi- Asian Champion is certainly not an easy task, but one that 15 year old Christian took into his 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 trick pulling 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 it seems, as he stole the show and nabbed his number one spot on the podium.
Then after amazingly after a full week of rivalry and end to end daily competition the riders and crew took the water for a final ‘head clearing’ expression session. The competitive edge was over and the final view of the Moose IKA Asian TTR Championships, was one of kiters doing what they do best, kiting.
No better way to finish that amazing week in Pranburi, demonstrating sportsmanship and comradery at its best.
Proceedings though were wrapped up formally with the awards ceremony and closing party at Wilburland, wrapping up 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.
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IKA Asian TTR Championships
1 Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA)
2 Atte Kappel (SWE)
3 Christian Tio (PHI)
1 Jingle Chen (CHN)
2 Aya Oshima (JPN)
3 Kathrin Borgwardt (GER)
1 Christian Tio (PHI)
2 Sarun Rupchom (THA)
3 Sirawit Prangsri (THA)
KTA Freestyle X
1 Yo Narapichit Pudla (THA)
2 Christian Tio (PHI)
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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Name: Neil Godbold
Organization: KTA Media
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