There was a lot to be excited about. This event held huge promise as the first ever KTA X-Champs competition. The event was to be split into a range of disciplines: TT Racing, the new Freestyle X, a high tach Big Air competition utilizing a board mounted height measuring device known as a ‘WOO Device’ and even in the mix Stand up Paddle Racing. The KTA has designed the X-Champs to offer something for everyone, at all levels along with keeping the action up close to the beach and personal, to ensure the crowds get to feel they are part of all the action too. Something perhaps that has been lost a little in recent years as the racing side of the sport focuses more on sailing course formats that take riders further out to sea.
With the new competition format also came a new media vision, a vision of growing the kite boarding lifestyle and travels to new audiences beyond those already hooked on the sport. Filming for the new documentary style KTA TV broadcasts, began in earnest days in advance of the event to capture the other aspect of the kiters life, that of travel and meeting new people and experiencing their culture and lifestyles These new shows will go out over the next few months via the KTA’s broadcast partners on SKY TV’s Wild Spirits programme across Europe and with the Outdoor Channel in Asia and Australasia. The KTA’s online and social media output during the event saw record numbers interacting and viewing the output. This is also about to get an extra boost too in the form of new social media TV show, The Q You. These are the guys that brought the world MTV and are now turning their attention to broadcasting content like the KTA.
The KTA X-Champs Vietnam based itself at the stunning Ninh Chu Bay and was hosted by the Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club. Proceedings began with the competitors being warmly welcomed by the events official government partners the Vietnam Canoeing rowing and Sailing Federation (VCRSF) and the Ninh Thuan Provincial Government, in a ceremony attend by 80 officials, plus thousands of members of the public, looking on from the beach.
In advance of this day, Ninh Chu Bay had been enjoying the expected cross-shore winds and perfect water conditions, but as the opening ceremony finished the rain began. The forecast, but not welcomed storm dampened spirits as the returning wind shifted to offshore. From now on it would hard work for the riders, but as the opening SUP races began spirits lifted and crowds soaked up the growing excitement.
After some hard fought paddle races, it was time for the TT Race fleet to take to the water and although not easy the riders and team managed to push through a number of races to close the day. The racing as well as the KTA X-Champs as a whole is solidly support by their long-term industry partners Cabrinha.
Day two opened with the same wind situation and it was clear that it would not be shifting back any time soon. Nevertheless, the riders pushed on with the competition and the SUP racers again powered their way around the course. KTA SUP racing is being run as a one design class, sponsored by Starboard, who are support the KTA to introduce this fast growing high participation watersport throughout the session. It certainly caught the attention of paddlers and kiters alike at Ninh Chu Bay, as an international field of 30 riders battled it out. It was day in which the Russian paddlers slowly beginning to dominate the men’s pack, while on the women’s side of things the top place battles where taking place between the New Caledonian and Korean girls.
As with the opening day, TT Racing kicked back into action after the paddlers left the water. The offshore wind might have been unexpected, but this did not slow the racers down any and they were soon blasting across Ninh Chu Bay in a series of fast reaching races that excited the crowd into cheering for their new favourite riders. Thailand’s Yo Narapichit Pudla, showed once again why he was still reigning Asian champion, while in the women’s class with one 1 rider Germany’s Kathrin Borgwardt out of action due to fever, a new face in the form of a young 16 year old rider from China, Jingle Chen was making her mark.
Day two was completed by the much anticipated WOO Big Air competition. The Big Air show was a firm favorite with hordes of local spectators who were ‘wowed’ by the action packed jumps taking place in front of them. Kiteboard Big Air is something that everyone can get behind and enjoy, whether you’re competing against world rankings or just watching from the beach. The wind was blowing hard, and the gusts were carrying the WOO riders to new heights and laying down the first KTA WOO X-Champs records.
Vietnam’s Lai Hoang Phu boosted a massive 13.8 mtrs to secure a popular home win in the men’s division, while Holland’s Mariska Wildenberg put up an unbeatable 10.9 mtrs for the women.
Sadly, it was clear by the end of the day that the winds at this spot were not going to play ball and return to the expected direction, meaning that it would not be ideal for the approaching freestyle event. The difficult decision to move the competition to a new location was made and following day would see a shift to the south side of Ninh Chu Bay.
Day 3 and the riders and crew woke with a new lease of excitement, the KTA’s Freestyle X had arrived!
Regular riders at Ninh Chu Bay, really have something special going on. Not only an amazing base location at the Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club, but also the ability to hardly have to move to find the ideal conditions, when the wind changes. Add to this the incredible backdrop of mountains on the horizon, and most importantly strong constant winds, then you have a kiteboarding haven worth travelling for.
The KTA’s Freestyle X had come of age as radical new school and airstyle hooked in old school moves were blended into some incredible heats of pure talent. The crowds love it, growing bigger throughout the day and cheering their heads off as one big move after another blasted into the sky.
Approaches from the riders to this new format of freestyle where interesting and varied. While most had switched to straps to allow them to add board offs to their old school output, some riders like Hollands Dylan van der Meij, would swap halfway through his heat from straps to boots. Vietnam’s Win had a totally different approach and impressed judges, fellow riders and crowds alike with is spellbinding strapless surfboard riding. It was a tough day though and the riders left the beach exhausted, but happy.
With everyone well rested and ready to go again, the final day of the competition kicked off with the Freestyle X finals. The level of competition was absolutely astounding as the guys and girls battled it out for the number one spot. France, Aruba and Japan in the shape of Aya Oshima, Maureen Castelle, Marine Duprat and Annabel van Westerop, went head to head in the women’s Freestyle X, showing us some of the best levels of riding the KTA has seen in women’s freestyle. In the end though it was Marine Duprat who would come out on top.
The men were also making a hugh impact. Featuring Quentin Valesa, Dylan vander Meij, Jaka Komocar and Andrey Salnik, from France, Holland, Slovakia and Russia respectively. The winds were screaming in and the guys were maxing out on both height and technicality, it was a total kiting feast and no one will forget that final between Meij and Salnik for some time to come. It was though a popular and well deserve win for Meij that finished the Freestyle X action for the KTA X-Champs Vietnam.
It was a perfect day and the TT racers also relished the challenge to get back on the water and show off their high speed skills. All the usual suspects were in the thick of it as the final round of racing unfolded to take us towards the close of action. Atte Kappel, Fon Benyapa Jantawan, Pauline Valesa and Quentin Valesa pressed Pudla and Chen hard over the final races, but in the end they held on and took the glory and bragging rights from the 4 days of varied and challenging, but classic TT Racing which showed why this discipline remains the most popular for the KTA.
It had been an amazing week at Ninh Chu Bay, the welcome and the support for both team and riders had been incredible. Vietnam lived up to all its expectations and delivered challenging conditions with strong winds. A challenge which the riders rose to meet and gave back to the daily crowds of thousands a sporting festival they will be talking about for a long time to come.
The VCRSF and Ninh Thuan Provincial Government, began the closing of the first KTA X-Champs with the official medal awarding ceremony at the Long Thaun Hotel. This was opened by a number of traditional Vietnamese dancers that captivated and reminded the competitors of the culture of Vietnam that they had been enjoying during their stay. The official ceremony then blended seamlessly into the final prize giving and closing party that brought the KTA back to where it starting proceedings, at the Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club.
For more information, visit the Kiteboard Tour Asia website.