Kitepixs Article About Racing And The 2015 Season
So much fun!!!!! Talking to Kitepix.co.uk magazine, whats it about? The usual - "Life is awesome, racing is amazing, kiteboarding rocks... but I guess you all knew that already, so there's some pretty pictures too Special thanks to Michael Petrikov (the man mostly behind the lens) Magda Wegielnik, Dominika Wilczyńska Francois Colussi, George Treadwell and off course goldenpages.ie, Pure Magic Watersports for collectively making it happen!
Kite board racing once rostered for 2016 Olympic inclusion, then unceremoniously dropped was a tough blow. Here at Kitepix HQ we where wondering how things have moved on since that 2012 decision. The outcome of which left many kiter's olympic dream in tatters.
To find out what things look like today we caught up with one of our Kitepix friends and avid racer, Jade O'Connor. She had an incredible year in 2014 - Crowned British Ladies Champion, 2nd at the ISAF World Cup Test Event, 4th at the European Championship, 8th at the World Championships and named Outsider Magazines Woman Of The Year, now there's a mouthful!
So Jade let's start with an easy one. Who are you, and what you up too?
Hi George, I hail from Dublin, Ireland. My local spot is the wide open sands of Dollymount, just a few km's from the city centre. Right now I'm having breakfast in Istanbul on the way back from 5 weeks winter training in Egypt. I'm heading to the West of Ireland for a video shoot with PureMagic on Achill Island, some final training at home, and then back out to the first competition of the year in Palma Majorca. I've been racing in the Formula Kite board Class since 2011, and I absolutely love it!
You've been involved in the racing scene since the early days, What impact did pulling kiteboarding from the 2016 Olympics have on racing, and where's racing at now?
ISAF's (the governing body of sail sports) 11th hour vote to re-instate windsurfing's RS:X class and remove Formula Kite was a big shock and did some pretty terrible damage. The Olympics initially brought a tidal wave of riders, a flurry of race gear from kite brands, sponsors, national teams, and importantly money to grow. Unfortunately much of that energy left with the Olympic dream just as quickly as it came. Many riders hung in to see what would happen next, they had personally committed and invested in equipment, each wanting to be part of the 'next big revolution' in kiteboarding. It seamed the writing was on the wall as riders continued to leave, number dwindling. It's taken 3 years to reach the bottom of that curve, thankfully things have turned around now and the future looks brighter and brighter.
Today there is more people racing than ever before. As racing has matured, riders have found their niche. We now see numbers spread across four disciplines. Hydrofoil, Formula, TT and Slalom. This broad base is brilliant as there's something for any age or skill level. Many of the skills learnt are transferable from class to class which allows easy progression. It looks like racing has finally found its feet, Formula is still under evaluation for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but regardless of that, racing will continue to develop and grow.
What are the options for any aspiring kite racer?
Hydrofoiling is a vibrant developmental class, which means lots of excitement and no limit on equipment. This is brilliant because you can race whatever you have. The downside is that to be at the top means constantly updating equipment, allowing you to keep with the development curve and stay on pace.
Formula is a standard 3 fin raceboard built around a box rule. It's the most mature and thus developed class. It has many rules about equipment in order to make it workable as an ISAF Olympic class. And attractive to Nation teams, the rules also seek to make it as even as possible for competitors. This stability means - I can still race an a Temavento board from 2012 and be competitive. Race Kites went through a major upheaval last year as many riders moved to high aspect closed cell para-foil kites.
TT(twin tip) is aimed at the average local Kiter. It's the ultimate in 'have a go racing'. It shares many similarities in course and procedure so it's great entry level class to experience the thrills and spills of racing using standard free ride gear.
Slalom is raced on a fast and furious cross wind zig zag course with downwind gybes around marks that works well for spectators. It's light on rules and favours the brave as much as the technically good. Racers use everything from full on course boards to fast directional and twin tips.
Check out the IKA web page for more info (http://internationalkiteboarding.org)
What's 2015 racing calendar look like, is there a lot of events?
There's two main sanctioned tours for Formula Racing. ISAF World Cup along side the Olympic Sail Boats Classes. Then there's the IKA Formula Tour consisting of Continental Championships and a World Championship. Then there's the Gold Cup for Hydrofoil Racing, and PKRA for slalom. Underpinning all of this are grassroots events at local club and national level. I suppose you can make the year as busy as you want, or just dip in and out for a few key events. This year I'll travel about 140 days, that will see me to 8 events worldwide and many away training trips. It's a big commitment, but one I gladly take. Thankfully goldenpages.ie, FCR Media Group, and PureMagic Watersports help significantly, couldn't do it without them!
What's riding a raceboard like? It looks pretty easy, flat water, big kite?
Riding a race board is well within the ability of any intermediate rider and a whole lot of fun too. It's really just a big directional with some tweaks. Screaming along flat water in under 10kts of wind, maxed out on a summers day is a really great feeling, especially when your twin tipping mates are standing on the beach, arms folded, watching you have all the fun.
One of the things I love about formula raceboards is the endless learning curve, I'm never bored even after all these years. I'm still learning every session, each time going faster and more consistently. The difference between riders is now so small that the slightest error will shake up the results in a heartbeat. Racing at international level is incredibly demanding in lots of ways. It's the perfect balance of sheer brute physicality, technical ability, and mental toughness. Making the board go really fast consistently takes a huge amount of lower body and core strength, an athletic performance on power with any big wave, big air or wake styler. I'm inspired by the dedication that Rubén Lenten, Kevin Langeree, and Youri Zoon to name few, put in to their physicality and training. They are the epitome of a new breed of kiteboarders. Racing is no different, anybody who wants to be at the top has a gym, diet and skills program the equal of any top athlete.
You mentioned the move to soft kites from LEI's (leading edge inflatable's). What are they like to fly and race with?
It was pretty clear after the 2013 European Championships that the advancement in foil design gave massive performance gains. Riders are going faster and higher (closer to the wind) than ever before. High aspect race foils fly subtly different. I don't think it's a beginner or advanced skill per say. It's simply a different skill that you have to dial into. Once I made the transition I never looked back. Along the way there where quite a few swims back to shore with a water filled mattress of a kite in the first month or so. That part is not fun, but you get through it quickly enough as your kite skills improve.
The advantage however are undeniably. In large to medium kite sizes they perform better and more efficiently, turn faster, handle low winds like nothing you could imagine. Water relaunch in super low winds far more consistently than inflatable's, and are generally a joy to use. They require precise handling and light touch, needing to always think ahead. That all becomes second nature after a while, then they fly like you can only dream, It's exhilarating. I've even got used to all the bridles and can now pull a foil of a bag, lines still attached and launch within a few short minutes. If like me, you often kite early mornings or late evenings they are a synch to launch and land without a kite buddy.
On the start line one of the major advantages is they are far less likely to tangle. When foils touch they deform a bit, lose a little power and everyone goes on kites still flying, while inflatables will dive bomb wildly taking out everything in there path.
It sound like racing is becoming more and more specialist. Is it separating itself from regular kiting?
There's pros and cons for sure of the specialist gear needed to race. One of the biggest issues facing new riders is the cost outlay of race kites and boards or hydrofoils. Yes there is incredible value in second hand gear that only a few months old, and you can always race TT with standard gear. Formula is introducing a separate inflatable sub class so you can be competitive on regular kites. It will be interesting to see if this generates interest.
I'm really heartened by how kiteboarding has developed, I am just as amp'd to watch Tack twisting, as much as Lenten looping, Bridge racing, or Mitu charging. I like that it's a multi-disciplinary sport, in many ways we are just like cycle sport. Not everybody wants to flip a BMX on a dirt track, and not everybody wants to race a grand tour on a road bike. Kiteboarding is the same. There's room for all of us, hardcore freestylers to soul surfers, to competitive types like me. If kiting was to pigeon hole itself as any one discipline I would be against that. The beauty is, it doesn't have to. We can be in X-Games and the Olympics, you can join a club and kite with a group or find an empty beach and rip it up on your own. Aged 8 to 80 it's about sharing the stoke!
What about you.. why kiteboarding? Why racing?
Kiteboarding has been really good to me, I've made the best of friends, travelled all over the world, been exposed to cultures and countries I could never imagine. Travelling with 50kgs of luggage off the beaten track has pushed me into many challenging situations, it builds character, creates stories, and fuelled many a rant and wry smile. But also the beauty, humanity and goodwill I've found in the least likely places never fails to inspire. I love the ocean, I love the sea. No matter how many times I get on the water each one feels unique, each one special! Considering I've been kiting for 14 years now, it's great to be still captivated by it! To this day kiting keeps me awake and night, or drives me crazy refreshing the forecast every 20 minutes waiting for updates.
I guess that leads us to 2015 and your season, what's in store for you.
It's not lost on me, how lucky I am to be able to travel the world and kite. 2015 is about continuing that dream. I feel that all roads have lead me to here, this year, this season. I have the pleasure to work with two incredible women this year. My coach - Magda Weigielnik from Meilno Poland, and Sports Psychologist - Dominika Wilczynska from Gdansk. I've improved hugely as a competitor and rider in the last 3 months. Now I'm just aching to get to some competitions and give it my all. I'm ready and willing!!
Jade Equipment List
Kites - ELF & Ozone | Boards - Formula and Hydrofoil both Temavento | Fins - Meanline | Hydrofoil - KFA (Kitefoil Australia) Mk3
http://goldenpages.ie | http://puremagic.ie
More information throughout the season here -
http://jadeoconnor.ie | http://Facebook.com/jadeocon