The top freestyle kiteboarders in the world were in Leucate, France at the end of April for the second round of the 2016 Kiteboarding World Championships.
For team Slingshot fans, the event promised a highly-anticipated rematch between Carlos Mario and Yuri Zoon.
In the opening contest of the season earlier this year, the two RPM riders went head to head in the finals to claim the top two spots on the podium and set a high benchmark for the remainder of the nine-round season. Mario edged Zoon to claim first and establish himself as the rider to beat as the season progresses.
After several rounds of elimination heats in Leucate, the stage was set for a high-flying final between Mario, Zoon, Alex Pastor and Stefan Spiessberger. Mario narrowly advanced by eliminating former world champs Liam Whaley and Aaron Hadlow in an action-packed semi, while Zoon advanced after a crushing performance in his qualifier.
Unfortunately, conditions did not align for the final, and after three days of waiting for the wind to return, the final was called and the top four riders shared first place.
IKA Kiteboarding World Championships Overall standings after two rounds:
- Carlos Mario (BRA, Slingshot), 2000 pts
- Youri Zoon (NED, Slingshot), 1915 pts
- Alex Pastor (ESP, Airush), 1855 pts
- Stefan Spiessberger (AUT, North), 1615 pts
- David Tonijuan (ESP, F-One), 1510 pts
- Paul Serin (FRA, Naish), 1510 pts
The third round of the 2016 IKA Kiteboarding World Championships is scheduled to be held in Dakhla, Morocco, from 17 to 23 of June, 2016.
More information, full results and rankings can be found at www.worldkiteleague.com
For full results and heat-by-heat tricks and scores please see the complete freestyle elimination ladder athttp://www.f-ridescoremobile.com/temp/f-ladder-ika-freestyle.html
“All in all, we think that the RPM is a solid kite that does everything and does it well – there aren’t many kites on the market that cover such a broad spectrum of riders and suit each style so well.”
The crew over at www.thekitemag.com recently reviewed our 2016 RPM. We’re delighted but not surprised that the review came back “two-thumbs-up.” Check it out:
No doubt that the RPM is one of those truly iconic kites, so when a new version drops it is always pretty exciting times…
Last year’s RPM had the new IRS bridle and it has remained in for 2016. Which is unsurprising as this is a great system. Then there is an updated durable diamond leech trailing edge and a tougher Dacron DP 175 leading edge and strut material. The RPM has always been bombproof and this year it is even more so. First flight and we instantly noticed the slightly more refined feel – this has been apparent across the whole range for 2016. It feels smooth and precise and has more low end when flown against the 2015 version. Also back for the 2016 RPM is Slingshot’s One Pump Speed System, slightly upgraded, which again we’re happy about as this really is an efficient system that equals less anxious waiting time on the sidelines.
The RPM is a kite that appeals to a broad spectrum of riders – it would be comfortable in the hands of a freerider looking for a bit more diversity or a pure wakestyle rider who is looking for kite low, with bundles of pop and slack line for passing. We found that it did work in surf conditions but it gives a mighty pull off your top and bottom turning so you really need to sheet out at these moments to get the most from it.
When the RPM really comes alive is when you start to load and pop, as you get incredible pop. Whether it’s on the flats or off kickers, you really don’t need to think about where the RPM is in the window, which lets you get on and throw your tricks. We like the confidence the RPM gives you to go out and try new moves as it really is a kite that can take your riding to the next level. We also found that in stronger winds the RPM also gives you the confidence to just dig the rail in and push the kite forward in the window – it does this efficiently with no twitching around, and the robustness of this kite is obvious.
All in all, we think that the RPM is a solid kite that does everything and does it well – there aren’t many kites on the market that cover such a broad spectrum of riders and suit each style so well.
Team Slingshot came out firing this week at the opening stage of the 2016 IKA World Championships, claiming first and second place in the men’s field and first place in the women’s.
Among a stacked lineup of competitors, the final men’s heat came down to Slingshot teammates Carlos Mario and Youri Zoon. With Mario fresh off an amazing 2015 season and gunning for a world title and Zoon, former two-time world champ, recently returned to team Slingshot, the stage was set for an epic showdown … and the crowd was not disappointed. With both kiters utilizing the RPM’s freestyle capabilities, it was Mario’s amplitude and technical style that won over the judges for a first place finish.
Watch Carlos Mario and Youri Zoon go head to head in the finals:
For Mario, the win is a continuation of the fiery dominance he established late last season. For Zoon, who beat Aaron Hadlow in the semis to face Mario, the result was a solid start to his first season with Slingshot, and the RPM, since winning back-to-back world titles a few years ago.
On the women’s side, two-time champion Karolina Winkowska had a commanding performance as she blazed her way through the field to claim first place over an impressive group of female competitors, including runner-up and top threat Bruna Kajiya. Winkowska, who rides the FUEL and the Slingshot Refraction, has her sights set sharply on winning on another world title this season.
Watch Karolina Winkowska defeate Bruna Kajiya in the finals:
How did your involvement in the #SKYWALK stunt come about?
I was initially approached by the Alex Thomson Racing team. The stunt sounded so interesting and different, that I had to check it out. Of course, the fact that HUGO BOSS was involved was also a big draw. It’s great to see the more forward thinking fashion brands express an interest in kiteboarding.
In the lead up to the stunt, how did you help or support Alex? Did you share any words of wisdom with him?
I think Alex didn’t quite know what he was in for(!) but since this kind of stunt has never been done before, there wasn’t a huge amount of wisdom that I could impart. There was a sense of the unknown amongst everyone in the team, I think. Alex is a very proficient kiteboarder and of course his sailing experience was invaluable for this stunt. All I remember saying to him before he went out was, “Just keep your kite above your head and you’ll be fine!”
As a professional kite surfer, what is it about this stunt that impresses or shocks you?
For me the most impressive thing about the stunt was the teamwork between Alex and his crew. It’s hard enough to get towed up behind a boat with an engine, but doing it with a sail boat adds a whole other layer of difficulty into the mix. The crew did an excellent job with the boat, making it possible for him to kite up to the tow rope and have the exact angles on the wind to get him as high up as possible. The wind was quite gusty too, making the stunt that much more challenging. Another thing I found very impressive was the way Alex and the crew had jimmy-rigged all of his gear to increase safety.
Have you ever seen anything of this magnitude attempted before?
No, I haven’t ever seen a kiteboarder go up so high on a rope. The only thing I can think of that comes close is when Nick Jacobsen (fellow pro kite-surfer) jumped off the top of Necker Island last year. Alex’s Sky Walk had a lot more moving parts than that, though. They had to rig a bunch of gear specifically for the stunt. All in all, I think this is most likely one of the biggest stunts in kiteboarding history.
What were your thoughts when Alex landed safely back down on the water?
The crazy thing about this stunt was that Alex didn’t just do it once; he had to go up and do it over and over. So the moment of relief when we would see him touch down on the water was short lived as he would go up and do it all over again straight away. There were
definitely a few instances where we saw him go down pretty hard, but after a moment we would see him pop back on his board and go for the next run.
Alex is a keen kite surfer in his spare time – what do you think of his skills on the kite board?
Alex really impressed me with his kiteboarding skills – he’s been doing it for quite a long time but he doesn’t get to kite as much as other people who are way less proficient with a kite! In his case, his endless experience sailing the ocean is definitely a huge advantage and it was fun to see him translate his sailing skills onto the kite. He’s a natural!
Now that Alex has tried his hand at kite surfing…are you contemplating giving sailing a try?!
Well, I’ve sailed small hobie cats before but I definitely know I would never have the courage to sail around the world alone. But I did develop a little crush on the boat, and on sailing, while I was taking part in the Sky Walk filming. So I hope someday to get invited to join a little adventure!
Photo Credit John Dill
Questions & Answers with Alex Thomson
How long have you been planning the stunt for?
We completed the Mastwalk two years ago and ever since then I have been thinking about the next stunt. It all started with a bit of fun with the team and is now almost expected from Alex Thomson Racing. I am often asked ‘What next?’ after the Keelwalk and Mastwalk. We spent a long time preparing and training for the Skywalk. There were a lot of elements that had to come together to make it work, especially with the added factor of me kitesurfing rather than being on the boat for this stunt.
Why did you choose the Skywalk?
I have had the concept of the Skywalk in the back of my mind for a long time. Sailing is my full time career, kitesurfing is my hobby. Kiting is what I love to do in my free time and being able to combine both to create the next stunt was perfect.
How did you prepare?
I am fortunate to know some really great professionals from the kiting world such as Susi Mai. I had several weeks training in Alvor, Portugal. Where we developed the technic of attaching and launching. We practiced lifting behind our RIB as we worked towards completing the stunt behind the ‘HUGO BOSS’. But honestly I was less nervous about completing this stunt than I was about the Mastwalk. There were a lot more elements to coordinate in this stunt as the addition of me kitesurfing. It took a lot of planning for every possible outcome. If anything were to go wrong, we had to find a safe way out of it – and I had to overcome my fear of heights!
Who was sailing the boat during the stunt and what difficulties did they face?
Our Operations Manager Ross Daniel was helming the boat. Whilst helming Ross maintained a constant speed and ensured a steady course. This was critical for the approach to collect the line and then the racing yacht had to maintain a steady course for the ascent. Ray Kasper my kitesurfing coach was standing behind Ross and watching my every move during the stunt. Ray was communicating with Ross the whole time to ensure the yacht and I were in the perfect position to complete the Skywalk. There was also a full crew on board.
How many practice runs did it take?
Leading up to the stunt we had several days practicing behind the RIB, before practicing behind ‘HUGO BOSS’. We then set the cameras into action and over two days I completed the stunt 13 times allowing us to capture all the footage we needed from the RIB and the helicopter.
What were the risks involved?
A huge amount of time was spent preparing for the challenge; calculating the risk, the length of rope required, position of the yacht, position of me and of course the right sea state and wind conditions. The main thing that could have gone wrong was my kite collapsing causing me to fall out of the sky; this could only be managed by how I controlled the kite on the descent and was down to me.
How could you guarantee your own safety?
At all times there was a diver and medic on standby in the safety RIB which was following ‘HUGO BOSS’. The diver was ready to get into the water in case I hit the water incorrectly during the stunt. I was always in communication with the team via a radio headset, enabling me to communicate with the racing yacht and the safety RIB. This communication channel allowed me to know what the yacht was doing at all times ensuring the stunt was completed successfully.
How did you feel when you finished the challenge?
It was great fun! I just wanted to get back out there and do it again.
See some of Alex’s past stunts
After spending a couple months in the snow I decided it was time for a change of climate. It would be a few months before it started warming up anywhere north of the tropics so at the end of January I headed out to Maui for the spring. Maui is one of my favorite places to ride, especially in the winter since I hate wetsuits. The NE trade winds here are pretty consistent and strong through the winter, and on those off days there is usually some swell to surf. This year the conditions have been good with only a couple weeks of no wind. There have been a couple big swells but for the most part it’s been pretty average.
I’ve been spending most of my time hitting kickers at Kitebeach with the Newton wakeboard. The increased rocker compared to a kiteboard is just what I need to handle such hard, slacked landings. I don’t really need to worry about it slowing me down or dragging me down wind since it is usually blowing 20+ mph. The kickers are great since they aren’t part of a surf break, allowing me to drop my kite without worrying about it getting eaten by a wave. Recently I’ve been mostly working on adding grabs to my flat spins. It has been a lot of fun and feels unbelievable when you nail it right. My favorite thing to do right now is add the grab after the handle pass. You really have to have the spin down to be balanced enough to focus on a grab so late in the trick. If you want to see what I’m talking about click here to check out a video of a Backside 3 with a late grab. If it is not that windy or there are no kickers I ride the Darkside since the flatter rocker lets me plane easier. The wind is rarely north enough to fill in at the pro pool but when it is it is a great flat water spot. Maui Sunset in Kihei is also pretty flat but only works on a south wind.
When the swell starts pumping I bust out the Tyrant and hit the surf. I usually ride the right at Lanes, but if the wind is really strong and east there is a sick left near my house at Waiehu. Make sure you lock your car if you ever go to Lanes though because I had my gear ripped off while I was out riding. Luckily I was able to recover it all when the thief sold it to a guy at Kitebeach. Other than that I’ve hit up the lower reef at Kanaha, Pier One and Sugar Cove a couple times.
I’ve got a couple more weeks here to hone in some new tricks before I head back to the East Coast to kick off the summer season and hit up the 2011 Triple S Invitational at Real Watersports in Cape Hatteras, NC. Hope to see ya there! Peace.
Drowned camera ,almost drowned rider and a lot car rally chasing perfect conditions.
It’s what it takes to produce this little video clip.
Filmed&edited by driftwell.com