I arrived at lunch time on Friday after a 3 hour drive over from the North East, it was a nice day with a bit of a chill in the air, but very little in the way of wind. A group of school children were booked in for some powerkite tasters and it was a real struggle to even get the kites in the air - they seemed to have a fun time though. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting with the other competitors, organisers and exhibitors. A meeting was also called by the BKSA race crew, and we discussed the events next year and looking at increasing future participation. The evening was spent in the usual fashion after dinner was served courtesy of the BKSA then we sank a few beers with plenty of banter, whilst listening to some vocalists on the open mic event and a very good 5-piece band. We were all very aware of the extreme conditions forecast for Sunday, and the excitement and anticipation was clearly building.
Saturday started with lovely warm sunshine and a light onshore breeze which lasted all day. I took the opportunity to get the turbine pumped up to continue the tradition of being first on the water. I borrowed a free-race board from Mike Birt and had a great time razzing up and down, whilst working on my strap to strap gybes in glorious sunshine. After a long break for lunch I hit the water again on the race board, but also got a few minutes on an 18m strutless kite - a real eye opener with crazy power once you build up some apparent wind - a little too much in fact! The evening was kicked off with an amazing curry courtesy of the BKSA - it really hit the spot! It was a little more subdued than the previous night with a lot of the competitors wanting to save themselves for the big winds and high seas forecast for the following day. I expect the non-competitors had a great time though!
By early morning it was very clear that the conditions were going to be extreme - torrential rain was pinging off the van, which was being further rocked by punchy gusts. I poked my head out at 7am to see some very keen windsurfers already out on the water, making the most of the cross-shore conditions for some impressive bump and jump riding in the waves. Ant Baker was the first to head out on a kite, and came back in with tales of super harsh conditions and brutal gusts... we knew the competition was going to be a tough battle between ourselves, but more importantly with the elements.
The morning brief was held at 9:30, and we were told that the first possible start was going to be in an hour, and that the ordering was going to be am's followed by ladies followed by pro men. I opted to pump up my 5.5 Stormchaser and 7m Hadlow, and went out for a quick free-ride on the 5.5m to gauge the conditions. It was definitely very harsh, with wide variations in the wind strength - it was definitely doable on the 5.5 - but doing anything technical in those conditions was another question completely.
The am. men were first up, and we all watched with keen anticipation. Young Eoghan who had been promoted from the Youths, was way overpowered and got blown straight out of the zone and was unable to make it back again. Daniel was pulling off some nice boosts and back-loops, but Craig Smith really put the hammer down with some big airs, one footers, kite-loops and some attempts at unhooking. We were next up, and hit the water with excitement and some trepidation. Pete Whiteley went huge from the off with a big deadman down-loop which got even the windsurfers cheering! but paid for it with a sketchy landing sending his kite down and his board off in the opposite direction. JP was clearly way overpowered on his 7m and struggled to stay in the zone. I managed to keep things under control with some boosts, 1 footers, my signature invert front-roll grab, tantrum, blind ride and raley. I tried going for a handle-pass but the conditions had the better of me. Whiteley managed to recover his gear mid-way through the heat and continued to go big to impress the judges. As we left the water all the spectators commented on how much fun it was to watch, it was a great fun and really challenging.
We then had 2 more rounds of am's and seniors; Craig continued to show his dominance in the am's, landing a couple of airpasses and Daniel put up a good consistent performance; Eoghan retired due to the ferocity of the conditions. The ferocity of the first heat took its toll on the seniors, and the second was a little more subdued; Pete continued to wow the crowds with some big airtime and JP performed well too. I struggled to get consistency, missing a 313 and although I managed a Blind Judge, it all fell to pieces with a crash on landing. In the third heat the intensity was raised again everyone started by going big and I knew I had to land something technical to clinch it - after three crashed railey to blind attempts - getting ripped off the water on landing, I finally landed my fourth and knew I was in with a decent chance. We all came off the water and shook each others hands and all shared the buzz of hard fought battle in extreme conditions.
Next up, was the turn of the Pro Ladies, who struggled at first with the gnarly conditions, but as the heats progressed and the wind moderated somewhat, their A-games really started to shine. They all performed really well, but Hannah Whiteley in particular started to land some really impressive moves. Before long, the final was upon us, and Hannah, Rosanna and Holly knuckled down to competition. They all put on a great show, Hannah struggled to land the moves she was taking with ease in the previous heats and Rosanna Jury picked up where she left off with Holly really committing hard to her moves.
The action up to now left us all very excited to watch the pro men. The first heat was Kevin Matthey against Robin Snuggs, which was a HUGE spectacle - Robin hit some huge megaloops right from the off which was received with whooping and hollering from the beach. He kept on going bigger, until he bounced out of a sketchy landing which damaged his ribs, causing an early retirement :( Kevin kept pushing showing some good variety until the buzzer went. In the other heats George Dufty hit some incredible form and landed almost everything with ease, Jon Bleiker landed a great mix of technical moves and some big loops, Richy Flindall was on form, but was tricking well out to sea making it quite difficult to appreciate and Morgan Tinsley impressed with huge power and big distances traveled between take-off and landing. The final was a match-up between Richy Flindall, Jon Bleiker and George Dufty. Jon crashed and inverted his kite a couple of times, but recovered and got some impressive moves out in double-quick time. Richy continued in similar form to the previous heats, but had to retire early. George continued to be utterly clinical, landing pretty much everything he attempted, picking up mobes and airpasses with ease and there was little doubt who would be the winner.
With all the competition over, both the riders and judges were keen to hit the water again, and we all had great fun boosting as high as we could, whilst trying to dodge the windsurfers! Ali Barrett was going particularly huge and landing cleanly every time - props to him! Afterwards we all packed up and got ourselves ready for the prize giving.
Am's were first up - Craig Smith taking a well deserved win, with Daniel and Eoghan in second and third respectively. These results were mirrored in the championship standings. Seniors were up next - JP taking third, Pete Whiteley second, leaving me delighted to have taken the win and the overall championship for 2013. Next was the Pro Ladies - Rosanna over the moon to have taken the win and the championship, with Holly and Hannah following closely behind. And finally the Pro Men - George Dufty stealing the show with incredible performances all day long, Jon Bleiker taking a highly creditable second and Richy Flindall in third place.
All that was left was to say our goodbyes and prepare for the journey home. The windfest crew and BKSA had put on another incredible event and I'm sure we'll all look forward to doing it all over again next time!
A mashup of a couple of weekends footage, taken on the idylic shores of Budle Bay, Northumberland. A mix of unhooked tricks, hooked in boosts and general aquatic buffoonery, with special appearance from surf dog Rocky!
Hope you enjoy it, wanted to create something a little different to the norm. Big thanks to my sponsors Flexifoil, Kitemare Company and Camrig.
Filmed 100% using a gopro hero1 and Camrig line mount. Check out www.camrig.com for more info.