I spent the evening meeting up with some competitors as they arrived and got an early night in, as I was looking forward to seeing the pro competition on the following day.
The morning briefing revealed that the pro's were going to be running a second discipline event - each rider given 7 minutes alone out on the water, with their best big air, kiteloop and technical trick being judged against eachother. It was a great format, and was really good to see the pro's going big in the extreme conditions. They were all pulling off huge kiteloops and big oldschool moves, and it was really impressive to see them also performing technical tricks the mega gusty winds and huge waves.
Everyone was up for a freeride session after the pro's had shown us all how it's done, we all had a great time as the wind seemed to moderate slightly, and I got to take the new Hadlow Id out on the water for a few minutes.
The following day brought the turn of the amateurs, and as the forecast was for the weather to ease slowly; the amateur men and seniors were first up. I was drawn up against Steve Mews and Dave Williams in my first heat; the wind was strong and we all opted for 7m kites, conditions were harsh and waves were dumping on the beach - the only flat water to be found was the backwash infront of the shoredump. I had a good heat, and landed most tricks, and was glad to see that I'd won it, and had progressed straight through to the finals against Kevin and Steve (who took the long way around to get there).
Before long, the final was upon us and it was a difficult decision to choose between the 7m & 9m kites. I went for the 9, but the wind picked up shortly after the green flag was raised, leaving me very powered! I landed some decent tricks and an especially powered railey to blind, which found me flying along out of the trick much more powered than I went into it! I didn't land everything I wanted to, but was hopeful that I'd done enough, given the tricky conditions. I could relax for the rest of the day now, and watched most of the other heats - the pro men were as entertaining as ever and they were all landing some great tricks in the difficult conditions.
As the evening drew near we were looking forward to going to SubZero for some fun on ice skates. It was soon clear to see who had done it before, with Hannah Whiteley pulling off some tricks and Richard Gowers dancing around the rink - clearly the product of a mis-spent youth! We all had a good laugh, and it was clear to see how much people were improving in just an hour or so. I knew it was going to be a big party night on Saturday, so retired back to the van to get a good nights sleep.
When Saturday came, it was announced at the briefing that all the freestyle classes would be racing for the prize of a GoPro camera donated by loopingit.com; exact details were scant to start with, but as the tide went out and the race team got things setup we all gathered for a briefing. The idea was to start at Marks truck, with kite aloft, rush to the water, then kite 500m or so along the shore, around Richards truck, then back again to Marks truck for the finish. The seniors were drawn to race first, so I opted to take out my ancient 2005 16m Naish Torch to hopefully give me a power advantage compared to the others... It was in fact a double edged sword...
As soon as the race began and I started running with the kite, it started pulling me back toward the beach, so much so that I could hardly make it to the water. I ended up running probably 1/3rd of the way to Richards truck before finally getting on the board, but was great to see I was in the lead! I continued leading until it became time to round Richards truck, and the second I started to run away from the wind, the kite started falling out of the air. Dave Williams with his Taboo overtook me with ease at this point, but after I rounded the truck I was determined to make up the lost ground. After another epic struggle to get back to the beach I made it ahead of Dave again, and 1/3rd of the way along to Marks truck already. I powered back on the board to the finish line, and crossed it just in front of Dave.
There was a bit of an inquiry into my tactics, and it was decided that the race would be re-run with the inclusion of an additional cone to prevent corner cutting. I had a very poor start position, but It all started well, but ended up losing a lot of ground after rounding Richards truck, and got overtaken on the water on the way back to the finish line.
After each of the freestyle classes had competed against each other, the winners of each race were put together for a grand final, which resulted in a well deserved win for Ali Barrett.
As evening approached we all got ready for the prize giving at the Savoy Hotel. After sinking a few beers and demolishing the buffet, the awards were handed out. I was stoked to hear that I'd won my first ever event, with Steve Mews taking 2nd and Kevin Matthey 3rd. This meant that I'd secured second place for the year behind the old master Pete Whiteley - perhaps next year the positions will be reversed :) Big congrats to Luke Whiteside and Hannah Whiteley for taking the pro titles!
After all the results were read out, some serious partying was in order, first at the Savoy then off into town to Walkabout bar to get a boogie on! I called it a night sometime after 3am, but I think for some that may just have been the beginning :)
That rounds up another great year on the tour. It's a great pity that it's such a big gap until the first event of 2012, but there's loads of time to get some solid practice in and prepare for battle once more.....