It was raining in Lancing when I arrived too but the sun soon came out with a moderate cross-shore breeze. I opted for my trusty old 18m as I knew it would keep me going through the lulls, and had a short but refreshing session after such a long drive.
The evening was spent eating fish and chips, sinking a few beers and chatting to people as they arrived. There was a lot of excitement about the forecast and the prospect of some solid kitesurfing conditions.
Saturday started in a fairly relaxed way, with a mid-morning briefing with Lewis Crathern, Rou Chater and Jim Gaunt opening proceedings. As became the standard for the event, these were done in a playful manner and with good humour. The schedule for the days events was explained - the increasing wind meant that juniors and ladies would start, before moving onto the bigger lads later. It was great to see that multiple world champion Kevin Langeree had come along too!
After everyone had gotten changed and sorted their equipment, competition started with the juniors on kites ranging from 7 to 10.5m. The tide was dropping, leaving nice flat spots between the small waves and it was a pleasure to sit down and watch the action.
Competition rattled on, and the Juniors and am ladies were soon completed, before moving onto the pro classes and masters.
As our heat began I was glad to land a nice clean 313 on the way in, to which Kev and Dave replied to with Blind Judges. I landed a few more smaller tricks on the way out to sea, but repeatedly failed to land a low mobe on the way in. After 3 failures I considered forgetting it, but as time ran out gave it one last try and stomped it with a rather sketchy landing. I wasn't sure how the judges would compare this to Dave and Kev's heats, and we all anxiously awaited the results.
I later found out that I'd done enough to secure first place, progressing me straight through to a place in the third round. Dave and Kev needed to go through the second round to progress, which they proceeded to do so, leaving Kev as my competition again in round 3!
Next was the turn of the amateur men - a great class with such a variety of styles as handle-passes aren't scored. Big air and loops were mixed up with unhooked moves and board offs - a real kitesurfing Smörgåsbord, and great fun to watch as everyone pushed their limits.
The Am's were run right through to completion, interleaved with the insane action from the pro men, and it shortly became time to pack down and make way to the pub for a barbecue and a cheeky pint or two!
It was great to see the reactions on the faces of people who had done far better than they expected they could; and awesome to see the industry supporting the competition with some very tidy prizes too!
The Juniors was won by Harry Way, men's and ladies amateurs won by the dynamic duo Dan and Lucie Turner, and pro Ladies by Rosanna Jury.
The wind and sea state hadn't gone unnoticed by anyone - winds well in excess of 30mph and big shore dump - it was clear the conditions were going to be a real game changer.
The pros were the first to start, and it's fair to say that the heats were very tentative, with not much more than the simplest of handle-passes being scored.
After the first round of Pro's were completed, my 3rd round heat was up against Kev Matthey. We both started fairly slow, landing some basic moves in the huge shore dump, until Kev landed a Blind judge on the way in. I tried to reply with a 313, but lost control of the bar on landing. I landed a few more low scoring moves in the difficult conditions, but wasn't sure they would be enough (and they weren't! :)).
This rounded off the weekends action, and everyone packed up and headed to the pub to hear the results from Rou and Jim. It was announced that Olly Bridge had done enough to win the Pro men's title, followed by Oli Sweeney and Sean Murphy. Kevin Matthey had just done enough to push Kevin Maguire into second place for the masters, with Dave Wilde coming third.
It was a great start to the UK championships and there was a great feeling of mutual appreciation from everyone involved; whether it be it organisers, competitors, volunteers or supporters from the kite industry.
It was an epic weekend and a hugely promising start for the championship season, and left everyone looking forward to more... Roll on the Essex event on the 25th July!