KiteAir Report – Airboss Freestyle Comp ’05

Here’s a write-up from the old KiteAir site by Steve.


Airbossworld Freestyle Landboarding Competition.
Steve Saturday 08 January 2005

First, Let’s set the scene

As usual, we’re all there in the no-wind, hoping that just a little bit of a breeze might get our kites airborne, when someone says ‘Did you know: Airboss are having a boarding competition.’

‘WHAT?’ Goes up the cry, unanimously. ‘You’re joking! Us lot? What are we gonna do?’

So, feeling mildly panicked and knowing full well that we shall all be expected to enter (peer pressure and all that), we set about in earnest trying to get some tricks sorted. At the time, I was flying a 6.6 Blade III most of the time, others were flying various kites, including a Bego 600, 5.5 Bullet, a Frenzy or two, and to be honest, none of us were pulling anything remotely impressive in the trick department. A few jumps and slides, the odd tweak, maybe a switch to toeside, but, come on, a freestyle competition? Others might do alright, but I was just going to make a fool of myself.

But, the gauntlet was down and the pressure was on. Over the summer, most of us realised that, not only were we somewhat lacking in tricks, but our kites weren’t really up to the job either. We began to experiment, and that meant spending money. Between us, we bought Begos, Viokites, 04 Frenzys, bigger Blades,……… A little progress was made, some improved more than others (personally, I was struggling to get off the ground more than a foot or two, not being the lightest of riders, and still persevering with my 6.6 Blade in never enough wind). Then, someone tried a Peter Lynn Phantom. Wow. This was it. This was the kite I needed. A real kite, designed with freestyle land use in mind. Over the space of about a month, most of our regular crew had been in to see the kite pimp that is Gary at Airbossworld, and sorted themselves out with a shiny new Phantom (or two, or three….).

It was now September. The competition was on October 17th – I still wasn’t feeling anywhere near good enough, but I’d put my name down for a Landboard clinic to be run by Airboss and ‘celebrity landboarder’ Glen Butcher – the infamous Butch. It was a mental wind day, but the Phantoms did us proud and suddenly confidence was building. Tricks were getting better, higher; more rotations, grabs, even an invert or two – it was starting to look like game on. Whilst I had improved (18m of Phantom certainly builds your confidence, but I still had no grabs and only 180 degrees of rotating), I was still not too sure about the whole thing. Oh well – someone’s got to bring up the rear. At least I’ll make up the numbers come competition day.

1 week to go. I’d just been into the shop and registered for the competition. Paid my money and signed my dignity away. Throughout the coming days I went through various ups and downs, and following a disastrous session with the worst, lumpiest , most turbulent wind I’d ever experienced , I was getting ridiculously stressed about the whole thing. Was it worth this? No, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to make a pratt of myself and come last…….. Or should I? Practice. That’s what I needed, practice. Get out there all I can. But no time! Work. Family. No wind. Rain. No light (bloody dark evenings). It’s no good, I’ll just not do it. I’ll just make my excuses and drop out and leave it to those who can.

The day before of the comp, and a strange calm settled over me. I’d got nothing to lose; keep my head held high: maintain my dignity and give it all I’d got. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d come last? Or, strangely preferable: get stretchered off by the St. John’s ambulance guys booked for the day, so surely I’d be a front runner for the best wipeout award.

Competition day.

Here it was. The big day. I packed the car with my board, all my pads and helmet, a 12m and 18m Phantom as my weapons of choice, and drove towards my fate. Still feeling quite calm, I approached Rushcliffe Country Park, watching the roadside tree tops as I went. Hmmmm. Not much wind, but probably enough. Maybe 8-12 mph? I didn’t think we were going to have any huge airtime from anyone if the wind stayed like this. As I left the car, kites on my back (and front – have you seen the size of Phantom bags?!), pulling my board along, I walked to towards the flying area. The Airboss crew had been hard at work already – it was only just after 9am and already there was a large competition arena marked out by corner flags, with a stage in and stage out area clearly marked. St John’s ambulance were on hand to administer to any wounded, a burger van had thoughtfully positioned itself on the edge of the field and the Airboss tent was up. Hey, this looked organised! There were also voluntary marshals and helpers on hand made up of various kindly Club Boss members who were not competing. However, we all felt a little puzzled by the large crowd that was gathering at the end of the field – wow, they’d all come to see us and witness first hand some extreme kiteboarding action (little did they know) – the word had obviously got around! But sadly, no: there was a fun run on in the park and they were there to cheer on the runners. We had about an hour to play and get in a last warm up and practice before the riders meeting.

Gary Grayston, head judge for the day, and head dude at Airbossworld, got us all together to explain how the day was going to work. Riders were to be drawn in heats of 3 at a time. A repocharge system was used, meaning no one faced instant dismissal (and the resultant instant shame and ridicule) – the losing two of each heat got to go again against losers of the other heats, in round two; the winners going straight through to round three. Everybody was guaranteed at least two heats, each heat lasting 10 minutes.
The girls would have a slightly different system, as there were only three of them competing. Instead, they were to have a best of three to decide the winner. The flag system was explained, the red and green flags used to indicate the start and end of heats and a black flag for indicating a halt to the proceedings, accompanied by a blast of the airhorn. The judges for the day were Gary Grayston, Elly Grayston and Neil Retti.
They would be marking contestants on the moves they pulled, the judging criteria being technical ability: difficulty and execution, and that all too elusive factor: style. Riders would score progressively less for any repetition of tricks. This latter put me in something of a tricky position: with such a limited repertoire of tricks to call on, how do I fill my ten minutes? Too late to worry about that now. Still, the atmosphere was all good, everybody was pumped up and there were enthusiastic and genuinely warm wishes of good luck and encouragement. There was no harsh rivalry, just a common wish for us all to push for our best, and for the best rider to win.

The heats were drawn, and wouldn’t you know it, I was up first. I was drawn against Tom on a 6.6 Blade and Nick on a 6m Slingshot. Both were unknown quantities to me – I’d seen Tom ride a few times but a long time ago, and I’d never met Nick before. We wished each other luck, a quick handshake and off went the air horn. Not a massive amount of wind, but I pointed all 18m of my Phantom at the floor and shot off down wind to get some speed up – a couple of small jumps, and a powerslide at the far side of the arena and I made the transition to come back. A quick glance at the other two, and they seemed to be struggling to get moving in the low wind. At the far side if the field, all the fun run spectators were watching us, not the runners – this was obviously more exciting than watching people puff and pant their way round on foot.
Hey, this might actually be going in my favour! All I had to do was keep it moving and throw in everything I had – trying to keep some semblance of style about what I was doing. In reality, this amounted to pretending to be relaxed, leaning back and riding across one handed in attempt to look cool. Yeah, right. A couple of switches to toeside, landed quite nicely and a big carve transition. Damn – not enough wind! I’m too far downwind and riding on the edge of the scoring area, with not enough power to ride back upwind.
The rules said I could walk back into the area, so a quick jump off the board and running frantically back to the middle, I got back on and carried on. The red flag came up meaning I had seconds to go before the end of the heat, so I got all the speed and power I could muster and sent the kite back and up – up I went, and for the first time I took my hand off the bar in the air, practically waving to the judges to make sure they spotted it – nothing so advanced as a grab, but hey, every little counts. I landed cleanly and powered off, just in time for the horn to sound. Rushing over to the stage out area, to hand my kite over to Kai who was up next and using my Phantom (there was a lot of kindly kite lending going on, so at least everyone was suitably powered) – I walked back to the rest of the crew to be told that it was in the bag – I’d won my heat!! That was it – if I did nothing else now in the rest of the comp, I could go home happy and proud. And knowing who I would have to ride against in later heats, I kind of knew this was going to be my highpoint.

The heats progressed, some pretty cool moves being pulled in the low winds – some low 360’s and grabs, but as time went on, the wind was getting less and less. After one particlularly fruitless heat, a halt was called to the proceedings for an hour or so to give the wind a chance to sort itself out. Apparently, with all the organisation in the world, no one could put in a request for decent wind, and we had to continue in less than 10mph. Still, at least it was a level playing field.

Due to the delay, the heats got reduced to 7 minutes in length and the breaks in between down to 3 minutes. The ladies had their three heats back to back, and they were pretty closely matched – a tricky job for the judges to determine a winner. I had my second heat and got drawn against my mate Barney, my regular flying partner and one of the widely regarded favourites to win. We were both on 18m Phantoms and Barney’s superior skills easily won out – I managed very little, but he got in some low wind technical tricks to see me lose: some long manuals, smooth switches and even a few low level grabs. As a loser of a heat, I still had another go, and straight away, with barely time to draw breath, the horn sounded again and I was off, up against Wes, one of the Airboss store riders…… so, that was the end of my competing then! Well and truly trounced by both, I took up my place as a spectator to see who would be victorious.

Finally, we had ourselves a, errr, final!. Geoff, flying a 10.5 Blade, Wes on an 18m Phantom, and Kai on another 18m Phantom (hey! MY 18m Phantom! – I wasn’t in the final, but my kite certainly was!). The wind was at it’s lowest of the day, and to put it mildly, it wasn’t exactly hardcore kiteboarding we were watching here. With barely enough wind to even get a downwind burst of power by looping the kite, the phantoms hung around the sky, not being much use. The low wind superiority of the big Blade won out, and despite Kai trying to impress the judges with some comedy handstands, Geoff got in a few jumps and even a low 360. It looked to be in the bag for Geoff.

Just in time, we gathered together in the Airboss tent for the final results and prize giving, as the heavens opened and the rain hammered down. Indeed, Geoff had deservedly won the men’s competition, Wes second and Kai, even with what were admittedly very impressive handstands, got placed third; the ladies winner was Charlotte. Other awards went to Wes for best trick of the competition (a 180 shifty) and Kai for best wipeout – an attempted 360 that resulted in a pretty hefty back slam. Ouch. Honourable mentions must go to Barney and Corey and Sam, who we all know to be excellent riders, but today wasn’t to be their day – next time, next time……… (hey, but you’ll have me to beat – ha!)

Well done to everyone who took part, it was a great day, superbly organised by Gary and Elly and all the Airboss helpers and supportive partners on the day. Thanks must go to Charlie from Flexifoil too for coming down and donating prizes. Prizes were donated too by Scrub, Dakine and Airbossworld. In the end, the old cliché was proven: it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts. Everyone came away with something, even if it was just a bit more knowledge and experience, and the pure satisfaction of having done your best.

Me? I found out later that I came fifth!!!!!! What a result………..

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