Catching the wind is difficult and riding the surf isn’t exactly easy, put them together and it’s enough to test body and mind to the limit. El Medano has long been a hot bed of this growing extreme sport but when the PKRA Master Cup and Spanish Championship arrived nature added patience to the riders” virtues. The wind had a lay in and didn’t blow in until 2 pm, so much for a 10am start.
Even given the becalmed conditions I was surprised to see riders carrying large hand pumps down to Playa de Los Balos along with chunky surf boards and bundles of sails. All became clear as the kites took shape, the air filling the frames to keep them as light weight as possible.
The originally promised field of 150 riders and the mornings recount of 50 turned out to be 20 but if quantity was absent quality was in good supply. Youri Zoon (above) of Holland was fresh from winning the fourth World Championship round in Fuerteventura putting him ahead of the pack. He gave me some pointers to the competition ahead. ” We go out for seven minutes in pairs and the judges are looking for power and execution. They award one, two or no points per rider, the whole event is on a round robin knock out system. Look out for the two types of freestyle (there is also a race format) old school is jumps and spins but new school go for tricks passing the handle behind their back.”
Although exhilarating to watch, the rewards for professionals like Youri are pretty scant, the men’s winners share 12,400 euros and the women 3,600. “We have to get good sponsors to pay our travel and hotel bills, 5,000 euros isn’t much for destroying your body.” Youri smiles as he refers to injuries, he has twice broken cross ligaments.
As the riders practiced, the announcer tried to direct the public away from the busiest air space but several groups of beach strollers were buzzed by kites caught on sudden breezes. Despite their inflated edges, a sudden dive was enough to put the wind up a few daydreaming holiday makers. Even the sun bathers were enticed to sit up and admire the flips and charges of the riders as they skimmed over the waves. Dressing for action was an experience in itself. First the harness around the waist and then a tight hold of the reigns while guiding feet into the boards foot holds and finding an extra pair of eyes to make sure the kite wasn’t mingling with another rider’s strings.
The sea was pretty crowded on the first afternoon but stray surfers and swimmers were merely another challenge to these skilled riders. Back on the beach the bar was doing a steady trade and sun cream was slapped on liberally and the Reina beer girls added another layer of glamour to the swim suits and torsos. Even those distractions found it hard to compete with the how fast, how high, how dynamic antics of the riders. The action continues until Saturday 13 August, good luck and may the wind lift you to new glories.