KTA China – Pingtan Island Wrap!
1 June, 2012
Pretty much that one word sums up the experience of the KTA China from the island of Pingtan that sits in the Taiwan Straits, host to this season’s KTA Tour Finals.
This is perhaps China’s windiest location, where regular wind speeds of over 30kts are recorded over the winter monsoon season. So windy in fact that all of the island’s old traditional style stone houses need to have rocks placed on top of their tiled roofs to keep them in place when it blows. The island is being trusted forward as one of China’s economic development zones, which in the case of Pingtan due to its location has its focus on being the gateway into China for Taiwan which means for this quite somewhat forgotten part of the country it is now at full speed in its rebirth with construction taking place at every corner that will turn Pingtan into a slick hi-tech business and commerce location over the next five years, which in model form has lots of parallels with the feel of Dubai only as our hosts here assured us with a careful eye to its tradition, beautiful natural green areas and for us most importantly its stunning coastline.
Our hosts and sponsors for the event were the Management Committee of Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone who would for the first time ever with the KTA be bringing an international sporting event to Pingtan and for those of us lucky enough to have been there this past week you have to say that if this was just their first attempt then watch out for the return match next season now that they fully understand what a kiteboard event is all about.
From the outset Pingtan wanted to make its mark with the KTA and boost kiteboarding into the forefront of its new watersports developments by offering the highest level of prize money the KTA has ever been able to give, some US$30,000, which combined with our tour sponsor equipment prize package gave us an overall prize value of US$40,000 for the finals. In addition to this Pingtan also offered a free hotel and food package to all the riders, the icing on the cake which has seen the KTA China break all previous registration records with 116 entries taken over the four disciplines.
To the event then which began with a formal but spectacular opening ceremony that saw giving speeches to thousands of people crowded onto the beach from a stage filled with the province’s top government officials, surreal but an amazing experience for us and the riders alike, and all topped off by a blast of fireworks to signal the event was underway. Well sort of, as unfortunately day one was not to see any wind as it turned out.
Luckily though this was not to be one of those wind cursed weeks in a normally windy as location as we woke on day two to a solid blow and spent a full day out on the water. The morning was to see us safely through the freestyle single eliminators with Japan’s Aya Oshima and Thailand’s Yo Narapichit Pudla on top with the women and men’s groups respectively, though pressed hard by the chasing group of riders who would be looking for revenge in the doubles. Then it was the turn of the racers to take centre stage and what a time to be out there in one of the first international events following the Olympic announcement for kiteboard inclusion into the 2016 Games. In this event alone the media coverage had more than tripled over what we were expecting only one week earlier, with the riders now having to perform to not a crowd of thousands on the beach but to five TV broadcast teams and around thirty newspaper and magazine photographers.
Happy to say that the wind held and the course set by Competition Director Stephan Hertig and his team that now includes ISAF International Race Office Andy Curnow gave us five solid races between the RB and TT classes. The rider numbers for TT were particularly spectacular with mass starts that included many who were competing for the first, once again showing how TT has matured as the natural feeder class in course racing for kiteboarders.
Day three was to again unfortunately be a no wind affair but one which I think I might be right in saying that no one would have wanted to have missed.
And it went something like this:
Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box – Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box – Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box
KTA’s Willy Kerr took centre stage and taught the crowd how to dance. A day best really described by the photo’s rather than words which they say paint a thousand words anyway. Feast your eyes on a few shots of the best, maddest KTA no wind day ever!
Fortunately our final day in Pingtan returned us to reality once again with the wind honking in from the moment we all got up and a much needed finale of kite competition unfolded.
The morning kicked off with Old Skool. A perfect way to start the day with tide high on the beach, kickers everywhere and the wind touching 25kts. The riders loved it, the judges loved it and the crowds and the media were blown away as riders stayed firmly hooked in hit the heights, threw out the Darkslides, walked on the water like a certain religious fellow and spun and one footed those boards like there was no tomorrow………….
Top of the class in the end was to be Holland’s Nanette van der Snok for the women and Turkey’s Tanner Aykurt, though the latter being given a run for his money by one of the events youngest riders Stefano Ganugi, who at 15 is giving everyone something to think about be that Old Skool or freestyle.
Following Old Skool the intention had been to move back onto more racing but unfortunately the swell conditions out at sea meant that the events start and pin end boats could not make it around the headland from their overnight harbour location. We are not talking small Ribs here either with one of them being a Police patrol boat, so you can imagine it must have been pretty full on outside of our more sheltered bay location.
While a fix was being found for this Stephan Hertig made the call for the freestyle double eliminator and the next two hours saw the battles of earlier in the week play out in the dropping tide with the crowds following the event further and further down the beach. Both the men’s and women’s tables where to end in super finals between Yo and this year’s Asian Champion Ken Nacor for the men’s side of things, and Aya and Nanette for the women. For the men Yo held onto his first place to take the freestyle title for China, but for the women Nenette was to reverse the singles and take centre stage.
While the freestyler’s where doing their thing the race team managed to secure a new start boat, which did at least allow all the racers to get back on the water for one final race each before the day came to a close. They did so as the wind stabilised around 25kts and the sky turned the nearest to blue they had been all day. So although certainly less racing than we had hoped for even given the loss of two days the discipline of the moment was able to show the event out in style. On top by the end of it all would be for the guys Salih Cakir from Turkey beating off the challenges this time from all comers with some very fast powerful racing from the front of the pack. Germany’s Kathrin Borgwardt again dominated the women’s fleet giving her the number one position that still looks hard to take away from her. The girls are training hard though so let’s see for next season.
To check all the results click here http://www.kiteboardtour.asia/results/201112/1112-china-round-4.html
Then to the evening and the Awards Ceremony which was to be another lavish affair at the 5-star Honor Hotel courtesy of our hosts and sponsors, and with both event and KTA Tour titles to award it was fantastic to have the slick help of the staff there to help us make it all run like clockwork. Then after the speeches and fab food, the cheering and the photos were done, the Pingtan threw its first KTA closing party and well yes let’s again leave that to the lens to tell the story.
So it’s the end of the KTA 11/12 Asia Tour season and for this event a final thank you to our local organiser David Zhai for bringing us back for the third time now to China in events that always seem to outdo the last. This event has certainly given us all the boost we all needed in what as regular readers will know has been an up and down sort of season for the KTA, but for now the roller coaster is climbing and we can’t wait for what’s to come in this new era of Olympic Kiteboarding.