Last time I checked there were months left to go until the KTA clan would be back together again. Then the months became weeks, the weeks turned to days, the days dwindled down to zero and suddenly we found ourselves in yet another new place that felt just like home: Ninh Chu Bay, Vietnam.
There was a lot to be excited about. This event held huge promise as the first ever KTA X-Champs competition. The event was to be split into a range of disciplines: TT Racing, the new Freestyle X, a little cheeky WOO factor and even Stand up Paddle Racing. It’s the sort of event that has something for everyone- from the hardcore new school pro’s to the local Vietnamese spectators whose first exposure to kite boarding would be at this event.
With the new competition format also came a new vision for our team. We happily welcomed on board some new crew members for this event who would go on to help us produce some really exciting new media output- with the vision of growing the kite boarding brand to new audiences. With the help of Reid Ridgeway, the experienced director and man with the plan, we began pre- production and filming for our new documentary style KTA TV broadcasts. These will go out over the next few months with our broadcast partners on SKY TV across Europe and with the Outdoor Channel in Asia and Australasia. Our online and social media output is also about to get an extra boost too, in the form of new TV broadcast partners, The Q You. These are the guys that brought the world MTV and are now turning their attention to broadcasting content like well the KTA. So, stick with us everyone, we are going to make you all stars!
It was the much anticipated WOO Big Air competition that had seen out the day on day 2. The Big Air show had been greeted by hordes of local spectators who were wowed by the very visual action packed mega jumps taking place in front of them. We were all stoked to have the WOO factor as part of this event, it’s something that everyone can get behind and enjoy, whether you’re competing against world rankings or just watching from the beach. The wind was blowing hard, and the gusts were carrying the WOO riders to new heights and laying down our first WOO X-Champs records.
Vietnam’s Lai Hoang Phu boosted a massive 13.8 mtrs to secure a popular home win in the men’s division, while Holland’s Mariska Wildenberg put up an unbeatable 10.9 mtrs for the women.
Sadly, it was clear by the end of the day that the winds at this spot were not going to play ball and return to the expected crossshore direction, meaning that for now it was not ideal for the approaching freestyle event. The difficult decision to move the competition to a new location was made. The following day we would be moving camp to the south side of Ninh Chu Bay.
Never the less Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club was the KTA X-Champs home and our hearts and our night time R&R returned to base each evening. And what a line-up our hosts unfolded for us over the week A week that opened with the Red Rock Sausage Fest, brought us the unforgettable music talent of Mai Khoi, chilled everyone out with a Bacardi sponsored Jamaican Night beach BBQ and bonfire night and saw us out with an unforgettable prize giving and closing party. All backed throughout the week by the DJ’s and technical wizards from Saigon Sound System. Big thank you from us all for a very cool week.
Day 3 and the riders and crew woke with a new lease of excitement, as we proceeded onto a new location and a new discipline – the KTA’s Freestyle X had arrived!
Regular riders at Ninh Chu Bay, really have something special going on. Not only a cool base location at the Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club, but also the ability to hardly have to move to find the ideal conditions, when the wind changes. Then there is the incredible backdrop of mountains on the horizon, and most importantly pumping wind. Choppy waters though were pushing many riders outside of their comfort zone, but for those who knew how to take advantage of the right kickers, they were well rewarded!
Freestyle X had come of age as radical new school and airstyle hooked in old school moves were blended into some incredible heats of pure talent. The crowds love it, growing bigger throughout the day and cheering their heads of as another big move blasted into the sky or of course as some unfortunately rider wiped out.
Approaches from the riders to this new format of freestyle where interesting and varied. While most had switched to straps to allow them to add board offs to their old school output, some riders like Hollands Dylan van der Meij, would swap halfway through his heat from straps to boots. Vietnam’s Win had a totally different approach an impressed judges, fellow riders and crowds alike with is spellbinding strapless surfboard riding. It was a tough day though and the riders left the beach exhausted, but happy.
With everyone well rested and ready to go again, the final day of the competition kicked off with the Freestyle X finals. The level of competition was absolutely astounding as the guys and girls battled it out for the number one spot. France, Aruba and Japan in the shape of Aya Oshima, Maureen Castelle, Marine Duprat and Annabel van Westerop, battled it out in the women’s Freestyle X, showing some of the best levels of riding the KTA has seen in women’s freestyle. In the end though it was Marine Duprat who would come out on top.
The men were also killing it. Featuring Quentin Valesa, Dylan vander Meij, Jaka Komocar and Andrey Salnik, from France, Holland, Slovakiaa and Russia respectively. The winds were screaming in and the guys were maxing out on both height and technicality, it was a total kiting feast and no one will forget that final between Meij and Salnik for some time to come, great show guys. It was though a popular and well deserve win for Meij that finished the Freestyle X action for the KTA X-Champs Vietnam.
This though was a perfect day and the TT racers also relished the challenge to get back on the water and show off their high speed skills. All the usual suspects were in the thick of it as the final round of racing unfolded to take us towards the close of action. Atte Kappel, Fon Benyapa Jantawan, Pauline Valesa and Quentin Valesa pressed Pudla and Chen hard over the final races, but in the end they held on and took the glory and bragging rights from the 4 days of varied and challenging, but classic TT Racing, which showed why this discipline remains the most popular for the KTA.
Also a good point to say thank you to our longtime sponsors and supporters of the TT Racing Cabrinha, who not only provide us with a wealth of event prizes, but also support the race infrastructure which has allowed us to develop the TT Class over the years
We had had an amazing week at Ninh Chu Bay, the welcome and the support for both team and riders has been incredible. Vietnam had lived up to all its expectations and delivered challenging conditions with strong winds. A challenge which the riders rose to meet and gave back to the daily crowds of thousands, a sporting festival they will be talking about for weeks to come.
The VCRSF and Ninh Thuan Provincial Government our key official partners in Vietnam, began the closing of the first KTA X-Champs with the medal awarding ceremony at the Long Thaun Hotel. This was opened by a number of traditional Vietnamese dancers that captivated us all and reminded fully of the culture of Vietnam that we had all been enjoying, during our stay. The official ceremony then blended seamlessly into the final prize giving that brought the KTA fittingly back to where it starting proceedings at the Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club as our hosts saw us off with one final party by the beach.
One by one the next day, riders and crew packed up and headed out. It was time to go home. What’s next for the KTA is a little uncertain, but one thing is for sure- it is these times of uncertainty and hardship that really bring out the comradery, determination and grass root soul of the KTA and all of its followers. It is down to the commitment and support of every individual who has ever been a part of one of these events that has brought the KTA to where it is today, and where it is sure to go in the future. So it is with great thanks and appreciation that we can say: no doubt we’ll be seeing you all again soon.
Words by Grace Austin.