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Kitesurfers looking for big air

Tuesday 28 June 2011 | Published in Regional


While the Cook Islands kitesurfing competition has been much more flexible and relaxed than, say, the kitesurfing World Tour, it is running according to a bit of race protocol about which those who are not kite-inclined might not know much.

Raising the red flag signals one minute to go before the start of a 10-minute heat. When the red flag comes down, the green flag goes up and the horn sounds to mark the start of the heat.

When the green flag goes down, the competitors know they have one minute left until the end of their heat. To signal the finish, the red flag goes up and the horn sounds long and loud.

The judges use a ten-point scale, awarding zero points to an attempted but failed trick, two to four points for an okay trick, between four and six for an average effort, six and eight for a good trick and between eight and 10 for an awesome attempt.

Theyre looking for the wow factor, head judge Brad Price explained. He emphasised to fellow judges Ianis Boaza and Moehau Goold that quality trumped quantity.

A rider busting as many tricks as possible but landing none earns fewer points than one who pulls off a few impressive tricks with clean landings. A crash means no points, and a buttcheck or a trick that lands a rider on his backside means docked points.

Judges are also looking for variety someone pulling the same trick over and over, even if its successful each time, doesnt earn as many points as someone mixing up his or her moves.

Yesterdays competitors were after three prizes for best trick, biggest crash and biggest air.

In a more professional competition, the competitors would have to perform their tricks within a certain marked area. Any tricks attempted outside the buoyed zone would theoretically earn no points.

World champion Jesse Richman said that in a typical seven-minute heat, hell pull off a maximum of 17 tricks. He says that on average hell attempt 14, or a trick every 30 seconds.

Price said that a more serious, high-level competition would be much more technical.

But here (in the Cook Islands) thats not our sole purpose its about big air, exciting moves, he said. On the PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Riders Association) it can be so technical that the average person doesnt know whats going on.

Among other rules on the PKRA, kiters have to keep their kites at 45 degrees or lower when they go for big tricks.

But with this competition its more lax, Price said. Its more attractive for the spectators and more fun for the competitors its not just about the technical aspects.