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ISAF Olympic Trials in Santander, Spain

The kiteboarding industry was lucky enough to be given the chance to
showcase the racing side of our sport in Santander, Spain. The
International Sailing Federation was on hand to see our sport and what it
has to offer. As many have said our sport is the future sailing! “We
proved in Spain we are here to stay!” The International Olympic Committee
has been keen for many months and likes the excitement it can bring for the
Olympics and sailing itself. Kiteboarding is exciting, new, fast,
technical and a side of extreme all in one beautiful package.

The IKA or International Kite Association teamed up with ISAF and CEAR
sailing center in Santander, Spain to showcase and test new courses,
formats and all areas of sailing to find the best way to represent our
sport in the Olympics. The IKA had selected 24 riders from all over the
world to assist and experiment to really demonstrate our sport in the highest
level of riding. Riders like men’s world champions, Johnny Heineken
for course racing and Damien LeRoy for slalom, as well as women’s course
racing world champion Steph Bridge were represented. The European Champion Katja Roose was also
on hand as well as the freshly crowned Asian Champion Yo Pudla Narapichit. The list
goes on with a wide variety of National Champions.

As we started the week running normal windward and leeward courses we proved
instantly we had more to show as our boat speed was fast and our kites were so
visible. The course was changed to a slalom format, which was a faster setup with more
speed and reaching with legs rounding 6 buoys downwind. Instantly
the committee and some of the evaluators saw the excitement as there were
tangles with high speed and still very easy to understand, especially if you knew
nothing at all about sailing. As the week went on we fine-tuned the
formats running over 9 different formats and courses. We added jumping
over obstacles and gates.  We even started trying the America’s cup course format. After
every day the 24 riders and the board of members sat in a classroom and
went over the days courses and different tests. Everyone gave negative
and positive feedback about each course and what they felt and experienced.
The progress was incredible as we narrowed it down to three courses that
seemed to showcase all aspects of our sport and really give the media and spectators an
incredible show. The courses covered our speed in reaches, not loosing the
tactics in the upwind, along with fast and exciting starts.

In the mornings when the wind was calm the riders would demonstrate to all
the sailing classes and ISAF representatives the gear and how it worked and
how simple it is to set up. Many sailing members could not believe how
easy and fast it was for us to rig our boats “KITES”. As many of the boat
classes there like the 29’er X and the Tornados all take quite some time to
rig up, not to mention having to be shipped in a container to get to the destination. As
for us we all flew in with our gear, something of a perk you might say….

Towards the end of the event the President of ISAF flew in to see the whole
event and all the classes. In the afternoon he went out in a dingy to
watch the boats racing in 6 knots. We took five or so riders and went out
and put a show on like no other as we stole the day! We raced all the
boats and it was proof we were faster and more exciting. Both Johnny and
myself sat on the boat with the president explaining our sport and how it
works in depth. We were lucky enough to take many hours of his time
and represent our sport in such a one on one fashion. There was no
question that we made our mark in the sailing world that day.

As the event came to a close there was nothing but great feedback! The result we believe is
very simple, it is not ”if” Kitesurfing gets into the Olympics, it is a question of ”when”!

Cordially,

Damien LeRoy
Slalom World Champion