INTRO: Back for his second column, Aaron Hadlow looks to a bright future, not only for racing
A topic regularly brought to my attention recently is that of, yep, you guessed it: the Olympics Games. What does this mean for the sport?
Some people may argue that it portrays the sport in the wrong light and, to a point I agree, but it's personal and I can't really see many negatives. My passion will stay with freestyle and that is ultimately the side of the sport that I would like to see pushed forward to new people. To me, it's the most attractive discipline but, as an avenue for the awareness of the sport, any discipline that generates the amount of exposure that the Olympics would bring should be deemed positive.
The key word is 'awareness'. The more people that know about kiting the more people will start researching the sport, find that it's amazingly diverse, and discover a part that inspires them to participate.
To be honest, I have never thought about taking up racing myself and can honestly say that I have never even stepped on a race board. In freestyle the most annoying part is having to always get back upwind, and as I see that's the most important part of racing, I've been put off in the past. Perhaps if I look beyond that and think of all the tactics and speed involved to be the first over the line, then it would become much more attractive. I have always been judged by others in competition, but imagining it more like a car race, where there's no question of the winner, then it definitely sounds more fun.
The whole country was absorbed in the Olympics and to have been a British athlete at London 2012 would have been amazing. Four years is still a fair way off and will it be the same not on home soil? A new and exciting sport entering the games can only be positive and the thought of getting a gold medal for your country is still pretty cool.
For now though it's important to focus on the next few years and work on ways to branch out and show how varied and fun kiting can be. I think a good place to start is with other events. Working together with RedBull I feel like I have an opportunity to make a difference; they encourage their athletes to follow their dreams and help to make them happen. Ruben's Megaloop Challenge is a great example. I brainstorm with him regularly and and we throw ideas at each other. Overall we believe that the couple of parts of the sport that we are passionate about are also key for drawing attention to kiteboarding. His Megaloop events and plans to eventually bring an updated RedBull King of the Air back to kiteboarding is ideal for showing the world the extreme side of kiting; a key visual that instantly stands out as unique and takes our breath away.
I will always push freestyle and wakestyle. The PKRA World Tour will always have the most technical tricks and I'm confident they are moving in a positive direction, although I think there is still room for an international event that attracts a different group of riders; the wakestylers that focus on obstacles and style.
At a standard competition in a seven minute heat you know as a competitor what scores highest, which is why many riders have similar looking heats after working on the same tricks. Some of this is down to the fact that they are limited to what can be achieved as they can only take-off in a certain way off flat water, often making it difficult to differentiate each rider by their style alone. Obviously there are a few exceptions, but I think generally this is the case.
Bring kickers into the mix (wave or obstacle) and you open yourself up to a totally new trick book. You have options to take off on a different axis and have more options in the way you can tweak it. A good example would be to YouTube a moby dick (off a wave) and a front mobe (flat water). Similar tricks on paper, but a totally different technique and result in action. The addition of rails also allows us to be way more expressive. To have something like slope-style in snowboarding excites me: three or four new rail features designed for kiting; kickers and dedicated areas for tricks with each rider taking runs through the park. Not only would spectators have an obvious element to focus on, comparing each rider to the next, but they would also get to see the creativity of each rider and more of their individuality. Keeping the formats simple to follow and fun to watch is important from now on I think.
It's an important time for kiteboarding right now - the gear is safe and people are starting to recognise what we do. I've just recently come back from a promotional tour around Europe with Flexifoil and I have no doubt that the sport is growing. Despite all the economic problems in the world, there is definitely a buzz in the air about kiteboarding. It's time to take hold of some opportunities.
Subscribe to Kiteworld Magazine to hear the latest from Aaron - In issue 64 out in July he talks about his impressive podium finish at Leucate. www.kiteworldmag.com/subscribe