The KW wheels pull up to the UK's biggest extreme sports festival on the Isle of Wight.
It's been a busy couple of weeks and we'd like to say that the Ginsters packages and cans of Red Bull had been cleared from the seats and footwell as we climbed into the van to head down to White Air 2006, but we can't.
The magical Isle of Wight beckoned, offering a week of sports in many guises; we counted at least 14. We headed over to check out the ill fated wave kiting nationals (the wind has been a disappointment so far for these events).
We arrived at a bustling event spot with skateboards, mountain boards, Thundercat boats, BMX and dirt bikes all being flung about. The great thing about this event is that the crowd get the chance to 'Have a Go', including an intro to kitesurfing provided by the local school, X-Isle.
We took in some of the sports and events around the venue before heading off to flash our VIP badges at that evening's party. We weren't exactly swilling champers with the high society but we managed a few free drinks with the competitors and exhibitors before being treated to a kamikaze night time display by the MBS European mountain board team. An impressive skate ramp had been set up and riders hit it all night, back looping into the darkness that was pierced by disco lights and lasers.
On Saturday the BKSA/RRD wave kiting finals turned into the nationals as no other rounds had been run this year due to poor conditions, but the forecast looked like the Isle of Wight was gonna let us down as well! In the end, Saturday saw about 14 knots coming in almost dead onshore with a slim slip of beach and just enough swell to justify holding a 'wave event'.
The light conditions meant riders on surfboards had a way better chance of getting beyond the tiddlers on the inside, and whilst Lewis and the freestyle boys chucked their regular quiver of super-smooth freestyle moves on the inside, it was the 'proper' wave kiters getting the better scores on the bigger waves further out who advanced. Event organiser Nigel Howell made the best of the poor conditions on his local beach to narrowly beat Neal Gent to the number one spot and the national title, with Denzil Williams close behind in third. Carrie Begg showed some stylish riding to take the ladies title ahead of Jo Wilson, who has obviously been working more on her freestyle!
We pursued the BKSA's Richard 'Dick Dastardly' Gowers in a 'whacky races' style convoy back to Yaverland and felt warm and dry as a bulk of the competitors squeezed back into their cold wetsuits for a chance to show off their freestyle talents. The gusty conditions understandably hampered a few of the favourites, allowing Sam Light to pip Denzil Williams and Lewis Crathern for the win with some quality F16s. Lewis probably would have done better if he'd gone out a little before the last 30 seconds of the heat! But the crowd loved it as he promptly spent the next ten minutes proving to everyone on the beach why he's number one this year with some seriously big loop passes and the biggest F16 we've seen live!
Saturday night offered another White Air party, half of which we missed due to a poor choice of restaurant which took two hours to serve dinner, but finally on arrival we were met with break-dancing, a cracking band and a real mix of people all mashing it up together. For those that looked to take the party on into the early hours we heard that various vans around the caravan site were the places to be. A motley crew can vouch for the fact that the Yaverland town centre, wasn't.
Sunday saw awards given and though windless, the mountain boarders put on another impressive display of the current standard in freestyle. One of the riders told us, 'We can do almost anything a snowboarder can.' He must have been referring to some pretty gutsy snowboarders as these guys were pulling their inverts over concrete! (Check the gallery to get an idea). It would be good to see what some of them could do with a kite...
A little jaded but glad to have been at the last gathering of the season we climbed back into the cabin, brushed aside the pile of mint wrappers and pointed the van back to Brighton. Next year's event is in August and organiser Nigel Howell said that he was already on the case! With nine TV crews, a host of other media types and a huge cast of competitors and exhibitors to organise, that's no surprise.
If you just want to have a go or attend a great event, White Air should definitely be on your 2007 calendar. Check out the White Air website www.whiteair.co.uk for photos and more on the event.