A moody start in the weather was nothing compared to my state of mind on the second lap of race two today. If you read my editorial last issue you may recall I had just had a mildly successful debut on the BKSA racing scene with some steady but positive improvement over the six races at Barrow-in-Furness.
I noted a highlight being having some really good tussles over the races with a few people who found themselves near me in the pack. We'd battle right the way up to the finish line. I was looking forward to more of the same, but when I turned up today I couldn't spot any of them at registration, instead only the aliens who I'd been having trouble not to be lapped by.
So there I was on lap two realising that a couple of good results didn't make me a threat to, well, anybody today as it happened. Last issue I said I'd be practising hard before this event, tweaking board set-ups and reading up on tactics. If I'd actually done any of that it would probably have helped, but anyway, I was still doing okay upwind, but getting battered on the downwind leg again.
The fins I have for my North Race board are big, but they're only the same size as everyone else uses, so no excuses. However, as good as they are at cranking me upwind, they are an equally impressive handful on the charge downwind, causing the board to rock and roll more than a bucking bronco! Add to that being really powered on a ten and a huge amount of rough chop and, needless to say, I was struggling.
I had started to get to grips a bit more with throwing the big downloop as I rounded the top mark to get me on my way nicely back to the bottom mark. The surge in power is an incredible feeling and, if you can predict it and deal with it, the board lifts up onto the plane and literally flies downwind. You have to keep that kite moving and looping though and somehow keep the board on track though the peaks and troughs of power. I thought going upwind was hard work on the legs, but dealing with all this downwind was another level. As soon as you slow down the board wants to tip onto its rail and point upwind again.
I started to flag pretty quickly after being thrown off the board like the the joyrider of an upset donkey a few miles down on Blackpool Pleasure Beach more times than I care to remember. Actually getting going again, building up that stable speed was wearing me out. The rapid body drag, the stomach crunching getting the board back on my feet and the sight of people already resting up before the next race was really winding me up! Kiting is usually always fun and I'm putting all this down to the horrible conditions, something I hadn't yet encountered on a high-performance raceboard.
My head dropped and took my confidence and ability with it. I felt like I was learning to plane on a windsurfer again. I was glad the four hour ordeal was over when it finally was, but there had been something in the back of my mind that I was still enjoying. I worked it out ten minutes later...
Coming into the beach I was just in time to catch the Pro Men's Freestyle final of the season. It was delicately poised: whoever finished higher between Ned Taylor (see his new video here!) and Luke Whiteside would clinch the 2010 title. 2009 title holder, Sam Light, had also made it to the final in his first event of the season, and could scupper things slightly, but couldn't really alter the overall result in Ned or Luke's favour. The duo's riding styles were cagey at first; a few little 3s opened up before a rally of kite loops and passes ensued between the pair, with varying degrees of success. Trying to play it safe at first, both were tempted into some high scoring, high risk moves the closer the end of the heat drew near. Holding the landings together with just two minutes left in the season was difficult. Meanwhile, Sam, riding with all the freedom of a rider who's growing into a star, both here and in the States, was out in bindings and powered on a 12 metre kite ? three metres bigger than the other two. The BKSA don't release any results until tomorrow's end-of-season final dinner / party, but if you ask me, Sam got it on style and repertoire and Ned on the volume of tricks. Whichever way it goes, Luke and Ned have been a worthy top two all season and all three are really inspirational to watch.
I'd come into the beach feeling like Calamity James and then I remembered what Aaron Hadlow said to me earlier in the week for our feature next issue: that if the UK put a team of riders together to face teams from around the world, we'd clean up. Watching all this made me realise I'd actually been a part of a great event, and season.
The UK has a lot of brilliant riders and when the wind blows, the BKSA events really show that, in freestyle kitesurfing, wave riding, landboarding, buggying and, of course, racing. There's nothing stopping you entering, as I did. And unlike sports like tennis or football, you can be riding alongside world class performers like Sam Light and Steph Bridge (racing) yourself, which put the smile right back on my face. I'll be back for more punishment and pleasure next year after a winter season spent on the leg press machine in the gym!
Bring on the awards tomorrow. Will hopefully be updating from there on 'kiteworldmag' Twitter
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