We'll be seeing a lot more of this..
Is 2012 another landmark year in the sport of Kiteboarding? Back in 2006, kite technology transformed the public image and target audience for the sport so anyone could participate. But in doing so, took some of the 'cool factor' out of it for some riders. But could it be coming back?
There's two main changes in the sport that we've seen in the last 12 months, the first is the huge decision from ISAF to include kiteboarding in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The second, is the growing number of kiteboarders looking for alternative disciplines and genres to expand their skills, and that's where the timely decision gets exciting.
In case you haven't heard, windsurfing is out, kiteboarding is in for the 2013 Olympics. The decision isn't set in stone quite yet, but from what's been said by officials, it's only a matter of waiting until later in the year before we start counting the medals. The decision has made sailors all over the world prick up their ears and take notice of what they formerly considered a sport for yahoos and show ponys, and already sales in race gear have shot through the roof. It's this new interest in the sport, and the future influence of the big sailing companies that might just see the sport of kiteboarding go in a totally new direction.
Ex-sailors won't be the only new faces in the racing scene, with many kiteboarders now looking for alternative disciplines to expand their skills. We're currently seeing a comeback of the old-school genre of kiteboarding, with big air, board-offs and showy moves wooing spectators, it's hard to understand why this type of riding fell by the wayside for so many years. Also enjoying a strong following is the wave riding discipline. Surf specific brands have popped up, surfing dedicated holidays are being advertised and it's all too common to show up at the beach and never see a twin tip board. The kitesurfing (surfing, not boarding) discipline also draws in new participants from the surfing community, claiming low kite prices make the sport more accessible to those surfers who are used to paying around $500 for a surfboard.
It's a stark contrast to the sailing community, who are used to paying more than $500 for a jacket to sail in, let alone the $50,000 dinghy they've got on their trailer. Shops want to attract these sailing customers who are used to paying top dollar for the best of the best gear, and you'll start to notice it in their advertising over the coming years. So where does this leave the average punter who wants a new direction in their sport?
That's the big question at hand, will they do the same as sailors have for years, and buy second hand equipment, compete in saturday afternoon friendly races and drink beer until the sun comes up? Or will they reject the high profile image of what kite racing aspires to be, and continue down the paths of surfing, old school or even wake style riding?
The next five years are going be a critical time in the sport of kiteboarding, not because of the average punter (who no matter what, will still find some form of the sport that they enjoy) but because of the sailing community as a whole.
For now, it's purely speculation. But some say the sport of kiteboarding could be wholeheartedly adopted into the sailing world, others say it will suffer from a similar fate to windsurfing which struggled to gain a foothold in the elite class of competitive sailing. Instead remaining a fringe sport which has now ultimately fizzled out due to lack of public interest and diminishing numbers of newcomers to the sport.
What you can be sure of, is that kite board racing as a discipline is here to stay, much the same as the surfing, freestyle and even old-school disciplines. But in 20 years from now, will we be up in arms over the decision to kick us out of the olympic games? Interesting times ahead for the sport, and only time will tell.
Check out this video of the top three kite racers in the world right now for an insight into what went on during the ISAF decision process, and to see what elite level kite racing is all about.