The first PKRA (Professional Kite Riders Association) event of 2008 was held in Playa for the fist time from March 5th through March 9th at Mamita’s Beach. The best kiteboarders in the world were on hand and they put on a great show. A variety of wind and weather conditions made each day a little different. I made it down for a couple of hours each day and I can tell you, these young people are amazing! Both freestyle acrobatics and course racing were on the schedule and front row seating was available to everyone on the beach.
The first day provided warm weather and light but consistent winds that averaged between 10 and 14 knots. These winds were not strong enough for a freestyle event but were good enough for a triangular race course event that began at 2:45 p.m. with an average race time of 15 to 20 minutes per race.
The second day provided enough wind for the freestyle competition to be held and possibly the most noteworthy item was that the 14 year old women’s world champion Gisela Pulido from Spain was disqualified when her kite became entangled with another rider’s kite. This 14 year old young lady cannot be more than 80 pounds soaking wet and believe me she was soaking wet all the time.
Day three brought a lot more wind than day two, averaging between 20 to 25 knots. The wind, along with an unusually strong current made it tricky for the riders to stay upwind. The riders would launch out from the beach but would end up having to come ashore after a couple of minutes and run back up the beach with their kites being controlled in one hand and carrying their board in the other. Some of the women had some help from some of the men riders but the entire ordeal looked absolutely exhausting. The high wind and the rough seas provided many a rough spill for a lot of the riders. I was surprised that a few even got back on their boards.
Day four was spent waiting for the wind to arrive. When it did, it was not suitable for competition because it was blowing offshore instead of onshore and thereby made it difficult for the competition to be held close to the beach because of what they call wind shadows caused by buildings and trees close to the beach. Competition was called off at 4 p.m. and the course racing event finale was scheduled for early Sunday.
The weather deteriorated on day 5 and the sun failed to come out for the first time during the competition. Light, early morning winds gave way to northerly breezes around 10 am and the course racing and the freestyle events were concluded. I really don’t know how it all wrapped up or what the final standings were but I’m told there was $40,000 in prize money to be awarded so I’m sure it was important to the competitors. I just enjoyed the show.
There was another kiteboard competition in Playa a couple of years ago but it was not a World Kitebord event. I enjoyed watching it as well but it didn’t compare t this years event. Even though I know absolutely nothing about this sport it was captivating to watch up close. The riders, the international competition, the camaraderie and enthusiasm of young people engaged in a relatively new sport, the staging area where riders and kites all mix together and even the crowds that gathered to watch made this a really memorable experience for me. The pictures can tell the story of this event much better than I can. I hope they all come back next year and do it again! In the meantime, I'm going to buy a better camera.