Kiteboard Tour Asia’s (KTA) Indonesian stop may not have attracted the largest roster of contestants seen at other KTA events. But whatever it lacked in sheer numbers was more than made up for by the breath-taking level of freestyle and racing on display, certainly among the highest seen on the tour now in its fifth year.
2014 KTA Indonesia
The stellar riding was matched by epic conditions of strong winds, clear skies and a huge swell that washed into the lagoon at Bintan’s Trikora Beach Km52, providing ideal kickers for the freestylers to boost their biggest tricks and few headaches for race officials trying to ensure the safety of the Formula kite and Twin Tip racers.
Yet for many of the kiters who arrived a few days before the competition to acclimatize to the conditions and hone their skills in the unfamiliar setting, it was Bintan’s stunning backcloth for the event that stole the show.
The international gathering of athletes from more than 20 nations was blown away by the coral-fringed pristine beaches, powerful waves and constant winds that blew over crystal clear azure waters of the South China Sea. The friendly communities of floating fishing villages merely added to the glamour and air of unspoiled timelessness.
Bintan, just a short hop by fast catamaran ferry from the gleaming steel and glass modernity of Singapore’s skyscrapers, is like stepping back in time. But as host for a KTA stop for the second successive year, it offers an exotic cocktail of beauty and reliable riding conditions that few other kiting destinations can match.
The setting for last season’s inaugural KTA Indonesia, the freestyler-friendly shallow butter-flat waters at the Agro Beach Resort, one of the supporting sponsors, was changed this year to better accommodate the raceboard fleet.
But venue at Trikora Beach Km52 for KTA Indonesia 2014 presented by Bintan Regency and supported by the local tourism department, was a more than adequate stand in. The freestylers, who were first up, had their work cut out for them in the big conditions with winds gusting more than 20kts, seeing the men put up their 10m kites, with the lighter women on their 7m kites.
KTA competition officials chose a round-robin format for day one, with each of the men and women battling one another in two-rider heats. Asian KTA stalwarts, Narapichit 'Yo' Pudla (THA), Reynard 'Along'Gajisan (PHI) and Paula Rosales (PHI) found the going tough with the influx of top international riders joining the tour.
By the close of day one 17-year-old Jaka Komocar (SLO) got the judges nod for top spot over Dave Shields (GBR). The Slovenian cleanly executed a series of KGBs, Slim Chances, 313s and NISs that the Briton could not quite match, with judges scoring the best seven tricks from 12 attempts during the high-octane seven-minute heats.
But 34-year-old Shields, who lives in the legendary Brazilian kiting spot of Cumbucco, was still delighted with his placing. 'I’m so stoked I’m on a high,' he said. 'I never thought I get this far.'
Perhaps more surprising was that Dylan van der Meij (NED) found himself in third spot. The 18-year-old landed a series of powered Double 'S' Bends to Blind, Blind Judge 3s and 315s with smooth precision that hinted of greater things to come, but suffered several below par heats that put him down the order.
His compatriot Kelly Schouten, 25, also finished on top for the women, her powerful riding and stomped landings outpointing Brazilian number two, Estefania Rosa Santos, 26, when they faced off, with the judges scoring the women’s best five tricks from nine attempts.
In keeping with the international flavor of the line-up, British freestyle champion Rosanna Jury, 21, arrived on the first day of competition from Perth, Western Australia, where she was training on Safety Bay’s flat waters. The medical student on a year out initially struggled with Trikora Beach’s contrasting conditions, but managed to overhaul Rosales for third.
If anything, the fight for top podium spot in the men’s and women’s contests, run on a 'double elimination' format on day two, was even tighter. Van der Meij battled his was back up the ladder from third spot to face Komocar, whom he took down in the final. The Slovenian had a chance to redeem himself in the deciding 'super final', but van der Meij’s riding was simply too strong and he sealed victory.
It was a similar story in the women’s competition with Santos winning the first final against Schouten and then taking the overall victory in the charged 'super final', which saw her land a remarkable five air passes.
The heavy conditions of day one, with strong winds and a massive swell, posed a tough challenge for race officials. Racing was suspended in the Formula kite and Twin Tip heats after several tangles outside the reef threatened the safety of competitors, forcing a rethink of the course for the following days’ heats.
Yet with easing winds as the series progressed, the competition got tighter down the order as riders continually traded finishing positions. In the women’s Twin Tip, Lisa Nikitina (UKR) squeaked overall victory with the narrowest of margins over Kathrin Borgwardt (GER) by scoring a bullet in the final race of the last day.
Borgwardt, based in Boracay, Philippines, also scored bullets in early rounds of the raceboard class but could not live with the pace of overall winner Astrid Berz (SUI), who placed sixth in the Kiteboard Racing World Championship in China last November.
None of the men could match Narapichit 'Yo' Pudla (THA) who took top spot on the podium in the raceboard class with bullets in every race except for a disqualification at the beginning of the regatta for crossing the start line early. The 23-year-old also snatched overall victory in Twin Tip, though the margin was slimmer as he jockeyed for position with Louie 'Bong' Fernando (PHI) and Doque De los Santos (PHI), who placed second and third overall.
The thrilling event was capped by an exuberant closing ceremony studded with traditional Indonesian music and dance, a fitting backdrop for the victorious riders receiving their richly-deserved prizes.