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2022 Lepanto Formula Kite European Championships in Greece - Day 1

by Andy Rice / IKA 28 Sep 2022 08:35 PDT 26 September - 2 October 2022
2022 Lepanto Formula Kite European Championships in Greece, Day 1 © Robert Hajduk / IKA media

Day one of the 2022 Lepanto Formula Kite European Championships in Nafpaktos, and the weather forecast in western Greece was so apocalyptic that the government forbade any on-water activity today, and that included the kiteboarders.

No seriously, dude. Don't go out!

After principal race officer Michal Jodlowski called the 139 riders together for a morning meeting to share the bad news, there was a look of genuine shock and surprise to hear that this wasn't just the race officer saying, 'don't go out', it was the Greek government. When one rider stuck his hand up to ask if he could go out for fun anyway, event organiser Spyros Krotsis stepped into to say that it would be illegal to do so. Serious stuff.

So serious that it's possible the beautiful 2.9km suspension bridge - the Rio-Antirrio Bridge - which spans the mouth of the Gulf of Patras, could be closed to traffic when the worst of the storm strikes. Or, in a better-case scenario, it could be that the surrounding mountain range holds off the worst of the weather and Nafpaktos escapes the apocalypse.

Attack of the robot spider

Either way, it's an unexpected day off for the riders. Some get their adrenalin hit by doing wingfoil-skateboard races around the empty car park, some relax with guitar in the campervan, some try to terrorise their friends with a giant, remote-control, robot tarantula. Wednesday will be have to be the day when the more serious competition commences.

After two weeks of picture-perfect training on the Gulf of Patras, the riders know what Nafpaktos can deliver. With five more days of competition, there's plenty of opportunity to test the world's best on Greek waters.

Fast learner

Greece has not yet shown much promise at delivering athletes capable of competing in kitefoiling at the Paris 2024 Games less than two years from now. However, there are five Greek competitors set to participate on home waters and there's a feeling of optimism. Holding a major championship in the country has given a new impetus to the sport in Greece. Two months ago Vasilis Livas had never set foot on a foiling kiteboard but the 18-year-old has hurled himself into his new challenge and can't wait to line up against the best in the world.

Originally a Laser sailor, Livas tried out twin-tip kiteboarding a couple of years ago and found he had an immediate affinity with sport.

"I was doing jumps by my third day," he laughed in self-disbelief. "But I also like racing in big fleets and I went back to the Laser." A friend suggested he try out sailing in a Waszp, a one-design version of the popular foiling boat, the International Moth. "The Waszp was fun, I loved the foiling experience. But then I thought, maybe I should have a go at kitefoiling!"

Training in the bedroom

Livas had been practising his moves on a balance board in this bedroom. Standing on a skateboard with the wheels removed, balancing the board on a rolling metal cylinder, Livas built up his sense of balance and muscle memory for kitefoiling even before he set foot on a foiling board. This homespun approach went part of the way to getting him launched into kiting very quickly. "I watched every YouTube video I could, watched the livestreams from the KiteFoiling World Series, and I've been watching the guys here in training."

In June the teenager flew to Tarifa in the south of Spain for a seven-day training camp with one of the world's best, Cyprus rider Denis Taradin and his coach Aleksei Chibizov. Within days of starting on the kitefoil Livas was tacking successfully, and days after that he achieved his first foiling gybe.

"You can learn a lot by yourself, but training with others, being here in the build-up to the European Championships with all these great riders here, that has really helped me. Now we are about to race and I'm going to learn a lot in the next week."

All being well with the weather, racing will commence at 12pm local time on Wednesday. The fleets will split into gold, silver and bronze on Friday, and this Sunday will see the winners of the European Championships crowned after a frenetic day of elimination in the Medal Series. The last two days of the event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

For more about the event: www.formulakite.org/2022europeans

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