The final of the KiteFoil World Series—the sole event of the three-stop tour being staged in Europe—has seen a dramatic upsurge in the number of “youth” racers eager to improve and learn from their kiteboarding heroes.
An astonishing 15 of the 59 athletes hunting podium positions at the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) Kitefoil series’ last stop on Italy’s resort island of Sardinia are in the U-19 category.
Remarkably, five of the 10-strong women’s group are “youth” competitors, mainly new kitefoilers from Poland who dream of following in the footsteps of kitefoil racing phenomenon, triple Formula Kite world champion, Daniela Moroz (USA), 17, who sits ninth overall at the Sardinia Kiteboard Grand Slam.
But on the second of the five-day competition—sponsored by the City of Cagliari and Tourism Sardinia, supported by Yacht Club Cagliari—no racing was possible as the characteristic sea breezes failed to build.
For the young hydrofoil racers the prospect of kiteboarding becoming an Olympic event at the 2024 Games in Paris is an irresistible lure. It is especially true the Polish teenage girls, several as young as 14, as national teams will be “mixed” with one man and one woman competing for medal glory.
Blazej Ozog, a hydrofoil racer who is coaching the Polish group of four girls and three boys, says the long-term aim of Olympic participation is a distant goal. The key drive is simply to get his young charges out on the water, competing, having fun and learning.
Yet that is becoming easier as kiteboarding has gained Olympic acceptance and young athletes are show increasing interest in the thrill and complexity of racing.
“The biggest problem at the start is to get good gear,” said Ozog. “But now because kiting is Olympic the Polish ministry of sport can give some money to the Polish Yachting Association which will help support the young athletes. It’s getting easier to get kids into racing, too. They see that it’s fun.”
Julia Damasiewicz, just 14, who sits in third spot in the women’s group after the first day of racing, is competing at only her second international event after her debut at the European championships in Germany.
“With the other girls we go out and have fun,” she said. “We really love the adrenaline you get from racing. You don’t get that in freestyle. All of us prefer the speed of foiling. The feeling’s amazing.”
Lorenzo Boschetti, 18, who was part of the Italian team battling to qualify for this month’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires where kiteboarding made its debut with TwinTip: Racing (TT:R) Slalom, is equally sold on racing in general and kitefoil in particular.
“TT:R definitely helped me decide to get into racing,” said Boschetti. “I was never really attracted to freestyle competition. I think it’s a bit hard on the body. With hydrofoil racing you can get the same emotions. We also have the camaraderie of being with the other racers and sharing the excitement. And if we can get to the Olympics that’s even better. To compete in the Games is everyone’s dream.”Top three men after two races
1 Nico Parlier (FRA) 3.0pts
2 Maxime Nocher (FRA) 4.0pts
3 Connor Bainbridge (GBR) 7.0ptsTop three women after two races
1 Daniela Moroz (USA) 22.0pts
2 Steph Bridge (GBR) 46.0pts
3 Julia Damasiewicz (POL) 77.0ptsFull results: http:/www.kitefoilgoldcup.com