Kiteboarding is ready for lift-off at the YOG

An exciting new sailing event will be part of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018 sports programme when kiteboarding makes its debut on the Olympic stage. Here’s everything you need to know about this fast and thrilling discipline.

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A thrilling mix

Kiteboarding combines elements of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing and paragliding into one thrilling discipline, with riders using specially designed kites to propel themselves across the water on a kiteboard, which is similar to a small surfboard. This technique not only offers one of the fastest rides on water but also the potential for the highest and longest “airtime”.

Taking off

Kiteboarding has soared in popularity since French brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux developed the first inflatable kite design in the mid-1980s. However, the use of kites to travel across water can reportedly be traced back as far as 13th-century China, where they were used to propel canoes and rafts along the Pacific Rim.

It would be wonderful to go the Youth Olympic Games and represent my country. But I’m not going to think about that. I’ll just keep doing my ‘job’ and take it one step at a time. Nina Font Castells Spain - Nina Font Castells Spain

Pulling power

It’s estimated that kiteboarding has more than 1.5 million participants worldwide, with approximately 100,000 people taking up the sport each year.

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New tricks

There are a variety of different events within kiteboarding – including wave, freestyle, slalom, speed and course racing – but a new and exciting event will be introduced for the YOG Buenos Aires 2018. The event draws from the ski and snowboard cross events seen at the Olympic Winter Games, with riders following a set track with obstacles that they need to jump over. All athletes will race against each other throughout multiple heats, and their points totals will determine who will advance to the semi-finals and finals. Unlike other sailing events, Kiteboarding does not use a low point scoring system, and in the final race the winner takes all. The course will measure approximately 1,800-2,000 metres, with athletes travelling at speeds of around 10m/s (12-15 knots), and the competitions will take place in San Isidro, just outside Buenos Aires.

New stars

Among the young stars who could potentially shine in Buenos Aires are France’s Victor Bachichet and Spain’s Nina Font Castells, who won the boys’ and girls’ junior titles at the recent 2017 International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) TT:R European Championship. 

“I’m really super-happy to win this first event,” said Bachichet after his victory. “It was so cool. Before I came I didn’t expect to win. I hoped to be in the top 10, but not first. It’s great experience to come here and test your level. Now I’ll definitely train for the YOG qualifiers.”

“It feels good [to win],” added Castells. “But I need to relax and take it all in. I’m so stoked, but it’ll take time for me to really realise what has happened. It would be wonderful to go the Youth Olympic Games and represent my country. But I’m not going to think about that. I’ll just keep doing my ‘job’ and take it one step at a time.”

The speed of kite

France’s Alex Caizergues holds the world speed record for kiteboarding, having sailed at an incredible 56.62 knots (104.86 km/h) in November 2013. Caizergues also claimed the 2017 Kite Speed World Championship, held on Masirah Island, in the Sultanate of Oman, earlier this year, posting a new championship record of 48.45 knots (89.72 km/h).

Going the distance

The furthest ever travelled on a kiteboard is an unbelievable 862km (536 miles; 465 nautical miles), which was achieved by Francisco Lufinha of Portugal, who travelled non-stop from Lisbon towards Madeira from 5 to 7 July 2015.