A weekend to remember… 9 years ago I entered my first European Championships, organised by Opaleglisse in one of France’s top land spots. I had never been so surprised at the time to have won there so this weekend brought back so many memories. The north coast of France in a the small town of Berck Sur Mer was once again the location for the European Championships, this time hosting just one round of three events over Europe.
The competition kicked off around midday with some riders struggling to choose the perfect kite size. My first heat was against Jelmer Van Der Kist and Alexis Peutevynck. I rode the heat on my 9m Flysurfer BOOST despite seeing most riders opting for 11m kites in the previous four heats. This choice paid off massively as I was able to control the arena making the most of the smaller than usual area. I was able to land a mix of tricks, my favourite being a clean Front to Blind and a double Frontroll Invert with Downloop. The perfect start and I advanced into the next round where I was extremely lucky to then get a bye through to the third round after two competitors pulled out early on.
Two full rounds later it was time to ride again, the wind had dramatically dropped during this time, but the arena was moved to a harder and larger patch of sand. I was up against Morgan Fourier next and was already finding myself upping my kite size to a 13m. It was time to up the level of my riding and thankfully I rode a perfect heat; landing a nice Shifty 3, Slim Chance and a big Kiteloop 3; moves that aren’t always associated with land kiting. Once again I advanced through, this time to the semi final where I met current UK and Vice European Champion, Ash Garwood. We both choose a completely different kite for this round. Ash opting for his 18m Chrono, where as I stuck with my 13m BOOST. With 5 metres of kite difference, this just about paid off… Ash put on an amazing display of old school maneuvers, however I was sure this would not be enough unless he choose to unhook from his kite, which he didn’t - he had far too much power. I kept things simple to begin with, a mix of hooked and unhooked tricks, saving some handlepasses for the last few minutes. I landed another Kiteloop 3, Front Blind, Shifty 3, a Slim Chance and even tried my first KGB in a competition - this did not go as well as I thought it might have, I crashed hard but luckily it was at the end of the heat. Fortunately the judges rated my heat better and I moved into the final where I was not met by Laurent Guyot as expected... instead it was a re run of the 2006 European Championship final against Olivier Garet… This was really bringing back good memories.
With the wind dropping even more for the final and having struggled a tiny bit for power in the previous heat, I choose to set up another kite; this time choosing to ride a completely different beast of a kite… The 18m Speed 4 Lotus. I hadn't really prepared myself for competition on this kite and having flown the 9m BOOST during the morning it was going to be different using such a slower kite. During the first few minutes of the round I took my time and landed some big inverted rotations and board offs knowing I could build up the points slowly taking more risk at the end. I could see Olivier Garet pulling out all the stops - a Unhooked Front Board Off to Blind I think I saw at one point. It was time to unhook and try and match these tricks. It took me two attempts but I finally nailed a Shifty 3 after the power of the kite ripped the bar out of my hand, I followed up with a big powerful Slim Chance and a smooth Front to Blind. I think at one point I even landed a double Frontroll Inverted Indy grab to Blind. I think this was perhaps the closest heat I had ever ridden and had no idea what way the result would go.
A few hours later and the results were announced, I had sealed my second first place of the year and am now excited to be leading both the British and European Championships going into the summer. The next event is in Ainsdale, UK for the second round of the British Championships in two weeks time. For more information please visit the RAW Kite website.
1st Lewis Wilby
2nd Olivier Garet
3rd Laurent Guyot