The fastest young riders from across Asia and Oceania are lining up to battle for the chance to compete for kiteboarding’s inaugural medals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina.
Kiteboarders from seven countries around the region have been fine-tuning their TwinTip:Racing Slalom skills on the warm, flat waters off Pranburi’s glorious palm-fringed Paknampran Beach on the Gulf of Thailand’s western flank.
The International Kiteboarding Association’s (IKA) YOG qualifier for Asia and Oceania is set to take place over five days of gripping action on the water that will earn the winners—one boy and girl each from Asia and Oceania—the right to take the starting line in Buenos Aires in October.
The Iconic Kiteboarding Youth Olympic Qualifier, organised by the Kitebaord Tour Asia (KTA) and the Kiteboarding Association of Thailand (KAT), is the third of four scheduled events and follows those in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and Dakhla, Morocco.
The final of the total of 24 YOG spots available—12 for boys and 12 for girls—will be up for grabs at the TT:R Slalom Youth World Championships in Hainan, China, in May, where many of the quickest racers so far unlucky enough not to bag one of the limited spots will compete.
In Pranburi a total of 18 riders, 14 from Asia and four from Oceania, will go head-to-head in the high-octane downwind slalom races of five short legs, with buoys to be jumped to add to the drama and spectacle, in the format specially designed for YOG.
Riders are restricted to four registered inflatable “tube” kites and one registered TwinTip board that must fit within certain dimensions. The TT:R Slalom format, with simple equipment used by most kitesurfers, aims to make it as accessible as possible for the young riders, all born between 2000 and 2003.
With a good forecast of moderate, 15kts thermal breezes for the coming days in Pranburi, the competition is bound to be intense, with the biggest teams from China, the Philippines and Australia.
In the girls’ Asia division China’s Jingle Chen, the reigning senior IKA TT:R Slalom World Champion, a title she snatched on home turf in Pingtan last September, must be a hot contender to qualify.
But she could find herself pushed hard in the Asia division by the Philippines’ Maebelle Gajisan, who also posted strong showings in the windy conditions in Pingtan.
Among the boys’ Asia division the Philippines’ Christian Tio, a rising international freestyle star, must be considered a good bet to be at the top of the order, though local favourite Sarun “Nai” Rupchom will also be looking to build on the back of a win in the warm-up TT:R Slalom Thailand Championships this last weekend.
In the Oceanic division, young kitefoil racer Mani Bisschops, of Australia, will be keen to see if his experience will give him an edge in the very different TT:R Slalom discipline.
Competition will commence daily from 14 to 18 March with a first possible start at noon.