KTA Vietnam: Karma Winds Blowing by Jannicke Stav

Arriving in Vietnam the Windguru forecast was not promising as storms over south-east Asia messed up Mui Ne thermals. No wind for several days is very rare for this winter kite destination, making main organizer Willy Kerr praying for just one day of good wind. Even without a main sponsor the KTA organization decided to pull this event off and work pro-forma for it all to come together, as one goal of KTA is crowning the Asian freestyle champion. Karma came around and Willy´s prayers come through: a full day of action from morning til sunset!

On morning of registration day the palm trees were not swaying at all and forecast was saddening -but a total of 40 riders made their way to registration, 25 for the freestyle competition. For mens freestyle it was very open as none from the KTA Boracay podium were here, and riders new to the tour added excitement upfront. For the womens freestyle 6 out of 8 riders were familiar faces from KTA Boracay, and in addition there were two Polish girls new to KTA (Helena Brochocka followed the European Tour last summer). In addition to freestyle there were also oldschool and big-air competitions, so of course „king of oldschool” Toby Brauer of kiteforum.com made his way over to Asia as oldschool events are hard to come by these days.

Luckily the weather forecast changed and storm clouds blew over: 3rd day it was time to get out on the water. Skippers was held at 9am, quite early for Mui Ne where winds usually kicks in around noon. Dark clouds inland created nice side-onshore winds and the first freestyle heat went off already in light winds at 1020. From there on the wind only got stronger and stronger until finals were completed on small kites. Mui Ne is known for the rough shorebreak, however this year the competition spot was further south than last year so waves were not too intimidating. The trade-off however was fishing lines in the competition area, when competing you had to pick your take-off wisely as the area was big but had certain limitations with plastic bottles here and there. Local kiteschool C2Sky worked hard for weeks with Vietnamese officials to get the lines removed -without Liz & Jeff there for sure would be no competition area at all (great work from the always smiling local organizers).

In first round of womens freestyle Ali Dudfield defeated the „joker” unknown to the others, a very strong rider from Poland, Katarzyna Lange. This was probably the most technical womens heat of the day, and as conditions got more challenging the smaller kites came out. Being sick almost since arriving I was happy to reach my goal of advancing through the first round defeating Helena Brochocka, then got a „free pass” to the finals as kiwi Su Kay unfortunately injured her knee in the semifinals. For the finals it was my turn giving Nanette van der Snoek a walkover as a binding came loose already in the first unhooked kiteloop. Ended very pleased with second, and all credits to Nanette who´s been training on Boracay this season -at only 19 years old she will probably be a rider to look out for in the coming years.

For the mens freestyle Canadian Sam Medesky made a strong appearance, a rider so far competing on the American continents. Polish Marek Rowinski Jr made 2nd place, while the nr 1 Filipino rider Ken Nacor is really holding high level against the younger riders on the tour. The battle in earlier seasons has often been between Ken and Yo (Narapichit Pudla, Thailand), but Yo has not been able to advance through in freestyle so far this season. As it is now Ken is the strongest candidate for taking home the title of Asian Freestyle Champion in KTA Thailand next month, where there will also be Asian race championships (for womens freestyle there are only a few Asian riders -here in Vietnam there were none). The countdown is on for KTA Thailand in March where Kristin Boese will also hold a KB4Girls event -until then we´re crossing our fingers the weather man will be on our side!
Photos by Jannicke Stav & Tommy Bachata