Podium finish for four of the best
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org THE Northern Rivers is proving to be a breeding ground for top Australian kite surfers with four locals scoring podium finishes in the National Kite Surfing Championships wave discipline at Port Macquarie.
Alstonville’s Ash Woolley won the Masters’ event ahead of last year’s champion Peter Gallop of Ballina and Alstonville’s Nigel Ball.
The three men finished first, second and third, respectively, in both rounds of the Over-35s event which drew 32 competitors from across the country and concluded on Sunday.
Flying the kite for local women was Michelle Blinkhorn, of Byron Bay, who won the ladies event.
Woolley, 43, said he was chuffed to be crowned Australian champion after a close competition with his mates.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said.
“I’ve been gunning for it for a couple of years.
“We (Gallop and Ball) are mates, local guys, who ride together and it creates a great local spirit.
“We’re just a couple of local guys enjoying their sport.”
Woolley’s win came from two sessions held in vastly different conditions.
“We had the full range of conditions. The first day we had big waves up to three metres and super-strong winds up to 30 knots. Then in the second round we had ultra light winds and very small waves,” Woolley said.
An event spokesman said the varied conditions tested competitors’ all-round abilities.
“In the end, the results for first, second and third did not change across all divisions even after the second round of completion which demonstrates the ability of the top riders to perform in both strong wind and light wind conditions,” he said.
Woolley said the conditions advantaged Northern Rivers’ competitors because the changes were similar to those experienced at Flat Rock.
“It was a rare beach for the East Coast because you can ride there in either wind direction which is very similar to our home break at Flat Rock,” he said.
“Flat Rock is such an important training ground for kite surfing because you can ride it either with a north-easterly, a northerly or a southerly wind.
“It is absolutely world class on a southerly wind because the rock platform stops any chop so the waves remain smooth.”
Woolley, who was among the pioneers of the sport locally, said wave discipline was different to kite surfing expression sessions where riders pull of big airs and showcase their arsenal of tricks.
“You ride waves like a surfer. Your kite tows you onto a wave and you ride the wave like a surfer would, but you have the advantage of the kite which allows you to manoeuvre around sections of a wave that might close out,” Woolley said.
“You can catch many more waves because it is a lot faster than paddling. The kite can tow you out the back much quicker than a normal surfer and you’re already standing on the board so you have a better view of the waves that are coming.”
The championships attracted 61 entrants and were held from last Wednesday to Sunday.
Unsuitable conditions meant the kite surfers only competed on two days.