Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, October 18, 1999

K I T E   S U R F I N G

Courtesy of Robby Naish
Robby Naish soars over Kailua Bay on his kite surfer.

Who will be
King of Air?

A kite surfing contest will
showcase some of the wildest
moves in the sky

By Brad Yates
Special to the Star-Bulletin


A new kind of air show is coming to Maui.

This air show is a competition for those who have mastered the sport of kite surfing, which employs a kite that is shaped like a parachute, a bar to hold on to with 90 feet of control lines and a board that is a cross between a surfboard, wakeboard and skim board.

It's the Red Bull King of the Air competition and the main attraction is AIR.

As Robby Naish points out, "there is no other sport that has the capacity for getting air as kite surfing, short of jumping out of a plane."

Using the wave as a ramp, kite surfers are able to jump 50 to 60 feet high, stay up in the air for six seconds, do insane aerial maneuvers and travel a distance of up to 100 yards. In short, the sport has captured the attention of the onlookers and the lives of many of the people who will compete in this event.


Bullet WHAT: Kite surfing competition
Bullet WHEN: Today-Friday
Bullet WHERE: Preliminaries: Today-Wednesday, The Lanes near Kihei, Maui. Finals: Thursday-Friday, Hookipa Beach

Three who turned windsurfing at Ho'okipa into a major industry, Pete Cabrinha, Naish and Rush Randle, are pre-seeded into the finals. The competition will include three disciplines -- free style, wave jumping and long distance.

The object of these disciplines is height of jump and longest hang time combined with an equal emphasis on maneuvers and clean landings.

Preliminaries will use a sudden death, man-on man format with three rounds of competition. The Final 16 will have the final eight competitors meeting eight pre-seeded finalists.

Kitesurfing is a prime example of what Alan Watts termed "an idea whose time has come."

The idea was to replace the sail on a wind surfer with a kite and literally make it fly. The idea has been realized through the creative efforts of some determined people. This group included visionaries, intense athletes, design people and key players from the wind surf industry.

The visionaries saw that the upward pull of the kite was superior to the power of a traditional sail. A few minor details had to be worked-out, such as controlling the kite and getting the kite out of the water and surrounding trees.

Sport banned within
five miles of airport

Kitesurfing has been banned within 5 miles of the Kahului Airport.

Responding to complaints from commercial pilots and the control tower, the FAA has begun to enforce a Federal Regulation that makes it illegal to fly a kite that weighs more than 5 pounds within 5 miles of an airport. It seems the action of the kites represented a serious hazard at the end of the runway. For further clarification of this issue call the KiteSurf hotline at 808-573-3133.

A few intense athletes volunteered for the job. They were willing to work their way through the frustration and take the risks that included long swims and hairy wipeouts.

As Anne Pegon, a 20-year-old professional kite surfer from France, says, "I want to continue to push my limits in bigger and bigger waves."

The design people provided some solutions. They took a sport kite, reshaped it and inflated the frame with air. That made the kites float, allowing athletes to re-launch while in the water. Controlling the kite remains a safety issue that adds to the need for caution in learning.

The key players from the wind surf industry gave kite surfing credibility and attracted the money that funded the research to delvelop the kites and boards.

Brad Yates is the author of "Fuel the Fire:
Perform with Passion." His e-mail address is

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