The inaugural GKA Kiteboarding World Tour didn't start well. But sometimes, bad things lead to positive outcomes. And that's when tow-up kiteboarding becomes a spectacular experience.
For the first time in 20 years, Leucate's Mondial du Vent suffered an utterly windless spell. As a result, the world's best big air kiteboarding specialists were not able to compete and get results.
With the Air Games stalled and postponed, organizers ran a series of tow-up training sessions in which height and hangtime provided a fantastic experience. At least, from a spectator's perspective.
"We want to push the big air, extreme side of the sport. It's fun and exciting to watch. Tow-ups aren't really traditional and something that you'd normally do, but in days like today it's the only thing you will be doing with the kite," notes Jesse Richman.
"It's about exploring the possibilities of what happens when you tow yourself up to 20 and 40 meters and let go, and fly down. The biggest differences between normal kiting and doing a tow up is that the wind direction no longer matters because you're falling faster than the wind is pushing you."
So, it's like the wind is going straight up, and you're circling the kite around you - all your axes are off. If you're not skilled with your kite, you could find yourself falling out of the sky from a pretty decent height, and potentially hurting yourself and somebody else if you're doing it wrong."
Kevin Langeree was also one of the stars of the tow-up session held in Leucate.
"It's definitely risky. You see everyone go up and it looks super easy, but it is dangerous. So I don't recommend people trying it. You get to a point where the power is so great because the jet ski is going against the wind and increasing wind speed, and eventually there's so much tension on both of your arms that you feel that it is the max, let go of the rope, and then it's just dead quiet," adds the Dutch kiteboarder.
"It's cool, but then it's scary at the same time. You look down, and you know you're way up. When it's really windy, you can feel a lot of power in your kite, but in a tow-up there are sections where you fall down 15 meters, and then the kite catches you before you land. You can feel butterflies in your stomach."
Big air tow-ups proved to be an exciting alternative that gives people a show when there's no wind. And, apparently, athletes enjoyed the experience.
"My favorite aspect of it is not only doing flips, spins and kite loops but also seeing the view," concludes Richman.