"VKWC riders were not paid their prize money," says Mirco Babini, president of IKA

October 14, 2015 | Kiteboarding
Kiteboarding: IKA will crown world champions | Photo: Bromwich/PKRA

In an exclusive interview with SurferToday.com, the president of the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) explains what went wrong with the Virgin Kitesurf World Championships (VKWC), and how things will play for the sport from 2016 on.

Mirco Babini reveals that the riders and judges competing in the VKWC were not being paid, and explains why should governing bodies for sports crown world champions.

1. Why exactly has IKA decided not to re-sign the contract with the PKRA/VKWC?
We offered a new contract to PKRA/VKWC in May 2015; all was in place, and they decided not to sign the contract with IKA.

2. How would you analyze the relationship between the VKWC and riders, brands, and fans?
Fans are quite happy because of the name of Virgin and Richard Branson and because it looks like there's a lot of money coming into the sport, but that is only how it looks from the outside.

We hear that riders are not paid their prize money, we hear from judges that they don't get paid wages and travel expenses, and we hear about a lot of problems on rules, judging, and format, as well as conflicts of interest between judges, sponsors, and Tour owners.

3. What will IKA keep and what will you change regarding the 2016 world tour?
There have been a couple of good ideas in 2015, like smaller judging area and one rider at the time being judged. We will improve the rules and judging, bring back live scoring and, whenever technically possible, live streaming. The riders will get their voice back on the development of format and sport. Everything will be run by a professional team and in a professional way.

4. Isn’t IKA putting too much hype on freestyle, and leaving the remaining disciplines in the shadow?
IKA is listening to what the top riders are pushing for. Freestyle is and remains the core of the expression disciplines, but we're supporting and developing other disciplines to become stronger. We're able to manage and develop all the disciplines in the right way.

5. Do you believe that a governing body should crown professional champions? The World Surf League, the PWA World Tour, and the APB Tour are independent organizations.
All those organizations that you mention have contracts or agreements with the world governing bodies. Secondly, in the really big sports like soccer, they have the world champions crowned directly by the world governing body and not by tour operators.

6. Will a new entity take over professional kiteboarding from 2017 on?
Only IKA, who has the sole right to deliver the world championships in kiteboarding, can contract a new world tour organizer/promoter.

7. How would you describe IKA’s relationship with Richard Branson, a man who fought for the Olympic cause?
First of all, I would really love to have the chance to personally meet him directly. IKA never talked directly with Sir Richard Branson. Maybe if we did meet, everything would have been different. Who knows!