Sri Lanka is a country the KTA took an interest in a few years back, after an invitation to come and check out the kite spots in Kalpitiya. The location was incredible, vast flat water lagoons punched in along the stunning seaboard of the Indian Ocean, which outside of the lagoons offers riders a nice mix of wave spots to explore also.
In Kalpitiya, the hub for kiting in Sri Lanka, the wind averages 20-25 knots during the Summer Season: May to October. Then over the winter between December and March you can expect afternoon thermal winds. On top of this during the off-season a whole 'otherworld' of SUP Safaris, diving and whale watching appears - so if you are aiming for a mixed kite and trip, then those winter months would be worth a look.
For now though the KTA was finally getting the chance to bring its first kiteboard event to the country. Heading the bill would be the 2018 Asian Freestyle X Champions, along with the Sri Lanka National Championships, with an additional Open International Freestyle X event, a Big Air Hangtime comp. and as it turned out in the end, even a TTR Lagoon Race day, making the KTA Sri Lanka a full on festival of kiting.
2018 Sri Lanka Freestyle X National Championships
Sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry, along with support from the kite schools from the Kalpitiya Windsports Club, the KTA Sri Lanka had attracted a registration of over 60 riders from 13 countries.
With the first day being designated for the Sri Lanka National Championships and the winds already filling into punchy 20kts by the end of rego, it was already shaping up to be the event everyone was hoping for. It would not be long before the local riders would be out on the lagoon showing the international crew, how to throw-down on their home turf.
Freestyle X the format for the event, is the freeride competition mix developed by the KTA that allows riders to blend together their old and new school moves, to show off the best of what it means to be a freestyle rider. It is a format that perfectly suits the strong Sri Lankan conditions, allowing riders to boost their old school moves and power the new.
The wind throughout the day pushed up to between 20 -25kts, meaning that even though riding conditions were not at all times stable, it certainly set the challenge and showed the judges who had the best all round ability.
With an awesome mix of deadmen, handle passes, kiteloops, F16's and board offs of every variety, as the early heats of the Sri Lanka Freestyle X National Championships began to unfold. Local friends and rivals alike pushed each other to perform at their best and although of course not every rider would make it through to the later stages, they showed the impressive level Sri Lankan kiting has now reached.
In the final stages though, the showdowns would be played out between Samara Priyanka and Gihan Anurudda Mihdukulasuriya in the first semi, with Amjath Nasar and Anishka Dinel in the second.
For Priyanka and Mihdukulasuriya the wind was perhaps at its flukiest of the day, with lulls popping up throughout the heat making it difficult for the riders to time their moves and gain a lot of height in their old school moves. In the end though Priyanka's better constancy would take him through to the finals.
For the second semi the wind was back to full power and both riders were able to show their best. Nasar was able to initially catch the eye of the judges with a smooth range of well boosted old school moves that seem to put him in front of his opponent. Dinel however fought back and in the end it would be his overall constancy that would carry him through.
The runners-up final began in the same vein as the semi's, but unfortunately at the halfway point Nasar's slammed in a hard landing and his board snapped in two. Although after this Nasar was taken a replacement board by the rescue team, it is under the rules seen as outside assistance and gave the win to Mihdukulasuriya.
In the finals, Dinel open his account with powerful deadman front roll, only to be countered by a big board off switch, F16 and back-roll handlepass from Priyanka. Dinel held his nerve though finishing with some powerful wake style tricks, while Priyanka pushed perhaps a little too hard and failed to land his final rush of moves, giving in the end the Sri Lanka Freestyle X National Championships to Dinel.
2018 Asian Freestyle X Championships
The KTA Sir Lanka had now reach the much anticipated Asian Freestyle X Championships, the main event of the week in Sri Lanka.
The riders were now all very tuned into the conditions and the wind was still averaging above the 20kt mark, with just a few gusts and lulls thrown in to unsettle the competitors.
As riders progressed through the early rounds, you could feel the anticipation building for the entry of regions more well know names and champions. The competition took off for real, with stinging rounds that saw strong performances from Sri Lanka's Mohamed Althaf, Ajmal Nasar and Anishka Dinel, which took them through to the latter stages of the event. Their runs were only brought to an end by Vietnam's Phu Phoang Lai, the Philippines Mark Magliqiuan and Thailand's Yo Narapitchit Pudla and Prawit Buachatturat.
This group of riders were now through to the semi-finals and each with their sights set on the championship title. With those battles pending, it was though the turn of the women to take to the water and settle who would be their 2018 champion.
The women's combined final would feature Japan's Aya Oshima, Turkey's Elif Taluy and Thai riders Fon Benyapa Jantawan, and Tatsanee Phisin. The outcome however was not to be a repeat of the International Open earlier in the week, as Taluy and Jantawan were edged out by Phisin and Oshima.
Phisin in particular had a blinding final, landing powerful new school moves and high well timed old school tricks that showed her confidence had grown over the week's competition. However, the experience and skill of Oshima proved unstoppable, with her range of new school moves in particular leaving her rivals in her wake. In the end there could only be one winner and for the 2018 Asian Championships, it was once again Japan's Aya Oshima.
Attention then moved back to the men's group and the semi-finalists battled it out to grab their places in the finals. The final would turn out to be an all Thai affair as Pudla and Buachatturat held off the challenges of their rivals. The Pudla / Magliqiuan semi-final was though in particular staggeringly close, with only a 0.5 difference in the score between the two.
Magliquian would though pick up the bronze medal podium slot, after his runner-up finals with Vietnam's Phoang Lai's early form of the week deserting him this time. In particular Phoang Lai failed to land two attempts at his normally rock solid slim chance and this seem to throw him of course. Magliquian though was still on a roll from his near defeat of Pudla and really did not put a foot wrong to take the win.
The men's 2018 Asian Freestyle X final, would open with both riders matching each other move for move as they rolled out big one-foot front rolls, board spins and 313/s. At this point with things more or less evenly matched, Pudla's power began to tell and he started to pull away from Buachatturat, ending of course with a massive well anticipated X5 front loop.
And with that, Yo Narapichit Pudla was once again Asian champion - although even as he admitted, it was a bit of a surprise that at 31 years old he was still top of the pile.
Both the men's and women's finals had lived up to the high level expectations for the KTA Sri Lanka. Both reigning champions had retained their crowns, but it was good to see the rising level of talent chasing them hard, ensuring many good years of freestyle competition are to be anticipated in the coming years.
Bonus TT Racing & Awards
It was an amazing week for the KTA Sri Lanka, with great conditions ensuring that all the planned championship events were easily completed. This meant there was some extra time on the clock, for the KTA to bring in one more discipline and create a real festival of kiting for the first visit to Sri Lanka.
So, with the event's main sponsors, the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry in attendance, it was agreed with the riders to hold some fun TT races.
TT racing which is now been included into the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, has always been a big part of the Asian kiteboard scene, with the KTA being at the forefront of its development and recognition as an official race class.
The KTA would not though be using the Youth Olympic Boarder X format and would instead run course racing, but with an added twist as riders would be beach starting 'Le Monde' style!
It was spectacular sight to see the riders sprinting for the water, as the starting flag was dropped, then basting out across the lagoon on a fast reach to the first mark. Having successful made the first turn, technique and tactics take over as the riders race upwind towards the top mark, before rounding this onto a fast broad reach back to the finish line, which was set close to the beach to let spectators and friends cheer the winners home.
Four races were completed for the day, with a tight battles being fought between the Philippines MJ Cahilig and local favourite Sachin Devinda. At the start of the final race each of them had taken a first and second place, with the third race not seeing either of them finishing in the top three. It was all to be decided on the final race of the day and as the riders turned at the first mark, MJ and Devinda were indeed out in front, but the whole race was about to change. Moving steadily through the fleet was Myld Rodtong, Thailand's girls Youth Olympic Qualifier, who was about to show everyone why she is an Olympic rider. She took a completely different upwind line to the rest of the fleet, going it alone on her own course that took her from the middle of the pack to being the first rider to round the top mark. After that there was no catching her as the youngest rider in the KTA Sri Lanka stormed to the finish for a much applauded win.
The overall TT race winner though would be Devinda who finished the final race ahead of his Philippine rival, to take the men's title and by virtual of that outstanding win, Rodtong would take the women's top prize.
With all the hard work on the water over, the KTA Sri Lanka wrapped things up on the beach and headed over to the Awards Night and Closing Party at Kitesurfing Lanka. Our hosts for the closing ceremony had fittingly created a beach setting for proceedings that looked amazing and set the perfect scene for the close of play.
In this chilled atmosphere the nights MC, KTA Event Director Willy Kerr, drew the event to close and brought the weeks winners to the podium to claim their prizes and titles for the coming year.
Then of course with official part of the night complete it was time to wrap things up in true KTA style and party until dawn, which of course many did with great style and dance moves…
Asian Freestyle X Championship
1 Yo Narapitchit Pudla (THA) Aya Oshima (JPN)
2 Prawit Buachatturat (THA) Tatsanee Phisin (THA)
3 Mark Magliqiuan (PHL) Elif Taluy (TUR)
4 Phu Phoang Lai (VNM) Fon Benyapa Jantawan (THA)
Sri Lanka Freestyle X National Championship
1 Anishka Dinel
2 Samara Priyanka
3 Amjath Nasar
4 Gihan Anurudda Mihdukulasuriya
TT Kalpitiya Lagoon Fun Race
1 Sachin Devinda (LKA) Myld Rodtong (THA)
Kalpitiya is located 130 km north of the Bandaranayke International Airport in Katunayake, in Puttalam district, the North Western province of Sri Lanka. While it is an exquisite coastal region located on the Western coastal belt, north of Colombo. Kalpitiya is a peninsula set in between the deep lagoon of Puttalam to the east and the magnificent Indian Ocean to the west. It is an unrivalled marine sanctuary with a diversity of habitats ranging from bar reefs, flat coastal plains, saltpans, mangrove swamps, salt marshes and vast sand dune beaches.
Little wonder the area is known for its natural environment which consists of 14 islands, with its population traditionally earning their living from fishing. Kalpitiya though is being transformed by the kiteboarding scene and is now considered the best location to kite in the country. It has a great summer season from May to October, with strong consistent winds pumping in during the south west monsoon. The winter season runs from around from mid-December to mid-February, during the north east monsoon.
About the KTA
The KTA was formed to give an international platform to the skills and talents of kiteboarders throughout Asia, and to bring professional level competition and training to the region. The KTA launched the first kiteboard event of its kind in Asia in September 2009 and since then delivered over 50 international events across Asia and Australasia ranging from National, to International and Asian Championships, including World and Youth Olympic Qualifiers.
The KTA is open to everyone from anywhere, amateur and pro riders alike. It is the one and only officially Asian continental tour sanctioned by the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA), the kitesurfing world governing body, which in turn is the class representative to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) sanctioning international sailing competitions from world championship to Olympic levels.