MALPEQUE - The winds off Princetown Point were strong on Saturday, but competitors at an inaugural Atlantic Canada Kiteboarding Tour event were eager to test themselves.
David Macneill of P.E.I. Kiteboarding organized the event in an effort to develop a tour schedule in the Maritimes, with a minimum of three stops. In addition to the Island event, he is communicating with an organizer who held an earlier event in Shippagan, N.B., and another who may holding a wave competition in Nova Scotia later in September.
Since getting into kiteboarding about a decade ago, Macneill's Cavendish-based business has had an ongoing relationship with Anne Murray's Malpeque Bay Kayak Tours Ltd., which operates at Princetown Point.
The conditions of the area lend themselves to the sport, and the connection was made.
"We've been kiting (at Princetown Point) for 10 years, and it's probably one of the premier spots in the Maritimes,” said Macneill. “We've got flat, shallow, warm water.
“It's very safe here, wide open - you can walk all the way to Courtin Island - no beach-goers so we're not really interfering with anybody. . . it's just the perfect conditions.”
Murray attributes the strong winds to a funnel condition the area creates. It is perfect, as well, for her own kayak and stand-up paddle boarding business, which is enhanced by the area's seven islands and natural habitat designation for migratory birds.
The event was held over two days, but tour competition was slated for Saturday because the wind was forecast to diminish on Sunday.
Fun, freestyle demonstrations and a possible relay race were planned for the milder conditions.
Kite Cross, Freestyle and Big Air
The event featured Kite-Cross course racing, a freestyle category of tricks riders perform and Big Air in which riders manipulate the kite to allow the rider to launch from the water and attempt max height with their board. Each heat provides about 10 minutes of performance, four to five competitors at a time. The top two from each heat go on to the next.
There are a total of four heats, with the top six riders competing for final placings.
Pro kiter Andy Hurdman, based in Delray Beach, Florida, accepted an invitation to be guest judge for the competition. He has competed in the United States kiteboarding pro tour, and in 2003 received his Kiteboarding IKO Teaching Certificate, instructing all ages and abilities.
He had met Macneill and his business partner, Janeen LaForme, during their winter excursions, and decided it was a good opportunity to get a first look at the Island conditions. He judged them excellent, though cooler than Florida.
Riders from across the Maritimes participated in the event, as well as one from South Africa. Although many were experienced kiters, there was opportunity for lesser-skilled riders to engage and train.
Jason Gallant, 16, of Abram-Village was invited by his cousin, Lucas Arsenault. Gallant started kiting about three years ago, and decided he was ready to engage a higher level.
Although he has some experience, no qualifications were necessary to participate in the event.
"I never did race before,” he said after landing from a second-place finish in a Kite-Cross heat. “It's interesting, how everything rolls out.”
Often kiting the coastal environs of the Evangeline region, he found the North Shore conditions refreshing.?
"This is probably the best spot on the Island to kite,” said Gallant.
Gallant likes the Maximville shoreline waves, but was pleasantly surprised at the warmth of the "North Shore" waters off Princetown, guessing that the shallow waters give that benefit
An Ontario visitor, staying at a cottage nearby, wasn't aware of the event and came to the site tent to take some pictures. He was just learning the sport, and had his own kite and board, but only contemplated testing his skills during the Sunday fun events.