Kiting the Kazkazi
By Naliaka Wafula,
With 8 months of consistent winds throughout the year, relatively calm waters along its shores, and uninterrupted beaches that stretch on for miles, Diani on the Kenyan coast is slowly becoming recognised as a world-class kite surfing spot.
Last weekend, the earliest pioneers of the sport in the country organised a three-day kite surfing competition which brought together both local and international riders from as far as Australia and Russia.
The 25 riders dazzled the crowds with their tricks; pulling blind judges, back rolls, slim chances and megaloops, thanks to average wind speeds of 19 knots over the three days.
In the end, it was Russian liquid-force sponsored pro kite surfer, Ilya Iskhnopulo who emerged victorious after knocking out German rider Daniel Heinrichs in the semis, and compatriot Maks Shevchenko in the finals.
Iskhnopulo is confident that the competition marks the beginning of something great. “I think it has a big future in it because as I can see right now it has just started, everything here, everything: tourism, the kite surfing, the beaches are so long, the wind is blowing everywhere here, so I think it will be full of kite riders everywhere.”
For Kenyan kite surfer, Goodluck Shamalla, who owns his own IKO certified school in Diani, the contest is a launch pad for participating in competitions abroad. He says he thrives on the challenge, and it’s the best way to elevate his riding capabilities. “To me, it is important because of skills, improving my skills and to popularize the sport in Kenya and internationally which is good so as to at least bring in more people in this sport,” he said.
The level of expertise displayed by competitors particularly impressed Australian kite surfer Jay Wijeratne, who regularly kites with his crew in Zanzibar. “The standard is incredibly high here, there are some really good kite surfers here and it is good to see some local riders as well, there was Goodluck yesterday and some few other locals who had some great support from the locals so it was nice to see,” he said.
The event also raised funds for the Local Ocean Trust, an organization committed to the protection and conservation of sea turtles along the coast.
For Kenya Cup founder Boris Polo, it’s all about attracting the big international talent in order to ignite the local scene, and make Diani a major destination on the World Kiteboarding League. “What a competition like this does is it opens people’s eyes to the quality of riding and the aspiration to be like this guys coming from Europe that are incredible kiters,” he said.
Already popular in African countries like South Africa, Egypt and Morocco, kite surfing in Kenya is set to grow as more schools open up and more people take up the sport.