“It’s been intense – we’ve been on the water starting at 7am and then back in class, building frameworks for what Para Kiteboarding might look like on a global, organized scale,explained Frances Osorio Rivera, 34, Florida-based, U.S. Army veteran, left-leg amputee, kiteboarding instructor, and Cabrinha/Dakine-sponsored athlete and sales representative.
Willem Hooft, the 32-year-old Dutch athlete representative, had a motorbike accident five years ago that left him in a wheelchair:Even though I heard regularly that my kitesurfing plans were unrealistic – too difficult to learn and the risks too great for someone in a wheelchair – I decided to give it a go.
“I broke the height record for sit kite last winter in Cape Town – exceeding 10 metersadded Hooft, who is now a motivational speaker and travels the world as a professional kitesurfer on the international Slingshot Kite team and as a team rider for Wind Voyager.
Chris Ballois, 50, has been a sailor since the age of 12, a windsurfer and Guinness World Record holder for fastest person in kitesurfing over a nautical mile – he did it all with one hand, born with a full arm:
“It was amazing to be here all together to develop kiteboarding – looking at all aspects of the sport, to see how athletes with different support needs can compete at a high level. is what the kitesurfing community wants – a fully inclusive, truly international sport and that vision can certainly become a reality.
The future of kitesurfing
David Graham, CEO of World Sailing, is an avid kitesurfer and sailor. He took to the water with athletes and coaches:
“The appeal of kitesurfing as a parasport, with its fast action, adrenaline-fuelled tricks and ease of adaptation, is clear.
“Now World Sailing can visualize a truly global opportunity to evolve the sport, developing it internationally.
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“We see athletes with a wide range of physical needs, who use equipment easily adapted to kitesurfers with prostheses as well as seated athletes.
“It is clear from this program and the discussions we have had with athletes and coaches about inclusion, development, racing and safety that Para Kiteboarding has a strong foundation and a great future to grow.
“We’re confident we’ll see Para Kiteboarding at major dedicated global events like Foiling Week, which starts here in a few days.”
Expansion on the horizon
World Sailing has selected the 11 participants from seven countries for its inaugural Para Kitesurf Development Program through its National Member Associations and is looking to significantly increase this number in the future.
“This first para kite development program has given us the opportunity to go deeper into organizing the sport on a global level – once we are done here we will be planning clinics around the world, so athletes and coaches can participate easily”, explained Massimo Dighe, Paralympic sailor and outgoing Head of World Para Sailing at World Sailing. Dighe joins the International Paralympic Committee as Deputy Director of World Para Sports on July 1.
“It’s really special to spend my last days at World Sailing here on Lake Garda where I did all my Paralympic sailing training. And now, having created the World Sailing Paralympic Development Program in 2017, we have this evolution of our sport – it makes me very proud,added Dighe, who today leaves the shores of Lake Garda on a direct train to the Bonn headquarters of the International Paralympic Committee.
Graham concluded: “In sailing, we are constantly researching, evolving and adapting. It’s the nature of our sport and the people in our sport because we are always up against the natural elements that dictate where we go and how quickly we get there.
“We are also very fortunate to have people in our sport around the world who have been willing to dedicate time to making sailing accessible to everyone.
“On Lake Garda, we had the personal support of Mirco Babini, president of the International Kiteboarding Association – like everyone else, he was keen to see this clinic run alongside the Formula Kite Grand Prix, with a view to may one day this sport be part of it.And we have had tremendous support from the Lake Garda sporting community who have dedicated boats, resources and time to make this wonderful program possible.
“Sailing – and kitesurfing as seen here – is incredibly adaptive. With a focus on development, we are on track to increase global parasailing participation to 45 nations across five continents by 2023.”
LA28 – Paralympic reintegration
World Sailing is just one week away from submitting its bid to the International Paralympic Committee to have sailing re-entered the Paralympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028.
Since launching its global #BacktheBid campaign in October 2021, the global sailing and sport community has come together to publicly endorse, write letters of support and use social media to engage with followers to spread the message. – see how you can help #BacktheBid here.