Irish Kitesurfing Festival Promises a Splash
By Olivia O'Mahony, Editorial Assistant
July 29th, 2016
The Irish National Kitesurfing Championships will be brought to Co. Wexford’s Duncannon Beach August 13th and 14th as part of the Hooked Kitefest. In conjunction with the Irish Kitesurfing Association, the festival offers viewers the opportunity to take in an athletic spectacle of male, female, and junior-centric events that include course-racing, freestyle, and hang-time competitions.
A surface water extreme sport, kitesurfing combines aspects of traditional surfing, snowboarding, windsurfing, paragliding, skateboarding, and gymnastics. Through using a large, controllable power-kite to capture wind force, the kitesurfer is propelled across the water on their board, riding the waves as they come. In 2012, World Sailing and the International Kitesurfing Association estimated the number of practising kitesurfers as 1.5m persons worldwide.
The Irish National Kitesurfing Championships will draw in both Irish and international competitors in the men’s, women’s, and unisex under-18s categories, promising a showcase of breathtaking skill and speed. The various competitions will be judged by the president and vice-president of the Irish Kitesurfing Association, Warren Vance and Niall Roche.
Roche, a professional kitesurfing instructor and co-owner of Hooked, was responsible for the founding of the festival in 2009 and and has overseen its organization every year since. It began, Roche told Irish America, when he and his wife Christina opened their kite-surfing lesson business: “Every year, we’d go on a kitesurfing trip to the coast. We’d be out on the water all day. Then, at night, we’d light a fire and play some music. Eventually, I realized I wanted to make it into something bigger and better, a real festival with official events and band performances.”
The festival has proven itself a huge economic boon for the village of Duncannon, bringing in not only kitesurfers, but spectators and festival-goers enthusiastic about the sand, sea, and craic. “It’s not a sport that’s only for teenagers,” Roche says, “so you’ve got a great family atmosphere every year.” Non-competitive activities this year will include water-zorbing, archery, face-painting, and children’s power-kite lessons.
“Kitesurfing is like riding a bike,” says Roche, who has been involved with the sport for 16 years. “It’s really special when you’re teaching someone, seeing them get up there for the first time, seeing the smile on their face.”
For kitesurfers with the good fortune to find themselves Wexford-bound in August, championship pre-registration is still open for competitors at iksa.ie. The Hooked Kitefest will continue the action on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, in September. ♦