As we pulled north into the vast fields just outside Regina, Saskatchewan we were met with frigid temps, blowing snow, and the warm smiles of all the Saskatchewan snowkite crew. The small farm, flying kites, and tents that were to be the makeup of the Red Bull Kite Farm were dwarfed by the immense nothingness of snow, canola fields, and an overabundance of wind. Here in “The city that rhymes with fun” Regina, SK, snowkiting has been gaining strength in numbers. Snowkiting has been the catalyst for Saskatchewanians to get out there and rip through fields, carve wind lips, jib on farm equipment, and air over icy creek beds.
Hundreds of competitors and spectators converged on “The Farm” to test themselves and witness the chaos that would become The Redbull Kite Farm. This large plot of land is home to an old salty farmer named Bernard. If you were to conjure up an image of an old farmer who has been farming this frozen tundra for generations, Bernard would be it. His mustache and beard stained and burnt from countless cigarettes, gloveless hands hardened from the years, and an infectious sideways smile that made you feel at home and as if you had known him for years. Bernard is a major reason for the Kite Farm’s existence and for much of the kiting that takes place here. His farm is literally “Kite Beach, Regina.” He has embraced the sport of snowkiting, and allows all kiters to play without worry of being kicked off for liability reasons. With Bernards blessing, and the huge efforts of Explorer Sports Owner Aaron Hackel, The Kite Farm was born.
Day one looked to be a bit of a rodeo. Competitors did the best they could to rig their kites in the horrible conditions but the weather was prevailing. Kites were being blown away, several kitemares were taking place, and things only looked to get worse. Whiteout conditions, -25 F, and 50mph gusts postponed the race until Sunday.
… and low and behold, when we all arrived Sunday morning, the horrible weather had left us, unfortunately along with the wind. The forecast was diminishing and it was only blowing about 4knots at best. The race meeting brought with it bad news of delays in start times. On the other side the good weather had brought hundreds of spectators out. They lined the hay bails adjacent to the iconic barn that was tagged with Red Bull Kite Farm insignias. The setting, the people, course, competitors, made for a perfect event. My only hope was that we would get enough wind to Go.
Just as thoughts were getting dismal, and folks were ready to call it quits, we began to get a few puffs out of the North. All competitors scrambled to launch and make there way to the start line. This was a feat in itself with the super light wind and and uphill/upwind start line. We got work from the race committee, and it would be a 2:00 start no matter what.
The horn sounded and the mass chaos ensued. Riders charged downhill and downwind towards the spectating area. It was a bit reminiscent of a scene out of the movie Braveheart. Every kiter charging into battle. Other than the fact that this was a course race without any rules except to finish, there were several other obstacles that made The Farm difficult and unique. There was a 30’ embankment that sent you across a creek into a dead zone and through an abandoned farm. If you didn’t drop your kite in the creek, you we’re then lucky to avoid tangling it amongst one of the dilapidated structures or some rusty old farm equipment. Secondly, further down the course was another creek crossing. The creek itself posed no difficulty, but the low wind, and the waist high bull rushes and cat tails made it a bit of a grind to get through. To top it off, the night before we were warned by locals that the area was filled full of hidden stumps and beaver logs that would sure need avoiding. Every competitor pushed hard to make it through whatever The Farm could throw at them.
In the End, most of the competitors were able to finish within the allotted time and everyone including the spectators had a great time. A few riders prevailed and took the first ever titles of the Red Bull Kite Farm. Simon Gill and Peter Martel won the Mens Ski and Snowboard, along with Melissa Cronin taking the women’s title. Simon and Peter will be heading to Norway to compete in The Red Bull Ragnarok, the worlds largest snowkite endurance race. Congrats to all the winners and finishers!
All in all, the Red Bull Kite Farm was one of the smoothest run events that I have ever been to. It was truly an event for the riders and spectators. The city of Regina welcomed all travelers in with open arms. I’ve been to many other mountain towns for events, where as an athlete you are just another competitor from another place, competing in another event, very mundane. Here in Regina, a place that doesn’t see a lot of extreme sports events, we were treated almost as if we were snowkite royalty. Everyone was amazingly helpful and nice. But of all things that stuck with me from this experience, I was amazed at cohesiveness between kiters within their Canadian cities and provinces. It was almost as if every kiter from Regina was part of a team, and the same goes for the kiters from Winnipeg, Alberta, etc. Its almost as if they are a bunch hockey teams traveling together. I’ve never experienced this anywhere else in the world within the sport of snowkiting or kiteboarding.
Thanks so much to Aaron, Bernard, Redbull, all of the volunteers, and all of the local riders. What a fun event! I look forward to returning next year. Congrats to all the winners!
Video – https://vimeo.com/120191190
Produced by Two Brothers Films – http://twobrothersfilms.com/