Defi Kite May 24th-May 16th – Gruissan, France
Mandi Browning traveled to France to participate in the world famous and annual Defi Kite race and festivities, in the South of France. We were excited to hear about her experience and there are some great pictures to show! 400+ riders !
This year marked the 7th annual Defi Kite in Gruissan, France, with a record 400 kiteboarders racing together on one racecourse in a series of 20km and 40km races.
Seven years ago, I saw one small post about Defi Kite and promised myself that this would one day become a goal of mine to compete in this huge long-distance race. Today, I faced the intense Tramontane wind and made that goal a reality.
This event is by far, a top first-class event. The beach was converted into an event village, complete with a stage, jumbo screen, DJ’s, live bands, amazing food, and of course, F-One was well represented at the heart of the event.
Words simply cannot express the positive energy and stoke of the racers. Everyone was here to brave the conditions and be a part of this unique experience.
I was feeling nervous about kiting in a new location and kiting with legendary wind conditions that have a reputation for being unforgiving. I had to figure out a strategy on the spot and navigate the event with a language barrier (Next goal: become fluent in French).
Being in the middle of a massive sea of kites and not becoming part of a kite-mare could easily be overwhelming. There were many occasions where our kites were bumping one another, and it seemed as though a tangle would be eminent. But when the boat raced toward us to create the starting line, all bets were off! Everyone charged the starting line full speed in an insane, wind-frenzied mob of foil boards, directional’ and twin tips; dodging the kite carnage and having your heart skip a beat with the near misses. Remembering the rules of sailing was key in maintaining safety while riding nearly on top of one another. We had to remain focused and aware of our surroundings; read the wind across the water to anticipate the gusts, look for visual cues for water hazards, and be able to make necessary adjustments in a split second. As we raced along the course, the Tramontane wind increased, and the sand pelted our faces. Muscles were feeling the burn of fatigue and yet the smiles on our faces were always present as we rounded the buoys. Then back again we raced towards the finish line. While for a brief moment I questioned my sanity for doing this, the exhilaration and fun I experienced quickly outweighed any self-doubt. This is one of the craziest and most fun events I have ever participated in!
We raced 2 rounds per day over 3 days. After the 5th round, I was 3rd out of all of the women twin tip and 202 overall. I opted out of the 6th round because I felt it would have been safer for me to have been on a 4m kite at the time, and dropped to 4th place, and 215 overall as a final result. I’m still very happy with the results of my first Defi Kite. It was an incredible experience for me, and I can’t wait to represent F-One again next year with a new record of 500 kiters!!