Traunsee a breath of fresh air and water for kitefoilers

Fifty-eight of the most accomplished riders from 26 nations and five continents are ready to compete in the KiteFoil World Series Traunsee in Austria over the next four days from 16 to 19 June.

Registration day produced perfect foiling conditions on spectacular Traunsee, Austria’s answer to Lake Garda. With the blazing sun driving air temperatures up to 28 degrees celsius, the thermal winds rose to 16 knots in the southern section of the 12km-long lake near Salzburg.

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: laboratory conditions

With €15,000 of prize money up for grabs between the Men’s and Women’s fleets, there is a lot to play for, although the main focus is the competition itself and checking in on any recent developments in equipment. The KiteFoil World Series events are open to any equipment choices, creating a perfect competitive scenario to test the latest gear.

“Laboratory conditions” is how Max Maeder (SGP) described Wednesday’s perfect weather. After months of salt-water training and competition, the riders appreciated the opportunity to give their kites an intentional dunking in the drinkable, fresh water of Traunsee.

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: testing new equipment

Lauriane Nolot (FRA) was last year’s winner in the female fleet, and she was smiling and relaxed as she got ready for her title defence. “I’m feeling great and I love racing here in Traunsee,” she said. Over the winter the French rider tested various equipment and has been going fast in events so far in 2022. “I tried many types of kite over the winter and it was very useful. As we learn more about the kites I don’t think you’ll see riders sticking to just one brand, they will use different ones for different conditions. We’ll see what’s fast for this week!”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: leap of faith

Another French rider, Jessie Kampman, was female runner-up in 2021 and she’s looking for more consistent performances here than she has achieved in recent competitions. “I seem to be able to get one good result and then follow up with a bad result, so this week I’m trying to be more consistent across the whole series,” she said. “This is going to be a good event in a great location. I mean you can do anything here, all kinds of watersports, mountain biking, it’s a pretty cool place to be.”

Last year’s male winner was Axel Mazella (FRA) who went on to win the overall title in the 2021 KiteFoil World Series. While Mazella will be among the favourites for winning this week, he knows there is plenty of tough competition in the international fleet. Local rider from Austria, Valentin Bontus, says the 15-year-old Maeder from Singapore will be one to watch. “Max has been dominating some events this year and it’s interesting to see how he performs against the other guys here. Flo [Gruber from Germany] is also good here because he’s done a lot of time in Traunsee. And Theo [de Ramecourt from France], obviously, he’s always good.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: the evening reception as riders get ready for four days' racing

Like many riders, de Ramecourt is testing new equipment and is ready to switch gear more often than he might in a Formula Kite event where you have to pre-register your gear choices. The same for British female rider Ellie Aldridge. “I’ll be trying out different combinations than I would normally, and that could make it difficult getting comfortable with new equipment because any change affects your manoeuvres, not just your speed through the water.”

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: Foiling through fresh water

While most competitors would highlight Formula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz (USA) as the women’s favourite, Aldridge says the small racing area on Traunsee could shake up the order. “It could be more laps, less about speed and more on manoeuvres, so I think it’s hard to say who’s going to come out on top this week.”

After a number of good days of training, the opening day of competition could be hampered by rain and thunderstorms. While the idyllic campervan life close to the Traunsee shore won’t seem so idyllic if the skies open, the riders will keep their sense of humour come rain or shine. Racing is scheduled to begin at 1100 hours.

The final two days of competition will be live streamed this Saturday and Sunday.

written by Andy Rice, Event Reporter

© Robert Hajduk / IKA: Pay attention in class!