KPWT “My understanding of it all”
After 10 years of existence and the strongest media foundation within the sport, the KPWT went from hero to zero in no less than a kiting season. A combination of politics within sport, desperate decisions and miffed riders collectively nailed the coffin closed for the promoter. Its a reality amongst sport that politics can quickly cloud the potential and positive influence it should demand.
I joined the tour at the first event of the 2009 season in Germany.
This is how I saw it…
I was invited on the tour by Frederic to help with his media and to assist the event manager, who was doing an apprenticeship. I think right from the very beginning it would have made sense to invest in someone qualified and stern to hold such an important role at such a very important time. A combination of silly errors and unqualified decisions were made and I was disgraced by it all.
There was a clear direction I wanted to go, but didn’t quite feel like I had the support, the trust or the understanding to hit the mark I intended. The riders, the lifestyle, the traveling, the parties, the new tricks, the madness of it all was interest enough to create a new attraction within kite. It was a huge opportunity to get stuck in and use this media structure that had been built over 12 years. I had access to over 130 000 contacts on every press release.
The KPWT saw Gisela Pulido at 12 years old, blowing spectators minds with potential. There were heats with Jesse Richman and Evandro Da Silva on Cauipe Lagoon that killed it. Leander Vyvey, “jesus walking” in tarifa, only to be dealt in the final by a solid Mike Blomvall. I remember 20knot double overhead wave conditions in Portugal and watching Kirsty Jones charging. What a pleasure! I had the best job in the world and the opportunity of a lifetime.
So back to Germany…
I started to see a few things surface and people seemed to trust me enough to begin to talk. For a professional world tour, I felt the core structure was not near the standard it should have been. I think the promoter had been so distracted with the “fight” for survival that less and less attention was directed towards progress.
It was made to work however and the event seemed to be run quite smoothly due to the experience of a few senior staff members. A German rider, Mario Rodwald won the event so all was good and with over 75 riders, it was a positive start.
During this event was the first time I heard the whisper of the IKA. At this point the IKA and the KPWT had an agreement. All events would be sanctioned by the IKA and an IKA sanctioned tour, meant a World Champion for the KPWT at the end of the season. This is NOT how the season ended.
A tax was demanded from the IKA for such a sanction. This is where I got very confused. I understand why the IKA wanted to govern the sport and move it in the direction of the Olympics and professionalism within the racing discipline, but why absorb the tours that represent the riders and the extreme side of its marketing potential. I understand they wanted a rulebook for all kiting events and to govern it as a whole for progressive reasons and of course safety for competitors.
They wanted an official world champion.
On the other hand, this is an extreme sport and the extreme elements are what attracts you to the sport and brings you exposure. When riders competed at these international events they had the opportunity to kite for their brands, for themselves and for the spectators. Lets not forget the prize money on offer. To be a professional, you need to be paid.
The KPWT promoter took a new exciting sport from nothing and built a World Tour for kite. Encouraging sponsorship for riders, exposure for all the international kiting locations and a new exciting marketing tool for brands. It was truly sad to see the potential and watch how it ended.
Back to Germany…
I thought things were a bit strange when I was offered the tour midway through the first event. It felt like danger was on its way and it was very evident. Not to me. I was still very much in awe of all that I was involved in and where I could help.
I do know that by the end of the first event in Sylt, the KPWT were in the process of being banned from the IKA and under serious threat to have all the events unsanctioned for unpaid taxes.
I also know that the KPWT introduced a new 5% prize money tax for the first time. A minimal charge really. But a decision that definitely encouraged bitterness rather than the support it hoped for.
At this point it truly felt, that no matter how much effort was put in and how hard we pushed, there was no room for error.
Spain started badly for the KPWT. The event scheduled for the Dominican Republic was cancelled on day 1. There were endless attempts to try and understand the circumstances with the local organizer. I understood it that it was not safe for her and there was not enough money to support the tour requirements. But still the stirs of the IKA were around and if the KPWT were still sanctioned…
The event for me showcased some top riding with, Mike Blomvall, Petr Tyushkevic and Alex Pastor all firing on good conditions.
However questions were now also coming up about the judging…
All that needed to change with the judging is to have consistent permanent staff on the judging team. There were some top judges, but they were never evenly balanced.
It was evident the cracks were now starting to show and by Portugal the KPWT was not sanctioned by the IKA. The argument was that the IKA had sanctioned events for other existing tours and the KPWT were under the impression that they would be the only tour to announce a World Champion under their scheduled season. This was not so. And the KPWT refused to pay the sanctioning fees. The IKA stopped sending a representative.
Threats were now issued to the riders by the IKA that if they competed in any further KPWT events they would be banned from the IKA and wont be ranked.
I understand the intentions of the IKA and their feelings towards the KPWT, but lets be fair. The riders want to compete. They want fairness. They need sponsors. They want to win prize money. They want to show off their talent. Give them the opportunity… Surely.
This was a confusing time for everyone.
Portugal had one of those days sent to earth by the wave-riding gods. Fully powered kites in double overhead waves with 3m faces to play with. Santa Cruz beach was cooking for a full day of heats.
France and Canada saw the diminishing of the registration list for the KPWT. A new discipline of sliders was introduced in Canada, which created a new excitement amongst the riders, but I think it was just a little too late. I think the KPWT needed to uphold its rebellious stand towards what was happening. Why the hell not. It is a rebellious sport.
In Dakhla Morocco, an unnamed rider wore the competition vest of another to disguise himself and won a heat he was not entered in. The promoter caught him as he left the water and disqualified both riders from competing. At a very delicate time and to evade embarrassment it was kept quiet. I felt this exemplified the feeling amongst the riders and the KPWT. They had just lost all respect and hope for a future within the tour.
Brazil started badly. Very badly.
Let me first say that Duro Beach is a sublime kiting location and if you looking for wind, warm water and flat lagoons, go to Cumbuco. A rider had registered for the Junior and senior competition. He won the juniors on day one and on day 2 when the senior heats were called out, he was not included. There was confusion between the then manager of the KPWT and the mother/translator of the rider at registration, and a mistake was made. Unfortunately for all concerned it was a mistake that cost the rider the opportunity to compete. This incident introduced the team to a highly volatile Brazil and we had a permanent bodyguard.
I felt completely safe, and was maybe not aware of what was really said behind the scenes, but I was told to be careful. All seemed a bit ridiculous and funny actually.
The IKF was founded at this time. From what it looked like it was merely an attempt to prove a point. Any event can be sanctioned by any “federation” and run, but could it really hold a stand under the sailing banner. The promoter invited us all to a dinner during the Brazil event and introduced us all to the new Director of the IKF. She did not speak English. From that point I was offered a salary to be the voice of the IKF.
The 2009 KPWT season ended in Essaouira Morocco, with a week of dismal wind and riders that had the look of no return. So the Champions were announced and the KPWT year completed for the 12th time.
The next few months were spent in battle. Underhanded attempts were made to sabotage the tour, but the promoter did not surrender. Some said arrogance. Some said blind passion. But what a rollercoaster Jamaica turned out to be in 2010.
My flight from London to Kingston was a nervous one. I knew riders had promised to attend, but will they and will there be enough. Has everyone decided to compete under the IKA or are there those that just want to compete. All the IKA wanted was that KPWT drop the World Tour title.
What is a world tour? I would say a seasonal competition involving a sport, taking place across the world at various destinations. I support the IKA and what they are achieving for kiteboarding. It felt personal though. Should Fred have just dropped the title or was it worth too much? Would sponsors have pulled out? Would riders have competed?
I know some senior riders turned against the KPWT for good reason that could have been dealt with better, but lets also not forget the positive influence the KPWT had on their careers. It seemed as if the core of the KPWT needed to be dealt with first before any other improvements could be ensured.
On arrival into Kingston all seemed fine and my name was announced at the airport for an easy transfer to the event site. This is the point where it all just went very wrong. I found it strange the Promoter of the local events company was not to be found and the event site was not even half completed. This was a day before the event.
Deposits were made by riders for accommodation, vendors invested at the event site and deposits by the KPWT had been confirmed. The argument from the local, Eugene was that the KPWT had not delivered on its rider quota. They aborted the event immediately and were impossible to find. Even from the local authorities. The promoter and myself had to pay a truck driver to take us to the event site and transfer all the rider’s gear to the hotel. It was not a safe environment and I had to do my best to soften the angry vendors and explain the situation.
Jamaica tourism then got heavily involved in attempts to protect its newly established reputation amongst the kiting community. To date. Jamaica has not hosted a world tour event again.
They took the riders and the team on excursions around the island while solutions for the event were researched to no avail.
That evening the KPWT team was called to a dinner. The promoter was in a very emotional place and as disappointed in him as I was. It was not a nice thing to see. He made a desperate mistake at the risk of all concerned. He should have taken a stronger deposit that protected the team and the riders. I am still to this day owed a few thousand euros.
We were all hurt. Was it a set up?
I did not feel safe on that island and the tourism office applied allot of pressure on my media releases and what I was allowed to reveal. I literally, jumped into a cab and fled to the UK. I probably should have stayed and looked after the riders. I was completely frustrated and felt that I had no other option.
It was all there. 10 years of successful events, a huge media structure, world-class competitors, perfect locations, good prize money and no sanctioning…
Why were the sanctioning fees not paid? Why not secure a core judging panel? Kite locations at windy times of year? Less events? Community amongst riders and staff? Unpaid event bills? Solid respected contracts? Invest in a secure rulebook? Or just ask for help…
Was it just sadly, that personal… Was it just that “he” needed to be taught a lesson. What had “he” done so wrong in the end, but produce a tour that took the riders to the ends of the earth…
Since that day there has almost been a KPWT silence.
Where has Frederic gone?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 8:39 pm
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