Monday, May 7, 2012

Thoughts on 2016 Olympics- windsurfing & kiting

Lots of mixed opinions flying around these past few days regarding the decision to include kite boarding in the 2016 Olympics at the expense of windsurfing
Obviously - a very happy crowd here in San Francisco with the kite racers ready to take the Olympic spotlight.

I for one couldn't be more happy for them (and Ive been racing windsurfers competitively since the early 90's- getting on the bus late but nonetheless enjoying the ride.)
It's their time to shine so why not embrace it vs fighting it.
28 years of Windsurfing as an Olympic sport 1984-2012 is not a bad run.
Other classes have come and gone from the Olympics with the sailors having made large investments in their skill sets for that class. They had to move on.
The skills in windsurfing will translate to other classes (including kiteboarding) when it comes to course racing.

Windsurfing's been dying a slow death since it's peak in mid 90's.
Sure some racing classes have succeeded- t293, rsx, pwa, raceboard, formula but you see whats happening. The sports become diluted with so many choices, including kiting which has taken a big piece of the pie from windsurfing in the past 5-10 years. While not entirely agreeing that the RS-X is the best format for the Olympics- I have tremendous respect for the guys sailing that class- they are the most fit athletes in the sailing discipline and probably the entire Olympics.
The fact remain- the Olympics can only be so big- while it would be great to see both classes in 2016- there remains room for only 1.
The kiteboard, on the other hand has had a tremendous evolution with windsurfing paving the way for it's success. The 1st  World Championships in kite boarding course racing were held in San Francisco in 2007 and since then the sport has blossomed. It has evolved and continues to change more than any other form of sailing. I just hope that what's make it so successful isnt ruined by the forces at ISAF. Learn from the RS-X's mistakes and success's and blaze on!

The way I look at the decision is that its actually good for windsurfing- at least in the US.
The Olympics has been a hard call for us in the US- getting funding to support an international campaign from an organization that does not believe in us (rightly so as they're job is to win medals and we have a very bleak chance at that.) At the last trials we had 2 men and 1 women vying for the US Olympic windsurfing spot. At the 96 trials we had 40+. 
We've got several of the top 10 in the world in kite boarding and even the top 2 so for the US the decision was right. We'll get more funding with more medals. A win/win for US Sailing Team.

Now with RSX out, the windsurfing world of racing wont be as compromised as before with so many classes for sailors to choose from.
I see it as a win win for the formula class as the rsx'ers have a choice to either continue racing in a high performance windsurfing class or join the kiting fleet.
The formula class is bound to absorb some of those sailors.
The kiting class will benefit from the all the top racers coming in from the RS-X class.

As I understand, the exact discipline for kiting has not yet been selected. That decision will potentially be made in November or after next years Olympics. Most likely it will be racing as that's the format they loved so much at last months kite evaluation trials in Spain.
There's also a chance ISAF could reverse their decision in November with a 2/3 majority voting for windsurfing if that decision gets to the table. There's a petition by the rsx sailors to do this already.
The technical report from the evaluation trials can be found here.

In fact kite racing takes the same format as formula windsurfing in terms of an open one design class. They have a box rule for their boards (registered by isaf 50 board min production) and kites are limited to 3 per event.
We debated and tried having a formula windsurfing one design in the 2012 Games and came to the conclusion that once you're there- they're are many other interest controlling your fate, politics included and the class takes on a world of its own not necessarily in the sailors best interest. A double edged sword that's tempting but often better left alone.

Im still stoked on windsurfing and we had one of the most competitive regattas this past weekend on the San Francisco city front with 8 formula boards racing and overlaps at every mark and finish. But then I look over at the kiters with 20 kites (and averaging at least that in their weekly series where we can get 8-10 formula boards on our weekly series) and I ask myself what am I doing still racing windsurfers when the kiters have a bigger local fleet, more talent, more potential and now the Olympics. I'm excited to learn the sport and hopefully race with them if it all works out.

If you can't beat em- join em!

Steve USA-4

5-11-12 update
Seems the drama unfolding around the decision is just beginning to come to light.

The Spanish delegate apologized after realizing they voted wrong- link

"The delegates were probably confused or didn't understand the motion fully because of language difficulties, or some may have been napping at the presentations and then cast their votes without realising the implications," Yehuda Maayan told Reuters."

Boards magazine did a detailed interview with Rory Ramsden explaining the decision process and the resulting confusion- link

“The Australians and Americans were consistently voting against windsurfing. They were joined by the Irish, who are not known to have a strong windsurf racing team."


CG said...

Steve... we probably are getting a lot more people frm rs-x into formula... and
remember tornado out form last comitte? they are not sailing in london 2012. But are back with NACRA17 for Rio.
I really think is too early to join the kiters mate.

koensurf said...

Hi Steve,

Really good comments and although my windsurf heart is crying , I must admit you are right, this is a fact of life.

Having experienced high level formula racing , I must also add that I will forever keep on believing this is the most exciting, thrilling board racing format that combines sensation, tactics, material trim, technology and physical/ mental abilities and this still at an affordable price. The performance and wind range of a FW is hard to be beaten.... FW is one of the most underestimated racing disciplines ! Ironic, many people were laughing at the sight of our FW boards , and look now to those kite racing boards .... Funny IMHO.

Koen Sonck Bel-2

joe cool said...

Well said, thanks for giving one of the most level headed reflection on the giving situation. wow your thinking of racing kites ? zyou will probably be in the top 5 in SF in one year. Good Luck. Those boards where just to heavy ..

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

@CG I wouldn't be surprised if the windsurfers made another bid in November to change back with the peition. 2020 seems inevitable with another class. The test will be if the rsx can survive without the olympics. Im not sure I would want to see formula as an olympic class the way ISAF runs the show. If we had more control yes. If not- its not worth it. Olympics = the death of the most sailing classes for local fleets.

@koensurf we paved the way with formula for the kites with wide boards & carbon fins. What comes around goes around...

@joe cool I call it like I see it.
Kites are becoming of age.

steve gunn said...

Steve: a good perspective and well said. AS you know, I have been a strong proponent of Kite Racing, but my roots are in windsurfing and sailing before that. I was very pleased with the current decision regarding kiteboarding but not at the expense of windsurfing. Will be interesting how this all plays out. If you need any assistance in transferring your skills to use a kite and a smaller formula board with three fins, let me know

Matt said...

Kite-surfing may be all the rage as definitely more tv/camera friendly and thus advertising friendly (more neat objects to watch with the kites and everything), but windsurfing is still preferred for most people. It's easier, less hassle and better for people not able to put so much time into it.

Either way, still blowing in the wind so all good, maybe just another trick to add to the already chock full bag, :). More hats!

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

@steve gunn- thanks for the offer of assistance- I may be taking you up on that!

@matt- unfortunately being preferred by more people is not a credential of Olympic status.
...easier and less hassle?
I saw a mini cooper at the beach yesterday with a course racing kite board and a quiver of kites inside. It would take a sprinter to do the same thing with a windsurfer program ;)

Anonymous said...

Spanje voted wrong .....? 18/18 ??? ... Fp%3D10635

Koen BEL-2

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Douglass said...

I'm bummed for the prospective 2016 RS:X sailors, but I agree with your assessment that it's kiteboarding's turn for an Olympic run. If kiteboarding is able to set a precedent for allowing production class "boarding" into the Olympics then maybe windsurfing can rejoin the Olympics later as formula or slalom, free of the awful light wind pumping curse. Or maybe windsurfing can just say "screw the Olympics" and focus on whatever kinds of racing people are most excited about doing.

You've mentioned your interest in kite racing a couple times. How is that coming? Have you ridden a kite raceboard yet? I'll be interested to hear your impressions if you go that route. I used to kite, and I even rode one of Mike Gebhardt's old kite raceboards for a while, but I had enough kitemares just riding solo that there's no way I would feel safe in the dense groups on a race course.

yianni said...

It's great that you try to see both sides. Unfortunately though you are missing out the greater picture. I don't know if Australia and US prefer kite to windsurfing but, there are other countries on this planet as well. Recently the Asian Sailing Association voted pro-windsurfing. Also the European Union is favoring windsurfing.
Windsurfing has fewer categories but fewer athletes as well. Windsurfing on the other hand provides all stages of competition (entry, youth, adults). Every single championchip (Worlds, Europeans, Asians etc) is sold out. 200 athletes every time.
Bottom line is that windsurfing is a more mature sport. I respect your opinion but i disagree. Thank you.

yianni said...

*kitesurfing has fewer categories but fewer athletes as well....

Typo. my apologies.

E Carmichael said...

I do not agree with removing windsurfing from the olympics.
Why not have kite and wind surfing. There is no good reason in my mind why both sports cannot be represented. Every sport should have a chance at the olympics and one that has been represented for as long as windsurfing and is great to watch should be allowed to carry on. How would the gymnasts like it if their sport was scrapped. And I am only a supporter not a participant of the sport.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

@ E Carmichael
As a supporter and even a competitor we both have very little say in what classes are represented at the Olympic sailing events every 4 years.
At the end of the days its not really about what disciplines are in the Olympics but the total number of athletes. The Olympics can only be so big so naturally there will only be a few lucky (or unlucky) classes that get chosen.
For all the others- there is world championships.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

@yianni- Just because a particular discipline of sailing seems to be more mature or popular or sells out its championships are not really valid reasons for inclusion a the Olympic Games.
The decision on what classes to include are more so based on what might be good for a sponsor, not particularly- the athlete.
Seems line our priorities are screwed but that's the reality at the moment.

Anonymous said...

"Olympics = the death of the most sailing classes for local fleets."...this happen in 1984,...1983 worlds in Kingston,Ontario,Canada - over 500 windsurfers ,never a event that big again.

Anonymous said...

"Never a event that big again"... I disagree: Medemblik 2012, Youth Techno Worlds = 400 competitors. Everyone needs to realize that windsurfing is alive and well.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

It may be alive and well and better off for not being in the Olympics!
Go windsurfing!