Easy, Breezy Ventana
By Marina Chang with input from Tim Hatler
Don’t miss out on all the fun! It’s not too late to make plans to join us at this year’s La Ventana Classic and KiteXpo! Resister at http://www.palapasventana.com/lvclassic.aspx
Originally Published in the April 2009 Issue of The Kiteboarder Magazine
There’s something uniquely special about La Ventana in Baja Sur, Mexico. Although a windsports destination for more than 25 years, tourism has not exploded in this sleepy little fishing village of less than 1000 people. With one paved main road peppered with taco stands, small tiendas and boutique-type properties having no more than 15 rooms, life is simple in this part of the world where nobody cares about your age, profession or what kind of car your drive. Down here, people are more interested in how great your last session was or if you saw the whales passing through the channel in the morning.
The La Ventana Classic & Kite Expo
For the fourth year in a row, La Ventana hosted the La Ventana Classic and KiteXpo from January 22 through the 25. Sponsored by The Kiteboarder Magazine and Palapas Ventana, riders from the western United States, Canada and beyond traveled south to take part in this unique fundraiser and demo event. US Sailing rules were emphasized as 119 competitors packed into Palapas Ventana’s restaurant Wednesday evening to get briefed on the forecast, competition formats and week’s schedule. As Saturday was the best forecasted day for wind, the crossing, a 10.75 mile long course starting across the bay on Isla Cerralvo and the highlight of the event, was pushed back.
On Thursday, competitors were met with blue skies but no wind. Participants made the best of the conditions, trying out SUP boards from Isle Surfboards, Baja Joe’s and Ventana Windpsports. Riders also took the opportunity to check out the KiteXpo featuring 16 companies offering free demos of their 2009 gear and accessories. Participating companies included Advance, Best, Caution, Eclipse, F-One, Freak Dog, Isle Surfboards, Liquid Force, Mystic, Naish (Sol Kiteboarding, CA), North, Ocean Rodeo, Royal, RRD, Slingshot and Wainman Hawaii (Kite Naked, CA).
Even when the forecast is light, there is always a chance in La Ventana that the wind will kick in if the sun is shining. This was not the case today so emcee Neil Hutchinson and co-organizer Tim Hatler of Palapas Ventana sprung into action encouraging the crowd to participate in some no wind fun and games. Over the next few days, a frozen wetsuit relay, wakeboard showdown, beer guzzle pole spin, “cowabunga” kayak challenge and full contact SUP smackdown were held until the wind filled in to get things rolling. Daily entertainment and food from the local schools filled the gaps in time and hungry bellies. The kick-off day ended with live reggae on the beach from KL Reggae and a BBQ sponsored by El Cardon Restaurant. It was a pretty cool site to see “rancheros,” groms, seasoned veterans and everybody in between all getting down under the starry Baja sky.
Big Air Old School Showdown
Friday greeted us with a mind blowing sunrise and blue skies, but a downgraded forecast. The day started out with an exciting addition to this year’s event, the SUP race, sponsored by Isle Surfboards/Paddlesurf.net. A long distance qualifier consisting of a 2.4 mile sprint put 20 men and women to the test. Kiwi Field stomped the comp for the men and Cynthia “Cynbad” Brown took it for the women. The final was a two lap showdown, with Kiwi and Cynbad again coming out on top. The wind kicked in and kiters took the demo gear to the water.
Shortly after, the Big Air Old School Showdown went off mid-afternoon. Kiters, windsurfers and locals packed the beach in both directions as 30 men and eight women prepared to battle it out. Pro riders Dimitri Maramenides (Eclipse), Jesse Richman (Cabrinha), Shawn Richman (Wainman HI) and Etienne Lhote (F-One) threw down to the cheers of the crowd while locals Nat Lincoln, Jim Bison and Ozzie Ramirez also impressed the crowds with their big board-offs, one-footers and multiple spins. The women were only able to get off one heat in dying conditions, so the competition was called. Due to timing constraints, we were unable to finish this event. The prize money was given back to the schools and two awards were given away to all-star volunteer Kevin “Irie Dog” Murray and the Bolstad family from Stevenson, WA, for their great energy and kiteboarding spirit.
Treasure Hunt & Crossing
The forecast came through on Saturday and the crossing was on. Ventana Windsports sponsored 18 pangas (boats) to get riders across the bay for the start. As the competitors waited for the wind to fill in, a treasure hunt was held with 30 great prizes donated by the participating demo brands, including the grand prize of a 2009 Naish kite and size of the winner’s choice, from Sol Kiteboarding. Nobody found the kite so it went back into the raffle on the last day of the event, contributing to the record breaking amount raised. Three windsurfers swept the top crossing places while kiters on race boards and directionals followed close behind. First place finisher Macrae Wylde took the top spot for the second year in a row, crossing finish in a mere 25 minutes and 10 seconds, followed by Lyn Preuit and Mark Dix. The fastest kiter was Sean Farley, coming in just 35 seconds after Wylde, followed by Shawn Richman (Wainman HI), Jim Bison of New Wind Kiteboarding, French pro Etienne Lhote of F-One, Maui pro Jesse Richman of Cabrinha and Brendan Richards of Caution from Santa Cruz. In the Women’s Division, Mary LeClerc of Baja Joe’s and Elevation Kiteboarding reclaimed her title as reigning champion with a finishing time of 28:35, followed by Cynbad Brown and Paula Sonnenberg.
Short Course Buoy Races
Sunday started off early with tree planting and painting at the Vincente Guerrereo Primary School in El Sargento. Over 40 volunteers showed up at 7:30 am, ready to plant and paint. Volunteers were treated to an authentic Mexican lunch put on by the parents of the students.
The wind was marginal but organizers decided to run the short course buoy races consisting of the top 25 men and 10 women finishers from the crossing. Three races were held mid-afternoon in 12 to 16 knot winds, which often proved challenging for participants. In the first race, windsurfer Macrae Wylde edged out Sean Farley by pumping the last 100 yards to the finish line. For the women, Freak Dog’s Paula Sonnenberg beat out friend and rival Cynbad Brown. Race two was won by Jesse Richman who squeaked by the competition by pinching so hard to make the windward mark that he did a board off, rolled around the buoy, and then replaced his board to keep going downwind, clearly understanding the rule that buoy contact without grabbing was permitted. When it was time for the women, Cynthia took the top spot after Paula was taken down by a collision between her lines and a windsurfer.
Conditions started to lighten further for the final heat and race three saw Jesse Richman and Sean Farley pump through the dead spots to take first and second. By the end of the race, conditions were so light that very few kiters could even finish. Jesse Richman ended up taking the overall victory followed by Macrae Wylde and Sean Farley. The women’s winners were Cynbad Brown, beating out Paula Sonnenberg by two points, followed by Brittney Todd from the Gorge.
The awards ceremony was held at the Palapas Ventana restaurant. Crossing winner Macrae Wylde commented how cool it was to participate in such a feel good event where kiteboarders and windsurfers competed together. The highlight of the evening was when Hank Sanchez of Sol Kiteboarding surprised Tim with a Naish Cult, Helix and board to upgrade his four-year-old quiver. The look on Tim’s face was priceless. The hope is that Tim can now spend more time working on other skills than relaunching.
Every day of the event, a raffle with prizes generously donated by participating brands was held which helped organizers raise a record breaking grand total of $18,302, $6,000 over 2008. Thanks to Kite Naked, Liquid Force, Best, Royal, Ocean Rodeo and Mystic Boarding for providing the grand raffle and treasure hunt prizes. Funds raised went toward purchasing $1,000 in trees for the school project. The remaining monies will be used toward getting medical tools and exam tables for the Health Center and the constructional of an outdoor shaded patio with bench seats for the La Ventana Primary School. As more money was raised than expected, stay tuned for the committee decision on how the extra funds will be used. Look for more SUP racing, stronger wind and more fun at next year’s event, scheduled for January 21 through the 24. A special thanks to all the volunteers, local businesses, Pelican Reef, Ventana Windsports, Full Throttle and Baja Joe’s for all your support!