What began as a local competition to help out the local schools in the small Baja community of La Ventana and El Sargento has grown into one of the largest kiteboarding events attracting kiteboarders from all over North America and beyond.
To get you ready for the 2012 La Ventana Classic and KiteXpo (scheduled for January 15-22, 2012) we talked to founder Tim Hatler about the event’s history.
Visit laventanaclassic.com or thekiteboarder.com for more info about this amazing event!
How did the La Ventana Classic get started?
Adam Koch, Kent Forest, Salty Steve, and I were staring at the island and the wind line out there. It seemed like a no brainer to do a crossing race. Adam had done the Catalina crossing which was much longer than the crossing from Isla Cerralvo.
We did a few test runs with Kent and Cynthia and their crew and also got RedBull to pitch in some grassroots support. We had tank tops with spray painted numbers for our jerseys that first year along with empty water tanks for buoys.
At what point did you decide to make it a fundraiser for the local community as opposed to just being an event for fun?
From the get go. We figured if we are going to run an event there might as well be a better reason for it all. La Ventana needs better funding for its schools, health center, parks, soccer fields, dump, trash service, etc. Tourism is bringing money to the economy here but this event actually directs funds to the most-needed projects in our town.
My wife and I administer all the projects every summer. One of our first projects was to fix the bathroom at the elementary school which had been broken for four months and served 200 kids.
Do you think the fact that the event raises money for a cause has had an impact on its popularity?
Absolutely – pros that ride in events all over the world keep telling us that this is one of their favorite comps and that they will be coming back. Contest winners often donate prize money back to the cause. How often do you see that?
Sean Farley takes local kids out tandem kiting in between heats. The La Ventana Classic gives no points towards any circuit crown and doesnt offer any huge cash purses. It’s a “locally world famous event” with something more - a good karma check for everyone that participates and helps us make much needed improvements in our community.
Every year the event attracts more top sponsors, pro riders, SUP racers, and volunteers. The La Ventana Classic has become a really fun event that is creating a lot of good in our little town.
Do you think it would be as popular if it wasn’t supporting a cause?
You could probably make this event huge by pumping in giant cash prizes and major corporate sponsors and making it a part of the pro circuit It might get really popular and you could call it the Burger King Classic and tens of thousands of people would come, but the toilets at the kindergarten would not get fixed and it would be a very different scene.
I think La Ventana is a very unique place where we have a balance between tourism and a local fishing town that works and I am going to keep this event as pure as I can.
Six years of school and town improvements with a value of over $74,000 USD has opened some eyes that maybe these crazy gringos do want to be a part of this community.
What are the extra challenges you face because you are raising money for the local community?
The culture of corruption is a constant battle. Local people are so distrustful of anyone raising money for anything because so many people have broken promises and stolen money in the past.
We only write checks for materials and projects and actually administer all the projects ourselves which keeps this fundraiser lean and mean. Year after year this gets easier and the momentum builds. Come take a tour of the schools and health center in La Ventana and El Sargento and talk to our teachers. You’ll see some big changes.
Finally I’d just like to thank everyone who rallies behind this event. Our local businesses and volunteers are the backbone of the LV Classic. It’s amazing how many folks join the cause to help out. This event would be impossible without them!