This year, 154 athletes descended on the Hood River event site to raise over a $100,000 at the 2014 Kiteboarding 4 Cancer event. A benefit to help raise scholarship funds to help young people participate in Camp KORU action sport cancer survivorship programs. Silent and live auctions throughout the course of the single day event brought in over $24,000 while the athletes’s personal fundraising efforts going into the weekend totaled $77,000.
According to Event Director Tonia Farman, “This year was particularly unique because we were able to pull off a full 6-hour race with solid wind that pretty much came out of nowhere. The forecast for the day was for a couple hours of 10-15 mph wind, and our forecaster is pretty accurate. To get that mystery wind to pull off the race with record lap counts is what we call. . . Karma Wind!”
Participants can enter the kite derby either as a four-person team or choose to go it alone and attempt to circle the three-mile course for six hours solo. As event announcers Grom Gormley and Gregg Gnecco frequently pointed out to the crowd, the physical challenge of kiting for six hours is a symbolic struggle, both physical and mental, that connects athletes to those event participants and spectators that have experienced the challenges of fighting cancer. This year participants collectively circled the KB4C course logging an impressive 1,537 laps.
1) Brandon Scheid
2) Tony Bolstad
3) Cory Roesler
1) Carol Bolstad
2) Rachel Callahan
3) Savannah Boersma
1) Team Patagonia Randoms
2) Team OG
3) Team Naish Kites
The typical KB4C race is an exhausting experience, but this year the day started early with lighter wind which led many competitors like returning champions Tony and Carol Bolstad to rig 15m or larger kites. As the wind built steadily through the course of the day the top individual competitors refused to take the necessary pit-stop to rig smaller kites. According to second place women’s finisher, Rachel Callahan, “I kept thinking the wind would start dying, but as 3 o’clock and then 4 o’clock rolled around the wind was still blowing hard, but I couldn’t afford to lose a lap to a kite change.” While some participants take the competition element very seriously, teams such as “Two Lymphomas and Two Ballers,” is comprised of cancer survivors like Brianna Hirsch and Igor Alvarez who enjoy the camaraderie and support of the event.
Brianna Hirsch entered the event last year, but because of a pre-event injury, she was only able to circumnavigate the course with the help of Jason Slezak by kiting tandem on a SUP. According to Brianna, “Kiteboarding is what brought me back to life after cancer. Learning to kite as well as participating in KB4C has literally changed the direction of my life, I have met so many great people and as of this summer I started working as an instructor at Cascade Kiteboarding School in Hood River.” Brianna will start her senior year of college in the fall and intends to make kiteboarding a very big part of her future.
Brianna’s teammate Igor Alvarez traveled all the way from Charleston, South Carolina to participate in his first KB4C. Igor relates his experience at KB4C to the support he received during chemo, “When you go through the chemo process you’re surrounded by other patients going through the same thing and you start bonding with people you’ve never met. Here at the event, it’s the same thing, there’s a lot of survivors in the crowd but those that haven’t had cancer are learning about our experience and how cancer survivors need just as much support when they are in remission.” Igor plans to become involved with camp KORU because he believes in the self confidence, awareness, and team energy that these camps build while offering an experience of a lifetime.
Three-time cancer survivor and former Olympic synchronized swimmer, Mandi Browning competed in her first KB4C event this year. Mandi was the top fundraiser with $8,605 coming into the event, but in the final moments of the closing party, the Patagonia Team donated two drysuits for auction on her behalf bringing her fundraising total beyond the $10,000 mark. Mandi only recently learned to kiteboard after beating cancer, but it all started when she spotted kites while driving across the San Mateo bridge in San Francisco a few years back. To Mandi, “The colors and the motion of the kites was calming and I needed something positive that would get me back into the water. Kiteboarding gave me a challenge and a new set of goals.”
The KB4C experience provides fun both on and off the water, with spectators enjoying live entertainment, delicious food vendors and a silent auction that brought in over $9,000. Announcers Grom Gormley and Gregg Gnecco held live auctions capitalizing on friendly but fierce competitive bidding by the crowd to bring in bids of $1,200 for a double-sided surfboard painted by Carol Bolstad while Jason Slezak helped auction a FCD Board and Patagonia dry suit for $2,900.
For more information about future KB4C events or Camp KORU opportunities checkout Athletes 4 Cancer
SPECIAL THANKS TO 2014 KITEBOARDING 4 CANCER SPONSORS: