The 14th Annual Bridge of the Gods Kite Festival in Stevenson, Washington kicked off with solid wind in the low 20s gathering 26 pro-athletes from around the world vying for $3000 in cash. Over 200 spectators crowded on the grassy banks of the East Point venue, which makes for spectacular viewing of the competitive action as the athletes boost big airs immediately in front of the crowd.

Nico Suriel nails down the men's division after nailing a double handlepass.

Nico Suriel nails down the men’s division after hammering a double handlepass.

The men’s division was packed deep with local and traveling pros working hard to climb up through highly competitive quarter and semifinal heats. Spectator favorite, Jesse Richman (Naish) delivered a crowd pleasing performance, but narrowly missed his kiteloop 7 during the final seconds of the men’s final which cost him a place on the podium. Rich Sabo’s (Best) smooth style and unique flow earned him third place, despite temporarily placing his kite in a tree. Brandon Scheid, (Liquid Force) aka “Mr Backmobe,” put on a consistent routine with a crowd dazzling monster slim. In the first thirty seconds of the final heat, Chris Bobryk lost his kite and while other competitors continued to compete, top contender Nico Suriel (Liquid Force) displayed the ultimate act of sportsmanship when he rode to the shore and encouraged event officials to postpone the heat until Bobyrk was ready to begin again. Nico then went on to throw one of the most technically challenging and aggressive finals the Bridge of the Gods has ever seen. Complete with a 317 (Double handlepasses), slim chances both directions all with show stopping intensity and determination.

Amy Stzalko, Sensi Graves and Colleen Carroll catching up before the day's first heats.

Amy Strzalko, Sensi Graves and Colleen Carroll catching up before the day’s first heats.

The women’s division started with a flurry of handlepasses and kiteloops, each rider taking it to the next level before an all out battle in which the winner was determined in the final minutes of the heat. Amy Strzalko (Slingshot) who traveled from the Cayman islands, delivered a steady supply of railey-to-blinds and a monstrous unhooked kiteloop. Third place went to Mary Lacroix Samson from the East coast of Canada. Her graceful style sent the crowd through the roof after a series of perfectly executed front-to-blind tricks with blistering speed. The top two places sparked a throw down party between two long term rivals, Rachel Callahan (Best) and Colleen Carroll (North). Although Rachel Callahan’s kite loops and kungfus dominated the heat early on, Colleen Carroll’s nearly flawless final three minutes included back to blind, front to blind both directions and a low mobe to beat Rachel’s last second danglepass.

Patrick Rebstock dominated the strapless division with a wide variety of technical strapless aerials.

Patrick Rebstock dominated the strapless division with a wide variety of technical strapless aerials.

New for this year the event introduced a pro strapless heat in which riders boosted skimboards and surfboards in the small choppy conditions of Stevenson. For this event, event announcer Grom Gormley (Best) handed the microphone moments before the heat and “Jesus walked” his way into third place. Matt Elsasser (Cabrinha) nailed a series of ungrabbed front rolls and survived a kite tangle with Grom to secure second place. The breakout performance belongs to Patrick Rebstock (Slingshot) who was throwing unreasonably huge grab-less aerials with or without late rotations, in every conceivable direction. The crowd went wild as Patrick effortlessly linked highly technical tricks that seemed to defy physics and blow everyone away.

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Men’s Division:
1) Nico Suriel (Liquid Force)
2) Brandon Scheid (Liquid Force)
3) Rich Sabo (Best)

Girl’s Division:
1) Colleen Carroll (North)
2) Rachel Callahan (Best)
3) Mary Lacroix Samson

1) Patrick Rebstock (Slingshot)
2) Matt Elsasser (Cabrinha)
3) Grom Gorley (Best)

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Saturday will be another strong spectator event with amateurs throwing down massive airs, surviving ruthless crashes, and risking everything on the path to earn pro status. Registration opens at 9am. Tomorrow’s divisions include: Amateur Womens, Amateur Mens, Over 40 Beer League, Under 17 Groms, Under 13 Juniors.

On Sunday, kiteboarders will race alongside windsurfers for bragging rights and prizes in the 17-mile downwind Blowout race.

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