Awaking to the faint sound of a neighboring rooster welcoming the rising sun, I walk from my beloved grass-roofed cabana through the sleepy resort and towards the ever-expansive beach. It’s quiet, a bit too quiet. I’m eager for a sign of what the day will bring. As I near the beach, the salty air is flush with an unexpected noise, a steady melody not unlike the song of a bird. Scanning the area, I trace the congenial harmony not to a feathered friend, but to one of the local women. Standing at the water’s edge with her eyes on the horizon, she whistles her island tune. She is calling for the wind. I join her, toes touching the sea and she takes notice of me. She gives me a look of acknowledgement that says she is whistling for us, for the start of our event.

Following Palawan folklore, and perhaps enticed by her primitive tune, the winds arrived for the opening day of the first annual Blue Palawan Kiteboard Open. A long time in the making, this event in Puerto Princesa, on the western provincial island of Palawan, Philippines, was the brainchild of my dear friend Paula Rosales. For as long as I have known her, it has been her dream to build Asia’s first kite park in her homeland. After years of work, her dream became a reality when she nailed down investors, obtained the ideal location and hired the best in the business, Joby Cook of Jibstruction, to build the park. From there, it was only a matter of getting the world’s best park riders to the Philippines for a week of sliding and what was sure to be revered as one of the most unique and entertaining events in the industry.

Hailing from all corners of the globe, 24 of the industry’s top riders had already arrived in the idyllic tropical playground. All the big names in the park riding scene were in attendance as well as several newcomers, each equally motivated to compete and fight for their chance at a slice of the $20,000 prize purse. It was more than just action on the water that would deem the 2016 Blue Palawan Kiteboard Open a success. What set this event apart from the rest was the warm welcome received from the local community as well as regular excursions to discover nearby islands, surf beaches, restaurants, galleries and more. With so much activity on and off the water, Asia’s very first park event was a state-of-the-art competition and a truly unique cultural experience.PALAWAN-05-Toby-Bromwich-0497“Lining up a good shot is always a labor of love. Two people have to be on the same page while the right elements align within precise timing. In this case, Toby Bromwich was shooting some different angles on the rail and mentioned to me to try a front board. I took a couple of passes, one of which ended with me having a face full of mud and a slightly bruised ego. After taking a little break, I rode over to talk with Toby. He showed me the framing of the shot on the camera and I knew I needed to lock into the press better to get it looking good and feeling solid. Sometimes it takes those little nudges from the outside to give you that extra fire on the inside.” – Brandon ScheidPALAWAN-Toby-Bromwich-4505“The best multi-tasker at the event was Tom Court who wore two hats as both a competitor and a filmmaker. Luckily for him, he had the missus there to help out with the filming. Here he is on the kicker in a hurry to get some practice in and a few photos before getting back behind the lens. When you are on both sides of the camera, like Tom was, you get a better sense of what looks good on camera and what doesn’t — so he didn’t need much time to get some bangers in.” – Noe Font
PALAWAN-Toby-Bromwich-7147“Seeing someone get better at something that they’ve poured their heart and soul into is always rewarding, even more so if it’s someone you love. I’ve been watching Sensi ride ever since she learned back in the day at Real Watersports. I still get nervous watching her go full tilt into the rails because you never want to pull your injured girlfriend out of the water, but it’s that hard charging attitude that brought her to where she is today. This past summer in Hood River she was on a mission to improve her park skills and that work has clearly paid off in full.” – Brandon Scheid
PALAWAN-02-Toby-Bromwich-6437“On and off the water, I still have a lot to learn from my old friend Eric Rienstra. His kicker game is on point and at the moment, he has one of the biggest bags of tricks in the industry. From the most technical inverted tricks to timeless glides like this Nuke, if it’s not done with style, he won’t bother doing it at all. He may have cut his dreads but that just means it’s the start of a new era for Eric. His originality will make him a character to keep up with far into the future… keep your eyes peeled.” – Craig CunninghamPALAWAN-Toby-Bromwich-1244“Fierce like a cheetah, Colleen Carroll is super stylish, fluid and just plain rock-solid. In my opinion, Colleen’s done more for the women’s slider movement than anyone and has paved the way for many more women rippers to come. She’s always willing to put in the hours to get the shot and consistently lays down steady performances. I love having her as a best friend on and off the water; she pushes me, encourages me and together, we share lots of laughs.” – Sensi GravesPALAWAN-01-Toby-Bromwich-1143“Sessions with Brandon Scheid are never dull or repetitive. He flows through all of his tricks so fast and consistently that by the middle of the session, he’s already looking around at everyone else for more inspiration and where to take things next. Most of the time, he’s so far ahead of everyone that he just has to start making things up; that’s why you always see him doing the most unique tricks and grabs.” – Eric Rienstra

Words by Colleen Carroll | Photos by Toby Bromwich