The history of kiteboarding competitions on American soil has been a checkered lineage of sporadic starts and waning disinterest, with one single shining exception; The Triple-S Invitational. The first event in 2006, a joint venture between REAL Co-Founder Trip Forman and rider Jason Slezak, was intended to bring the best riders to the slicks of Hatteras for the most progressive riding. Over the years the format morphed from jam sessions to organized heats in various disciplines along with a growing purse, but one element has remained constant — a Triple-S invite and wildcard entry are the most coveted tickets to ride in the industry.
Sam Light —
I grew up watching the Triple-S. Looking back, it’s crazy to think I have managed to win it twice while competing against so many riders I look up to. Despite the two-run format in the finals, winning is anyone’s game because you never really know what you’re going to get when you line up to hit a rail or kicker. Last year I qualified first in the semis which meant I had the last run in the finals, and the event was stretching right into the darkness. It always feels like there is extra pressure on the kickers division as it’s hard to land your best tricks consistently. I remember standing in the slick by myself, waiting to do my very last run with the outcome of the contest resting on my final kicker hit. Somehow, I managed to land my heelside-backside-5 in the dark, which must have given me the edge over Brandon Scheid to take the win in the sliders. This also meant that I won the Triple-S invitational overall. That run was both memorable and a giant relief.
Sam Medysky —
With a little bit of luck my birthday always falls in the middle of the Triple-S. On my birthday last year, Mother Nature delivered a solid 30 knots for the freestyle portion of the Triple-S. The turnout to watch the event was incredible; at 8:30 in the morning the pier was stacked with spectators. In my first run I managed to stomp three solid tricks but on my last right foot forward trick I missed the bar and my kite leash snapped in the strong wind. Jason Slezak picked me up on the ski and as he headed back to shore, everyone on the dock started singing happy birthday. I was slightly embarrassed but loving it at the same time. Once I arrived at the beach they announced who’d made it into the finals and I heard my name. I guess I had put a solid enough run together before losing my kite and with the wind cranking, a massive crowd on the pier, and it being my 24th birthday, I couldn’t have been more stoked!
Craig Cunningham —
In 2012 pretty much the whole crew I ride with (NA Blend) and a lot of my other friends were all in the Triple-S. I’d put in wildcard entries for the previous two years but was just missing the cut with guys like Sam Light, James Boulding, and Eric Rienstra snagging them. That year, they also only let in one wildcard for the guys sliders/slicks division and it went to Alex Pastor, a PKRA World Champion.
There were a few riders that were on the injured list, but nothing was confirmed. I was trying to keep my spirits high while they were calling up all the invited riders, knowing I most likely wouldn’t hear my name. But in the end, I did! Finally I had made it through and although it was a bit of a backdoor entry, I went on to win the Rookie of the Year.
Brandon Scheid —
2013 was an exciting year; master rail builder and all around handyman Joby Cook redesigned three of the features in the slider park and the vibe of the event was stronger than any previous year for me. I started the event feeling really strong, however one big crash in the qualifying rounds of the slider division took most of the wind out of my sails. I botched a big kicker hit, took a hard toeside edge, ripped all my inserts out, and was left feeling concussed for most of the day. I ended up not placing very high in any of the divisions and the event was a writeoff for me competitively. I did however have the honor of shooting with legendary kite photographer Toby Bromwich, and sessioned with all my friends in perfect conditions at one of the best rail parks in the world. At the Triple-S there is always a silver lining.
Eric Rienstra —
My greatest Triple-S moment was in 2012 when I made it onto the podium for the first time. I won 3rd Place in the Slider and Overall Division as well as the award for Best Session for my performance on the day of the slider event. That day the wind was light and it was challenging to stay upwind, much less get the best slider and kicker hits in. Luckily I had a 17m kite and was able to nail a few backside 270 wrapped frontside lipslides to seal the deal. My friends Brandon Scheid and Billy Parker were also killing it that day and took 1st and 2nd in Sliders and Overall that year as well, making it a full NA Blend sweep! It was an unreal feeling standing on the podium with my boys, the Dubplates bumping jams behind us, and a crowd full of our friends going nuts.
Alex Fox —
The first year I received an invite to the Triple-S was amazing. It took me a long time to earn the cool card, but in 2013 I got the invite. I had no expectations of doing well, I really just wanted to ride the park and see my friends. I had always felt so left out, but to have that first opportunity to compete in the Triple-S and ultimately finish runner up on rails and overall to my best mate, Sam Light, and take home Rookie of the Year honors, that first year was one of the highlights of my career.
Jason Slezak —
When Trip and I came up with the concept for the Triple-S our goal was to steer kiteboarding in a direction that would showcase what we saw as the most dynamic and fun aspects of kiteboarding: Surf, Slicks and Sliders.
Fast forward 10 years and the way that kiteboarding has developed in those three disciplines is nothing short of amazing; I am always proud when I see park events popping up around the world and feel that we have made a difference in the evolution of kiteboarding.
The “Camel Toe” rail that is seen here in this shot was a big catalyst that drove us to start the Triple-S. It was built in 2004 by the early crew and then became a staple of the early days in the REAL Slider Park. It was raw, gnarly, and sent more than a few riders limping away with bumps, bruises and broken boards, or in my case, an ambulance ride to the hospital with a broken back.
Colleen Carroll —
Joining the Triple-S Invitational in 2012 on the women’s wildcard ticket was the single most important moment catapulting me into the world of professional kiteboarding. That first year I had zero expectations for what was to come; the lifelong friends I would meet, the challenging heats, and the unforgettable parties. It’s by far my most favorite event of the year because of the weeklong feeling of excitement. It’s a unique opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the world and it’s the one time we all get to ride together and use that motivation to push the level of progression. Yes, the week is focused on competition but beyond that it’s a week of bringing good people together who share a common passion for our sport.
Andre Phillip —
I’ve been going to the Triple-S every year since its conception so it’s difficult for me to pick a particular moment of significance out of so many. There are insanely good house parties, so alive you could literally feel the house moving to the rhythm, and endless mega sessions on the water, but the one moment that stands out is the time we were gapping from the ramp up to the rail on top the Redbull funbox. Having to come at it so fast meant that if you messed up you were probably going to pay your taxes. Another standout thing about the Triple-S is that there never used to be any heats; there was no pressure, and everyone had a chance to ride their best and push their limits. This normally resulted in a frenzy that almost always ended in progression!
Davey Blair —
The Triple-S has produced countless stories from parties to slick sessions, rail riding, waves, hook ups, broken bones, late nights, weird mornings, jams, friendships, skinny dipping, laughter, tears, full moons, break ups, diamond losing, and marriage. I’ve had some of the best moments of my life in the last 10 years of Triple-S, but most importantly it gave me the opportunity to meet my wife, Becky Blair.