KSWT Race Director Juan Antonio Aragon was out scouring the coastline early Thrusday morning checking out the potential of some nearby beaches after the day’s forecasts had suggested better conditions might be found elsewhere at one of the many kite spots that dot the area around Torquay. He struck gold at Thirteenth Beach, a popular spot among the local kiters where 20 knot side shore winds and a five foot swell were rolling in, so the decision was made to move the comp there right after the riders’ morning briefing.

The KSWT Torquay women’s division / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

Competitors and crew jumped into the wagons and headed off. The women were up first for round one of the single eliminations. It was a gut check for the riders huddled behind the judges’ tower hiding from the driving rain coming in from the Southern Ocean, but the AP flag went up and the first heats of the KSWT Torquay were on!

Australian rider Frances Kelly didn’t quite find her feet against fellow Aussie Anna Williams in the first heat and Anna took the win. Heat two delivered a surprising result for the tour’s third ranked rider, Charlotte Carpentier from France, who was beaten by another Aussie, Jen Milton, who was riding in footstraps.

It’s very rare to see anyone riding straps at a KSWT event and it hasn’t happened at all in the last two years, so it was interesting to see them making an appearance.

Even though straps have not been a popular choice among tour riders in the past, there’s nothing in the rulebook that bans their use and competitors are entitled to use them if they want to. Judges do take their use into account and if a rider is clearly relying on them just to ride a wave then that will be reflected in potentially lower scores.

Charlotte – cheerfulness in the face of adversity  / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

That said, their tactical use paid off for Jen and she was able to hold down a lot more power than Charlotte in the shifting winds and strong side shore rip, managing some powerful hacks on the wave during their heat. It was a key example of how choosing your equipment carefully for the day’s conditions can give you an edge in competition.

After heat two, the rain intensified and the wind dropped causing a break in proceedings until the clouds cleared and the wind began to fill in again. Tarifa event winner Carla Herrera Oria is currently lying in second in the Championship and was straight back out on the water to warm up, steadily tracking upwind on her 12 meter.

However, with a pushing tide and dead onshore winds to contend with the competitors and race crew knew it was going to be a struggle for any of the riders to compete without being pushed back to the beach after every wave.

A brief spell of stronger wind pushed through long enough to start heat three, but when it backed off again the decision was made to call a halt to proceedings for the day.