Day 1 of the 2019 La Ventana Classic kicked off with the traditional Party Island Downwind Poker Run. The wind had already filled in and the Kitexpo commenced when the party bus topped the hill at the Hot Springs. Followed by a train of vehicles, sirens blared as partiers hooted and hollered from the windows before the bus pulled up to the north end of Hot Springs Beach. Out piled a rowdy group of costume-clad party island participants decked out in colored wigs, feather boas, spandex, glitter and tutus. Elvis was in the house along with Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and a crew of motley pirates.The rules were relatively simple. Party Islanders would be given a Topo Chico bottle with a playing card inside at both the beginning and end of the downwinder and collect their other three cards along the way during their 6-mile downwind adventure to Baja Joe’s. Mid-downwinder they’d have to steer their float through 3 different gates and have a runner collect 3 Topo Chico bottles each filled with an individual playing card. These would make up each teams’ 5-card playing hand at the end of the day.
This event has long had a reputation for its wild and crazy antics in which riders are often sent overboard, so this year a new vessel option was created. Besides the traditional Liquid Force branded rafts in which teams of 5-8 pile onto large floats while their captain flies a kite to steer the raft, for who wanted the tamer version of party island, a panga downwind operation was established where participants could sign up and get in a panga boat with a kite flying captain for the ‘guaranteed to make it and not get wet’ option.
Beers were chugged and water wings were distributed to those who felt they might be necessary before teams piled onto their rafts, launched their kites and set sail downwind.
Amidst the downwinding madness, two of North America’s top female riders, Liquid Force’s Sensi Graves and Duotone’s Colleen Carroll led a freestyle clinic and downwinder which began with a discussion of goals and a light stretching session, before hitting the water for freestyle coaching and a downwinder to Palapas Ventana where they finished the day with a complimentary drink and soak in PV’s oceanview infinity tub.
The La Ventana Classic Kitexpo also kicked off at the main event site and will run until Sunday, January 20th. Everyday starting at 11am vendors will be showcasing their latest 2019 kites, boards, harnesses and more. Today, demo participants had plenty of wind to test gear from Flysurfer, Airush, Cabrinha, Ocean Rodeo, Blade and Slingshot. Expo participants also get the chance to win a new 2019 Ion harness of their choice mailed to their home.
At the end of the day, tired, battered, sunburned and windswept Party Islanders stumbled off of their floats, Topo Chico bottles in hand, ready to cut them open and compare poker hands before boogie down to the reggae rhythms of Chronic Band at Joe’s Garage Post-Downwinder Poker Run Party.
UPDATED SCHEDULE: Thursday, January 17th
Note: All Skipper’s meetings take place at the main event site at Hot Springs Beach
10:30am – Foil Course Racing Skipper’s Meeting
10:30am – SUP meet for 2 mini downwinders
12:30am – Kite and Windsurf (Competitors and Sportsmen) Skipper’s Meeting for Slalom then Freestyle
5:30pm – Amara Dinner Party – Mezcal specialties and more
6-11pm – ChiloChill Surf Beach Party – Fireworks, dancing, aerial show and more!