Since Slingshot Sports has been involved with more than its fair share of kiteboarding world championships, it seemed like the perfect pairing for the Maldives’ upcoming kitesurfing challenge.

The third edition of the ‘Raalhu Gudi’ kitesurfing festival is about to get underway in the Indian Ocean on June 18. It will see two-times world champion kiteboarder, Youri Zoon, leading both advanced and intermediate kitesurfers on a 500-mile-long route across the Maldives. Participants can also opt to just join one or two of the 23 sectors of the route if the full route is too extreme.

This year, innovative sports equipment pioneers, Slingshot Sports, has come on board as the event’s main sponsor. The US-based company — a global leader in kite and foil production — is providing the equipment including kites, control bars, boards, and hydrofoils necessary for the journey.

Slingshot management first caught wind of Raalhu Gudi while in Dakhla, Morocco for a Sales and Marketing conference. Raalhu Gudi’s organizers, Asim Mohamed and Youri Zoon, were both at the meeting. Asim is Slingshot’s official and exclusive distributor in the Maldives, and Youri was at the meeting representing the brand as one of its top kitesurfing athletes.

“When Asim and Youri told me about their plans to kite 500 miles across the Maldives for Raalhu Gudi, I was blown away,” says Slingshot COO, Colin Jacobs.“It’s an incredible endeavor that will test the endurance and strength of these athletes and their gear. To use the opportunity to raise environmental awareness for our oceans is something we can definitely get behind as a company.”

During the event, participants will be taking part in beach and reef cleanups, spreading a message about the importance of protecting the environment and encouraging young Maldivians to give kitesurfing a shot. Slingshot was attracted to Raahu Gudi’s focus on both environmental awareness and helping the Maldivian youth.

“Clean oceans are important for the long-term success of our business. Just as they are important for the Maldives – a country that thrives on tourism. We have a common goal, so the partnership seemed natural,” adds Colin Jacobs.

Slingshot has been fostering youth participation in kiteboarding since its founding in 1999. Youri Zoon is a prime example of this – he secured his first Slingshot sponsorship at the age of just 14 and has gone on to win two world titles.

Kiteboarding is still a relatively new sport in the Maldives. The protected lagoons and steady offshore breezes make it an ideal kitesurfing location. “We’re working with Asim to give Maldivian youngers a leg up in kiteboarding participation,” says Jacobs. “Of course, we would be excited to see a future world champion come out of the Maldives – but more than anything we are thrilled to see young, smiling faces enjoying the sport we love in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We hope the sport of kitesurfing opens new opportunities for Maldivian youth –whether that be in elite level competition, tourism, hospitality, or simply a new form of recreation.”