Kitesurfing is coming to the fore in local sports.
The Rock International Open (TRIO) is slated to take place Feb. 12-16, with action centered on Barkers Beach in West Bay. The inaugural event is expected to feature 40 international competitors from locales such as Poland, France, Canada and the United States.
According to organizers, it is the only Caribbean competition officially sanctioned by the International Kiteboarding Association – the sport’s world governing body – which also falls under the International Sailing Federation.
Minister of Sports Osbourne Bodden said the competition is a boon for Cayman’s sports tourism portfolio.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming some of this exciting sport’s finest athletes to Grand Cayman,” Bodden said. “TRIO will include spectator competitions, demonstrations and clinics spanning almost two weeks at locations across Grand Cayman.
“The idyllic beaches and flat Caribbean waters provide the perfect conditions for kiteboarding, and this is the perfect opportunity to showcase our island’s riches to a new audience.”
The event is being organized in part by local kitesurfer Jhon Mora, 31. The Colombian recently had a strong showing at the recent world championships in Hainan Island, China, finishing 18th out of 120 competitors. Mora, who will be competing in the the open for Cayman, says the competition is made possible by many sponsors.
“A big thanks to the people who believe in me and support me here on island; KitesurfCayman, Waterman, Evolving Island, Agua Restaurant, Sail Cayman, Cayman Islands Sailing Club and Morgan’s Harbour restaurant. Without them, I couldn’t organize this event. I really appreciate their backing.”
Mora will not be the only familiar face in the tournament. Amy Strzalko, originally from the U.K., will be competing, along with youngster Tynan Klein, who had previously excelled in hockey.
Three different types of kitesurfing will be featured in the following categories: freestyle – women and men will be judged on their ability to perform front rolls, back flips, handle passes, blind tricks and kite loops. Winners in the top three spots will receive prizes of US$3,000, $1,500, and $500.
In the “Big Air” category, entrants will be judged on their control, power, and timing, and the winners will get their own kite gear. For the race portion of the event, kitesurfers will compete for the top spot as TRIO champion. Monetary prizes will be given to the fastest surfers in first, second and third place.
An Under-16 and amateur workshop will also be part of the event.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association and Ministry of Sport join Miller Lite, Hurleys Entertainment, Genesis, Evolving Island, Waterman, Kitesurf Cayman, Wakeboard Cayman and Picture This Studios as main sponsors. The event will also be supported by the sailing club, the marine police unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Red Cross. Organizers are expected to contribute to local charity Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Department of Environment’s turtle conservation program.
Deputy Director at the Department of Environment Tim Austin said the tournament provides a welcome boost to conservation efforts.
“Kitesurfing and watersports are exploding all around the Caribbean and it’s very important for us to engage with these beach users to help protect our environment,” Austin said. “We’re excited to be involved with TRIO from the outset and delighted about the increased awareness of our programs this will provide. With the money raised we’re hoping to invest in more turtle-friendly lighting at beach front properties.”
News of the tournament comes after the Sweet Spot Cayman Watersports Centre in East End hosted two events this month. Its third annual adventure camp had professional kiteboarders Damien Leroy, Annabel Van Westerop, James Boulding, Melissa Gil and Brandon Bowe. Its Pro Kite Festival featured the same riders performing demos and competing in a big air event.