2018 Elite Big Air Classic – Recap
After weeks and weeks of the event being postponed, we finally had a weekend with the perfect winds. The crew at Elite Watersports knew it was finally time to give the official green light and host the event.
Sunday, April 15th, 2018 @ East Beach, Fort Desoto.
The word was spread quickly that the event was a ‘go’ and the registration list grew. With nearly 60 registered competitors, we knew the event was going to showcase some stellar talent and promise a good time.
As we do not often have that many kiters and spectators in one location, we also decided to take advantage of extra hands by tieing in a Beach Cleanup with the competition. The beautiful beaches of Fort Desoto are truly a gift to our Tampa Bay kiteboarding community and it was a great way to give back!
The day began around 9:00 am; the competitors checked-in and Aaron, our event leader, announced the event rules, how the divisions broke down into heats, and the timing of the flag system. The wind was blowing at a steady 35 mph, sustained all day.
If a division was large enough, it was divided into heats. Each heat was given a 3-minute yellow flag warning and then once the green flag went up, the competitors had 10 minutes to throw down their best big air tricks. The top three riders were chosen after each heat and then competed against fellow heat winners, in their division, at the end of the day for the final rounds.
Photo: Jakki Wagoner
The Women’s Division was the first heat out with a start time around 10:00 am. There were 7 competitors; all ladies were in one heat. This heat was so much fun to watch; the ladies were giving it their all and showing everyone on the beach what’s up!
Photo, Left to Right: Winner’s Podium – (2) Emily Engelhardt, (1) Ellen Cheney, & (3) Melanie Cornish
After the Women’s Division timed out, the red flag went up and the Juniors Division was on-deck. The Junior’s Division was our smallest division, with 6 registered competitors and only 2 actual participants. With high wind speeds, younger riders don’t always have the properly sized gear for the day, which was the case for several of the Junior competitors. Regardless of the small number, the two competitors still threw down!
Photo: Winner’s Podium – (1) Ben Sampson
The Intermediate Division followed the Juniors’. This was our largest division of the event and was broken down into two heats. These two heats were full of energy and a highly competitive spirit, making them a crowd favorite. After each heat was completed, the top riders were selected and told to stand-by for their final heat later in the day. The final heat was jam-packed with huge airs and impressive tricks. A true showcase of some of the talent in our local area.
Photo: Winner’s Podium – (2) Alex Barker, (1) Dave Teichman, & (3) Hunter Gentry
The second largest division followed. The Master’s Division was chalk-full of experienced riders who know how to put on a show. These two heats were exciting to watch, with old-school moves mixed with new-school moves popping off everywhere you looked. Just like the Intermediate Division, the top riders of the Master’s heats were selected for the finals. The showdown for the final heat of the Master’s was definitely thrilling!! The awe factor was very much present with huge airs, major crashes, and smooth tricks.
Photo: Winner’s Podium – (2) Steve’O Visnage, (1) Bill Eastburn, & (3) Shane Senior
The final division of the day was one we all knew would take center stage! The Pro Division!! These guys came to perform and did not let the crowd down. With six competitors, the spectators’ heads were on a swivel, not knowing where to look for the next huge move. Both the first and final heat was an awesome sight; truly something we all inspire to grow towards in our own skill levels.
Photo: Winner’s Podium – (2) Kellen Hall, (1) Billy Parker, & (3) Aaron McClearnon
Photo: Pro Division’s first place winner, Billy Parker, signing is winning check.
After the awards ceremony, the crowd dispersed to begin the Beach Cleanup. A HUGE ‘thank you’ to all of those who stuck it out, in the rain, and picked up all the plastic/garbage/debris scattered across the beach. With everyone’s assistance, we were able to leave the beach better than how we found it and save an injured bird’s life (Shout out to Hunter Gentry!).
The day went off without a hitch and was eventful, thrilling, inspiring, and heart-warming. Bringing all walks-of-life together to celebrate our shared passion for kiteboarding is something bigger than we know. We can’t thank the Tampa Bay kiteboarding community, and all those who traveled for the event, enough for their participation and support! These events are thrown in honor of all of you and you really showed up!!
Lastly, a huge shout out and ‘thank you’ to our generous sponsors. Without you, the event would not be the same. Much love and appreciation!
2) Emily Engelhardt
3) Melanie Cornish
1) Ben Sampson
2) Jack Poulson
1) Dave Teichman
2) Alex Barker
3) Hunter Gentry
1) Bill Eastburn
2) Steve’O Visnage
3) Shane Senior
1) Billy Parker
2) Kellen Hall
3) Aaron McClearnon
CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners! You killed it out there!
After witnessing the talent that was highlighted this year, we can’t wait to see what goes down in 2019! See you next year!!! Until then, Stay Stoked, friends!
Enjoy some photos of the event: THANKS to Dennis Axer Photography for taking these amazing shots!!