Following Highway 12 south the water warms with each mile driven, the unrelenting breeze a silent promise to all those making the trip. License plates and salt-smattered cars suggest overnight voyages with the hopes and anticipation of scoring the perfect day on the water. Kites are unpacked, boards made ready and lines are laid with precision.
The excitement is palpable for as far as kiteboarding is concerned the Outer Banks is one of the most sought after destinations in the world. With more consecutive days of wind each month than most places, kiteboarders make the pilgrimage from far and wide. Often the sky resembles a water color painting with kites of every color dancing along the horizon.
In 2006, to honor this sport with all of its dedication and enthusiasm, Trip Forman, Co-Founder of REAL Watersports in Waves on Hatteras Island, and REAL’s first team rider, Jason Slezak began the Wind Voyager Triple-S Invitational.
“We have folks coming from all over the world to compete,” Forman says. “South America, Australia and Europe will all be represented. Last year we had 13 different countries represented.”
As far as the format of the contest is concerned it is an invitation only event with 24 men and 10 women securing their spaces by re-qualifying from last year’s event, being invited with the ability to potentially place on the podium, acting as an alternate based on skill and level of competitiveness, submitting a winning wildcard video, or winning one of the last spots in the Wind Voyager Triple-S Open event.
Triple-S in the title actually refers to the three riding disciplines of kiteboarding; ocean, flat water, and park riding — and because of the growing love for park riding, Forman and his team decided to give the riders exactly what they wanted.
“On our 10th anniversary of the event, we decided to make the contest 100 percent park format, so that all the sliders and kickers may be utilized,” he says.
Recognized all over the world for its size and advanced features, REAL Slider Park is nothing short of mind-numbing. With its flat water that riders love, an 82-foot A-frame, a 56-foot rooftop rail, a 45-foot reverse rainbow, and two kickers, contestants are driven physically and mentally to showcase their biggest airs and most progressive maneuvers.
This year, kiteboarders are frothing even harder with even more prize money at stake and a purse of $50,000 up for grabs.
“In addition to the $50,000 purse, we also have extra money on the line for the following first ever in competition tricks: The first woman that can complete a 720 handle pass will win $2,160,” Forman says. “And the first male competitor that completes a 1080 handle pass is looking at a cash prize of $3,240 on the spot.” If nobody hits the mark, the prize money rolls over for the next year. “Play your heat safe, or go for the extra cash. You never know how big folks are gonna go.”
The event spans eight days starting with the Wind Voyager Triple-S Open event on June 1 and ends with the final competition day and awards ceremony on June 8. In between, there are high-stakes heats, freeriding sessions, a charity fashion show and world-renowned musicians hosting epic parties each and every night.
“We are really excited about all the musicians we will be having this year,” Forman says. “We have DJ Dice, Kymani Marley, 2 Chainz, The Roots and local bands DJ No Philter, Zack Mexico, Coyote Lee and The Dubplates. It’s really great to have all this talent on the same bill.”
It takes six months or more to have all these bands organized, but in the end, it’s worth all the hard work.
“All of the concert and charity fashion show ticket proceeds benefit the Hatteras Island Youth Education Fund,” he says.” Last year, we raised over $30K, and this year our goal is $50K. Part of the money from last year allowed our marching band to attend and play at the Outback Bowl. Another portion purchased new books for all of our First Graders — none of which would be possible without awesome sponsors like Wind Voyager and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.”
Tickets are available on the event website, TripleSInvitational.com.
Now known as the “crown jewel of wakestyle kiteboarding competition,” the Wind Voyager Triple-S Invitational truly is an event one must experience. You can feel the breeze, hear the crowd and see everything first-hand, he says.
“Whether you are on the water or at the parties,” Forman says, “you’re always gonna be blown away with what goes down.”
Fran Marler has lived on the Outer Banks for 11 years. She estimates 60 percent of her life on the Banks is spent fishing, boating, surfing, swimming and enjoying the bountiful beauty of the Outer Banks.