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Final Word: Should kiteboarding be an Olympic sport?

Apr 7, 2010

Author: Michael “GEBI” Gebhardt

There is a movement to see if we can get kiteboarding to become a medal event at the Olympics. Kitesurfing is a modern high-performance sport that would surely make an awesome addition to the Olympics event lineup. Let’s look at what it will take to get kiting through the door of the Summer Olympic Games, and what disciplines would have a chance of making the Olympics.  

Since the events for the 2012 Olympics have already been decided, the first shot for kitesurfing to become an Olympic sport would be at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
    Kitesurfing’s best pathway to becoming an Olympic event is through its membership within the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). This body organizes, recommends and selects the Olympic sailing classes and disciplines; ultimately deciding which Olympic events compete for Olympic medals. Since last year, kitesurfing through its International Kiteboarding Association membership within ISAF is now an Internationally Recognized Sailing Class, which is the first step to gaining Olympic status as a new sport. This makes us well positioned within ISAF’s political infrastructure to push toward Olympic inclusion.
    It looks like there is no way we could bring freestyle kitesurfing to the Olympics as a separate stand-alone or exhibition sport. Politically this is near to impossible. Being part of the Olympic infrastructure under the umbrella of ISAF is the best way to possibly add to or replace one of the 10 current Olympic Sailing Classes, which are all Course Racing classes. Kitesurfing’s discipline of Course Racing could include Border-cross Racing and we would have the option of freestyle being recommended as an Olympic exhibition event. Now that kitesurfing is in an established Olympic infrastructure like sailing the push can begin to get Kite Racing into the Olympics.
    IKA is currently in the process of making a submission to ISAF’s Events Committee for Kite Course Racing to be one of the 10 medal sailing sports for the 2016 Olympics. Keep in mind that trying to bring a new sport into the Olympics does not come easily. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is trying to reduce the number of Olympic events and number of participants in the Summer Olympics at all times.
    Currently the 10 Olympic Sailing Classes we are fighting with for a medal spot are all well situated politically to defend their positions within the Olympic family, so it will be a big challenge to bring kitesurfing to Olympic medal status. Our strength comes from kitesurfing being a new and popular high-performance and inexpensive sport that is growing worldwide with a developing international infrastructure. In a way kitesurfing promotes itself towards our Olympic aspirations.
    When IOC, through the ISAF, decides which classes will race for Olympic medals, it makes its decisions on some of the following criteria: Performance of the equipment, is it a new and modern form of sailing, cost, worldwide availability and if it raced worldwide within an organized infrastructure. This is how windsurfing became an Olympic sport in 1984, and is a model we will use to see if we can get kitesurfing into the Olympics.    
    The latest modern kite race boards are super high-performance and are close to being the fastest of all sailing craft currently being raced in a wide range of conditions in over 60 countries around the world. Kitesurfing can be raced right on the beach in 12 inches of water in winds of five to 35 knots, making it a perfect spectator sport event to be run off Rio De Janeiro’s famous beaches during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
    The push to the Olympics is certainly supported by the best kiteboarders out there. You just have to look at the list of the top pro kitesurfers who have taken interest in the racing discipline and are currently racing worldwide to see the support this movement currently has. It includes: Martin Vari, Sky Solback, Jesse and Shawn Richman, Sean Farley, Adam Koch, Charles Deleau, Abel Lago, Damien Leroy, Ken Winner, Chip Wassen, John Modica, Bruno Sroka, Billy Parker, Kevin Langeree, Dirk Hanell, Gisela Pulido, Kristine Boese, Steph Bridge, Melissa Gill, Angela Peral, Kari Schibevaag, Clarissa Hempel.
    Ultimately bringing Kitesurfing to the Olympics will be a long uphill fight. We are going against some well-established competitors, including catamarans and other cool sailing classes like the foiling Moth. Kitesurfing’s mass appeal is that it is one of the purest forms of sailing that can be practiced almost anywhere there is a little wind and water.
Wish us luck!

—Michael “Gebi” Gebhardt - IKA Olympic Ambassador

Gebi has been kiting since 2000. As a retired professional windsurfer he has won Silver and Bronze medals in Olympic windsurfing competition. He is currently an avid kiteboarder competing in racing. He also coaches speed sailor Rob Douglas and current course racing World Champion Sean Farley and designs fins for Curtis Fins. He is sponsored by Lynch Associates, Ozone Kites, The Black Dog, Kaenon Sunglasses, Da Kine and Curtis Fins.

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