Saturday, June 22, 2024
From The MagIn-DepthPatagonia: Park is not Dead 

Patagonia: Park is not Dead 

By Ryan “Rygo” Goloversic and Ramiro Gallart

Photos by Andre Magarao

History 

Watching the city lights below grow larger, I felt the familiar mix of stiff legs, excitement and turbulence of going somewhere completely unknown. As our plane touched down in Buenos Aires, I started thinking about how we got here and the state of the sport of park style kiteboarding. The parallel was as clear as the waters of Patagonia; we are entering a new era. Something familiar but completely new and different. We’re deviating in a new and optimistic direction. 

When I first started kiteboarding, the discipline we know as park was called wake style and it came with the same clout and excitement that big air is enjoying today. The early pioneers like the Autofocus crew comprised of Andre Phillip, Jason Slezak and many others, worked hard to build their own rails and bridge the sport of wakeboarding with the kite. In the early to mid 2000s, the Triple-S dominated American kiteboarding culture. While I had helped film some early videos in 2012 with Sam Medysky, Craig Cunningham, Chris Bobryk and others, my first experience with KPL was at the 2018 Kite Mansion event in Icapuí, Brazil. 

Watching Christophe Tack, Brandon Scheid and others set up rails in the small lagoon and fearlessly grind them, it was here I realized this would be my discipline moving forward. This was going to be my world now. 

Two years later the pandemic happened and park infamously died.  The Triple-S was cancelled, Hood Jam was postponed, and the Kite Mansion tour stop dissipated. The film Death of Park by Alexander Lewis-Hughes was released as a state of where park had left off and the direction it was going. 

After a long hiatus Ewan Jaspan, Noé Font and others hosted the first KPL team battle in Hood River. Riders of all levels from amateurs to local heroes and the top pros, banded together to compete in a first of its kind video challenge. It was here I first got wind of the new direction and tour coming into place.  

What Makes KPL Unique 

Shortly after picking up our luggage in Buenos Aires, I was greeted by my good friend and fellow Airush team member Ramiro Gallart. Our plan was to road trip across Argentina to Patagonia with Kristen Cooper and Matias Lee. We watched the night turn into the day and the countryside rise into the mountains. Set in the most epic off the grid location, this first stop of the new tour was thanks to the hard labor of Rami and the local Argentina crew. 

KPL very much stands out in the sense that it’s the most core form of kiteboarding. It’s by the riders and for the riders. Selling kites and catering to the masses is the absolute last thing on anyone’s mind involved. 

Park riding is remnant of the early days of skateboarding and snowboarding. It’s 100 per cent community driven and it’s the closest discipline in kiteboarding to other board sports; with an emphasis on style, the execution of the tricks and staying true to our roots. It’s not so much what the rider is doing as how the rider is doing it. I always think of music; you can play the most technical scale imaginable and be boring or you can take three chords and write the most iconic song in history. That is the spirit of KPL.

Players 

Rami’s vision, as well as other key members of the group like Noé Font, Ewan Jaspan, Eric Rienstra and others, is to build the discipline from the ground up. The mission is to bring communities together to create permanent kite parks and riders together. One of my favourite aspects of park has been the community. Patagonia felt like a mirror to the dedicated crew in Hood River.  

“The crew was the main thing in this comp/event,” says Rami. “Without it nothing would have ever happened. When we got the call that the permits were going forward to hold the stop in a unique island in the middle of Patagonia, I knew I needed to call the boys for help to get everything done for the event. We all drove there one week before from all over Argentina. We met up there and put in the hours of work to make everything happen. We divided in teams: in the design department we had Mora Gallart with all the social media and aesthetics of the event, Matias Lee and Noe Font with the design to print on the features. Benjamin Blachowski was the main captain, Santi Cisneros as his right hand, Mariano Cuevas as the crane operator and a crew of soldiers Justo Morando, Martin Calderoni, Rygo, and Matias Lee. Sebas Pedreira was the more bureaucratic side of the organization providing local knowledge and contacts. Mario Saopablesi the president of the Argentina Kite Association orchestrated all this.” 

The most known riders in the park scene attending the event were: Noe Font from Spain; Eric Rienstra, Xanders Raith, Chad Porter, Ryan “Rygo” Goloversic, and Asher Clarke from USA and from Argentina Lucas Muzio, Mariano Cuevas and Ramiro Gallart. A total of 9 riders left room for new talents to show up. Those were quite a surprise for the outsiders as no one ever expected Argentina to have such a big park style scene.

The most unique moment was when we were finally able to see the whole park out, floating in this insane clear water with wind and the sun shining. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. In terms of the competition, there were some great highlights. In terms of tricks, the women performed amazingly on their last slider–the Airush Incline–making it hard for the judges. You could feel them pushing each other in their heat. In the men’s division, Chad showed us he has locked in his double flips putting a few out on the right foot kicker. Noe brought the technical tricks on the rails and kickers with some perfectly execute 7s, and Xander as always showed us what press actually stands for. 

We’re writing about a comp and it will always come up who did what in their heat and what the score was and so on. The truth is that this event was more about sharing and pushing the sport in a place we never thought we could be holding an event. It was just so special. Hopefully the pictures help the readers comprehend what went down but it was way beyond words. 

In the end all this energy needed to flow somewhere. It was just too much to remain as a memory before going to sleep. It seemed there was no other option, especially in Argentina, than to share those memories of the day with all the crew of friends having an asado (kind of like a barbeque), drinking some wine and celebrating life and park riding. 

Results
While Park is very much a board sport, you can’t just ride cable everyday and be a top player. Kite control and practice in a real kite park is what sets the top riders apart. You might be able to muscle a trick out, but KPL judging is based on style and execution. That means unlike freestyle or big air, if a rider belts out a sloppy 720, they will score lower than a stylish 540 with a laid-out grab. This location comes with its own insane beauty and challenges.

Set in shallow turquoise water between three islands on a mountain lake with smooth thermal winds, it was truly like nothing I’ve dared to imagine. However, as the wind builds, small waves and a current generate upwind of the features. This makes it difficult to get a proper line and set your kite. You could see the best riders like Rami, Xander, Noe and Eric opting for slightly less technical hits in their heat. 

With the emphasis being on execution, a rider is forced to focus on what often gets left behind in other competitions and directly influences the direction of the sport. 

Every day we faced different conditions, always windy but it was sometimes 15 meter and sometimes 9 meter. For the final we went through all of them. It got hard at first as the wind was shifting. It made it choppy, so riders needed to step down their game for a bit to make sure to get a score. Once the conditions got better while competing on the next sliders, they needed to bring the heat. We saw some cool moves like Rami’s back Lip with a front 450 out on the corrugated, Noe’s Stale front 7 and Lucas Muzio’s front 270 back 450 on the incline. 

“With the women we saw some sick hits like Kristen Cooper going for Indy tantrums and Adela stepping up her game with front 360s on the left foot kicker,” says Rami. “They both pushed so hard that the difference between them ended up being less than half a point with Kristen taking the win followed by Adela Mendoza and then Lara Berrio. 

The result for the guys final were sixth place Mariano Cuevas with a consistent run through all the features. Fifth Chad Porter with some bangers but unfortunately some zeros too which made it hard for him to get to the top. Fourth for Lucas Muzio who is an upcoming beast transitioning his unique freestyle to the park scene. Eric Rienstra took thrid with amazing kite control that gave him some advantages over the rest on those first couple rails when the conditions were tricky. Second went to Rami Gallart coming back from his ACL injury. He gave a great performance on the last couple of rails but it wasn’t enough to compensate his average performance on the first couple ones. First went to Noe Font, also known as baby Jesus. He seems to not be affected by the quality of the wind and put out the most solid run of the event. With great tricks everywhere he dominated the scene and took the win.”

KPL is back and stronger than ever. With a new direction, a new vision and a new tour, I’m beyond grateful for this rider and community based discipline. If you have a background in board sports we encourage you to get involved and help progress this side of the sport. It’s really something special and in a way, grounding in our multi-faceted sport that is slowing become all kite and sales based. Let’s keep the boarding in kiteboarding. 

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