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The email came in around August to see if we, the full Team Bridge wanted to attend the best ever kite race in the southern Hemisphere: The RedBull Lighthouse to Leighton Race. August is always manic & never enough time to give the whole trip our total thought.However, saying YES is what we do & this time all 5 of us to travel & be together for the journey. With over 150kg’s of wave, freestyle, foil & Camping gear between us, travelling Light was NOT an option.We had 3 days to get familiar with the short sprint from Rotto to Leighton and remind ourselves of the incredible force of the daily ‘Doctor’ that delivers 20 – 30knots thermal S/SE winds everyday from around 11am. Attracting 160 kiters from around WA & other parts of the world the day begins at 7am at The ferry Terminal with the loading of gear onto the ferry, registration & huge banter amongst the athletes all setting off to cross the stretch of water together. My 4th time back, we enjoy catching up with old Perth friends who welcome us like we are residents. For Eric, the very relaxed approach & enjoyed the vibe, not dis-similar to other red bull distance races he had been part of.Unlike most other days, this day was hotter -up to 40degrees and this meant that the reliable ‘Doctor’ was late & not scheduled to be as strong. A start time scheduled for 1530hrs and we all set off eager to be the first across the line. Twenty minutes later Olly arrived at Leighton Beach to a huge crowd and being the only person to have won this crossing twice and just 20 seconds off the record. Missing out on a podium position, Guy took 4th and I came in 11th overall & 1st woman. Eric could have used some more power but finished the challenge around mid fleet while Tom had his own problems back at Rottnest Island. While we were all busy celebrating, Tom was stuck on the beach at Rotto with a broken bridle & waiting for his return ferry back to mainland!It wasn’t long before the jet lag eased & we soon settled into the Australian life of Kite- Eat- Sleep – Repeat! Missing out on everything christmas we soon swop the flat water of Woodmans point (‘Woodies) for the small Neo’s & wave boards.Pitching the tents at ‘Margies’ we were now officially on holiday. Wifi, mobile reception non existent and mornings surfing & swimming were soon followed by our first dosing of ‘eric’s kitchen’. Back of the truck Omlette’s & coffee were cooked while the team discussed how the rest of the day would pan out. The arrival of some female company: Daniela from San Franciso who traded her foil for wave gear & braved staying with the Bridge family in a tent!! Blessed with long hot windy days, cool nights and an abundance of wild life, kangaroo’s & bronzed well toned ‘Blow Inn’s. Cooking for 6 people meant we got through some calories! A rather unique shopping experience to re-stock at the local town- Margret River: home to the best wineries & coffee shops, the small town boosts raw living & a hippie culture to the max.On the bigger days we kited at ‘Boaties’: The break closer to the boat ramp while the smaller days were spent dodging and trying to not make any enemies at ‘MainBreak’. There is not a watersports enthusiast out there that would not froth on the set up in Margret River. The area truly is world class with reliable winds, swells & incredible surf early mornings when the wind is off-shore. By 5pm when we had all spent hours focussing the mind, body & soul on the swells of the session, the wind would get lighter & start the evening swing back to cross off. (often not quite enough to ride)Evening sun set was spent cooking overlooking ‘main break’ & being part of the evening sundance of shooting stars. Christmas came & went with sessions moulding into each other until another bigger swell arrived to help us celebrate New Year in style. Time to get back to work, school, planning, organising, emailing, decision making and all stuff which surely could wait till next week! Yes, maybe there is time for 1 more wave & another session???
Olly and Steph Bridge take out the 2017 Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race
Mother and son kiteboarders Olly and Steph Bridge won the eighth edition of the Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race in Fremantle, Western Australia – a repeat performance of the 2014 race.
In 17kn winds and clear skies, Olly was ahead of the pack for most of the race, sailing seamlessly on the open ocean from Rottnest Island to Leighton Beach Fremantle in 19 minutes 34 seconds, 42 seconds ahead of second placewinner Theo De Ramecourt from France.
This was Olly’s second Lighthouse to Leighton win (he won in 2014) and his fifth attempt at the race. The 20-year-old competed in 2015 and 2016 but had mishaps in each of those years so it was a case of third time lucky.
“I didn’t have any crashes this year, I was in front from the start line and managed to get away from the other guys early,” Olly said.
The race was delayed for about an hour while the wind picked up.
“At the start there wasn’t enough wind, only the guys with the hydrofoils could have raced. But thanks to the delay there was enough wind for everybody to ride. It was a good decision.”
Olly’s mum Steph Bridge won her fourth successive Lighthouse to Leighton convincingly, in 25 minutes 12 seconds, more than three minutes ahead of the next fastest female, and 12th overall. This year her whole family was over from Devon, UK and racing – husband Eric and sons Olly (20), Guy (18) and Tom (16). She said with the whole family racing she was definitely in a different mindset to when she races on her own.
“I was thinking Guy or Olly could have won, both were in a position to do well. Poor Tom had a kite tangle at the start so he was out for the race so I was disappointed for him, Eric just wanted to get from A to B, and myself – I was borrowing a foil and a board. We’re sharing kites and I got left the little kite! I wanted to make sure everyone had left the beach before I took off. It’s a race which is about taking part. Of course, we’re all in it to do our best and it’s great to have everyone racing. I’ll be back next year to get a better time again,” she said.
Winner of the Mens Twin Tip category was New South Wales kiteboarder Jordan Girdis in a time of 28 minutes 8 seconds, and Womens Twin Tip winner was Colleen Carroll from the United States who finished the race in 33 minutes 7 seconds, her first time in the Lighthouse to Leighton.
This year’s Marc Sprod Memorial Trophy, awarded to the fastest West Australian, was presented to 17-year-old Mani Bisschops from Nedlands. Mani finished fifth overall in a time of 21:40. It was a special award for him as he knew Marc through his dad when they all regularly kited in the same area.
Last year’s Twin Tip division winner and five-time world champion Aaron Hadlow placed second in the Twin Tip this year, finishing 29:39. He said the light winds created a challenge.
“I had a good start but it was tough in the middle and I was having a battle for wind with another competitor. It gets a bit frustrating when you are going as fast as you can but you can’t make the kite go any faster. It was good fun though,” he said.
140 local, interstate and international kiteboarders took on the 19km open ocean race – the largest number of competitors in the event’s history. Winners shared more than $9000 in prizemoney. The race record of 19 minutes and three seconds, set by Frenchman Nico Parlier last year, still stands.
The Formula Kite World Championships were held in Oman in a show down of 21 races with crazy speeds in a massively competitive fleet which saw 60 riders from 22 countries make the journey to do battle in Al Mouj, MuscatIn the epic conditions on the gulf of oman, framed by a dramatic mountain backdrop, the Team have embraced the challenge amongst the worlds best & fastest.The first 2 days of qualifying saw the sibling Rivalry of Guy & Oliver Bridge score a series of Bullets which took them into Top Placings going into Gold Fleet.Things were looking really text book for these local boys who have dominated the world kite racing scene this season. A number of mistakes, some gear failure & bad luck took Guy out of contention after day 3 while Olly continued on form scoring nice low numbers & consistent in his riding. It was the final medal Race day which was the real pressure, with a very light wind, short course & a tight draw for which colour will be decided.This was not to be for the GB sailor- Olly Bridge. Missing the Layline and being sailed off the course by french rivalry, the best that Olly could do was Bronze. A big disappointment for Olly who at age 20 has come so close to the Mens World Tittle BUT still his performance has gone up this year and is certainly now in a diferent leauge wih a very bright future ahead. Both Guy & Olly train together & will now prepare for the 2018 Season which see’s the next World Championships in just 6 months in Denmark. The best things happen to those that wait for them!!Meanwhile – Mum & Coach -Steph Bridge was competing in the womans division and did not give up the fight for podium amongst the womans fleet. The lighter winds suiting the lighter riders, steph came away in 4th position and happy that she was in the mix & able to compete amongst the top female riders.
Tom becomes British Freestyle Champion 2017At age 16, Tom won all 3 stops on the British Freestyle tour to become mens Kitesurf Freestyle Champion. Tom has finished his GCSE’s and is trying to hold down some A levels while trying to qualify for the world KItesurf league Tour which will see him compete in Texel – Holland, Brazil & Egypt. Tom has the opportunity to represent GB at the youth twin tip worlds in Brazil in November. Follow him on instagram- Tom BridgeGuy Changes Gear & starts giving his brother a hard time on the Hydrofoil World Tour -Check this small edit HEREThis year has seen Guy at age 18 break through on the world Hydrofoil Race tour. Riding on his Levitaz Foil & Flysurfer Kites, Guy has the skill, power & real competitive spirit to have beat some of the top 3 riders, gaining many bullets and riding consistently to finish silver in China Gold Cup & silver at the Mauritius stop. With the worlds in Oman in NovemberOlly takes Silver in San Fran & Germany, Gold in the Twin Tip Open stop in China & Bronze in MauritiusSteph Takes 1st in Germany & 2nd at the Mauritius Hydrofoil Pro Tour stopWith the world Championships in Oman in November, the team are in full race & preparation mode to ensure every once of preparation is complete. It is just a matter of which one can take the tittle and the event will certainly be the biggest so far for both Guy & Olly.
A few events back to back where Olly went to San Francisco & finished 4th then to the Europeans in Turkey where Olly took 3rd Place & Hydrofoil Pro tour stop in Germany where Olly took 3rd.
A few words from Guy:
” The Europeans in Turkey were really frustrating for me. I started really well getting 4th in the Bosphorus Race- this was 44Km on all points of sail down to the Famous Stretch of water linking Europe to Asia. I messed up the finish which meant I missed my 3rd place which I had held all the way. I realised that I had pushed things hard & by evening my Lower Back had completely seized up & I was unable to move. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me. I tried to race the next day but was unable to push and was in so much pain. The rest of the regatta I tried to get my back better since the following week I had the hydrofoil Pro tour stop in Germany.
Arriving in Germany, Mum had drove from the UK & had all sorts of stretching, TENS machine & excercises. I also was lucky to be looked after by Dr.Wake who is a really talented Physiotherapist & also passionate kitesurfer. On site physio meant morning & night heavy pressure point sessions. Incredibly, I was starting to kite pain free. This made a huge difference to my results & I was happy to come away with 4th place overall with my older brother- Olly in 3rd place.
Back in the UK for a few days where I have turned age 18 & am preparing to head to China for the Gold Cup stop next week
The twin-tip slalom format, the same as that to be used at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina next year, had prompted a huge field of 112 riders from 21 countries to converge on Hang Loose Beach, Gizzeria, to hone their skills in preparing for qualification events that could secure a place in Buenos Aires. Following a 4 day intensive coaching Clinic with the Spannish & Italian teams, Steph was joined by all the family: the first time that they had all participated at the same event for some years now. Also representing GB was the only Female rider- Rachael Hooper, brother Eddie, Ben & Ryan Daffin -all from Exmouth.
Fast and furious downwind races over five reaches that are wrapped up in barely three minutes require no specialist equipment beyond a twin-tip board and kites, make the competition easily accessible to the average kiteboarder. The introduction of obstacles—sausage-shaped buoys to be jumped—on the last two legs of the course later in the proceedings, further added to the drama, and tested riders more used to simply racing as fast as possible on the water’s surface.
Tom arrived at the event following his success at the youth freestyle world Cup in Costa Brava the previous week. This was Tom’s First time to race this format & realise the skills he will need to make it to the very tight selection process to represent GB at the YOG in Argentinia. More familiar with longer more technical upwind & Downwind Courses on the hydrofoil class, both Olly & Guy Bridge found this a good training ground which requires fast quick decisions, starting Practice & traffic management. They both entered the Open class which was over 19′s division.
Tom started the event well, winning the first elimination on the first couple of days however some premature starting (OCS) on day 3 pushed him down a few places & meant that with the long period of wait between races due to the volumn of participants, only 5 races were sailed & this was not enough for Tom to make it back to the Podium spot. Meanwhile older brother Olly who had some earlier bad results, made a comeback to place 2nd overall in the open Fleet (over 19′s). Guy, also enjoyed some top 5 rankings but had his share of kite tangles pushing his ranking to 9th Place overall.
Tom Bridge – 6th – Under 19’2
Olly Bridge – 2nd – Open
Guy Bridge – 9th Open
Their first competition oversea’s & Their first race experience, all the Youth Academy improved their position each day as they learnt the skills needed. Always prepared & ready to attack, age 14- Rachael Hooper has been kitesurfing for 1 year & was faced with a mass of other kiters on the startline, a new down loop toe side turn at high speed as she rounds the buoys plus a bunch of hurdles to launch over. This was all new for the others- Eddie, Ben & Ryan: all whome improved their results during the week ending 48th, 50th & 55th whereas Rachael got to 21st in the womans division. The Youth Academy now know what to expect & training will continue each week where skills are practiced off Exmouth Seafront. All the Youth Academy go to the final stop of the British freetsyle tour in Hunstanton this weekend.
Team Bridge took the ferry from Plymouth down to the World Sailing Final in Santander, Spain. Sailing in front of the city with thousands of spectators & flat water in a mixture of winds from 25 knots to 6knot days. A really superb training ground with the short track format giving a total of 30 starts & just 7 minute races meant any mistakes & the race is lost.Defending sailing world Cup Final Champion – Olly had a poor start to the regatta while younger brother – Guy holding a solid second place - hot on the heals of leader Nico Parlier the clear leader of the event. The formula Kite means only registered equipment & for Guy & steph that meant competing on a missing size in their kite quiver. Decision making each day not easy especially with no chance to get back to the beach to swop kite sizes.Following 2 days of qualifying series the fleet was split into Silver & Gold. Steph & Mani in Silver fleet while Olly & Guy in the Gold before they would go onto the Medal Race days where there would be 3 more short races, Not discardable. The short track format is all boat handling skills & any crashes or errors on the course then it is not possible to make up the distance. World Sailing put on a spectacular well organised & managed event giving us incredible racing conditions everyday.The Medal race day was light & fickle in a challenging 5-8knots off shore wind with the course set close into the stadium. With 70% of the medal race athletes riding on the Levitaz Bionic, many also on the new Levitaz Foil Board – The Raze, the final races were all up for grabs for riders to find what wind there was on the course & keep the kites in the sky. Olly showed the best performance this day, reading the wind & pumping the board around the course, winning 2 of the 3 medal races. Unfortunately for Guy, he dropped his kite on the first race & with a wet soggy kite also struggled in the latter 2 races. He dropped down to 4th overall while Olly jumped up to silver & Florian 6th, Aexander Bachev in 8th & Sam Bull in 9th.Check the analytics: https://swc2017-santander.sapsailing.com/gwt/Home.html#/regatta/races/:eventId=3b79f093-d52f-440b-9fc4-2fb9e0cc70c9®attaId=SWC%202017%20Santander%20-%20Formula%20KiteAll the riders are getting geared up for the next event – The Levitaz Cup at the end of June and other Gold Cup stops in Asia before the World Championships in Oman in November.Watch the medal races live:
TOM BRIDGE JOINS RED BULL
The UK has spawned some serious kiteboarding talent over the years and Tom Bridge is certainly one of them. With an impressive kiteboarding career to date, Tom’s talent has shined through from the moment he took his first steps on a board. Dominating the youth scene when he was still in single figures, he’s been known to give the big boys a serious run for their money. Over the years, Tom has taken to many podiums at national and international events.
Although a dedicated Freestyle rider, Tom is part of the Bridge family who as individuals all excel in Foil boarding and Racing. Obviously a talented lot, it is Tom who has caught the eye of Red Bull, a prospect that is just a dream for most, and was asked to join the world renowned extreme sports brand as an official Team Rider.
Still only 14 years old Tom joins the impressive line up of what can only be described as The golden list of outstanding extreme sports athletes. All recognised for their legendary riding, creativity and passion for what they do, Tom personally thanks fellow North Kiteboarding Team Rider Aaron Hadlow, for showing him the way.
Congratulations Tom! What does it mean to be a Red Bull rider?
Joining Red Bull as a Freestyle kiteboarder is amazing and I’m so lucky to be part of the brand. It’s so forward thinking and has a massive pool of expertise that I can really benefit from as I focus on taking the sport to the next level. There’s so much opportunity on offer like being able to share ideas, get help with my physical training, interacting with other Red Bull athletes and learning from the best.
Why do you think you were chosen?
I started kitesurfing when I was 7 years old and really started to dominate at the Youth Worlds and European Freestyle Championships when I was still really young. I didn’t loose a Junior Freestyle heat for 5 years, I suppose I was a bit ahead of my time. It also helped a lot that the 5 x Freestyle World Champion is a Red Bull rider from the UK. Thank you Aaron Hadlow for showing me the way and helping with the transition.
You’ve been a top rider for a long time, first in the youth division and now in the men’s categories. In your opinion, how has kiteboarding progressed and what do you think of the new format?
In Freestyle the bar has been raised a lot! When I was doing the Juniors, the top men were doing Blind Judge 5’s as one of the top tricks. Now that trick doesn’t even feature in their heats. The new format that we’re seeing in Freestyle is helping the riders to take more risks. It’s challenging the riders to the max and you never know until the last trick who has won. It’s also a great spectator sport since there’s a high quality live stream and good commentary that gives a better understanding to the scoring system.
The new format also pushes the riders to train hard as expectations are transparent. When you know what’s expected, you can then work on power, height and speed into your best tricks. I was supposed to be revising during the WKL Leucate event but I kept turning on the live stream to see what was going on.
How have you adapted as the styles and gear have progressed?
I’ve moved from riding straps to boots so I can be more powered. The boards are stiffer and I’m riding a bigger board with more rocker which generates more pop. The new 2017 North Vegas is such a perfect kite for unhooking and riding powered. I also love that the Wakestyle Bar is so small. For wave riding nothing beats the Neo’s, especially in combination with the Click Bar – being able to depower your kite with the push of a button is pretty amazing.
When I first started kitesurfing there were no good small kites, bars, harnesses or boards. I had to wear two wetsuits at once to stay warm since getting a decent one in the right size was tricky. Everything has come along way since then!
What is your favourite style of riding?
Freestyle is my main focus, but I’m really getting into kicker tricks and riding waves with my Dad on the Neo’s when I can. It’s great to mess about on the Foil with my brothers Guy and Olly who are really fast and train a lot. To be honest, I love all aspects of kiteboarding and recently have had my best ever snow kite experience at the Red Bull Ragnarok in Norway where I started to get some real big drifts. When it’s howling windy I love mega looping and am stoked riding with my school friends who are learning.
What is your favourite setup?
Take me to a flat water spot with some kickers – it’s the best playground ever! Then give me a 10m North Vegas on a Wakestyle Bar with 5 lines, and a 138 Team Series with North Boots.
What advice do you have for younger riders aspiring to be the best?
Start young, be brave, and even if the wind is light you can still get out and practice. When I was under 11 years old I was small enough to ride in 10 knts, which combined with flat water was perfect for learning tricks. I was also lucky to have brothers who I could ride with and film with, this helped me learn a lot. My mum and dad also run Edge Watersports and both love kitesurfing. Having a trampoline in my garden with a bar setup on it helped me learn the tricks off the water. For me, I just love being on the water! So the moment I get home from school i’m off to the beach, it’s only the wind that determines the discipline I practice.
What do projects do you have in the pipeline for this year and what can we expect to see from you?
My main mission right now is do well in my GCSE exams which i’ll finish on the 18th June. After that i’ll be spending as much time as possible training for the Freestyle tour. In July i’ll probably go to the Youth WKL in Costa Brava, followed by the Youth European Twin Tip racing event in Gizzeria. In 2018 the Youth Olympics will showcase kitesurfing in Argentina and I would love to represent Great Britain. I’ve never raced before, but I reckon i’ll get the hand of it and refine some racing skills. I have some projects planned with Red Bull and also want to start doing some rail and kicker riding. I’ll also be working hard on my physical strength, paying attention to my knee. I’m aware that with the level of riding going up my legs need to be much stronger. I’m really excited for the summer and can’t wait to ride with some of the top guys.
Thanks to North Kiteboarding for this interview
At age 16, Tom is officially part of Red BullUK and is super excited to working with the brand on projects to bring kitesurfing closer to the mainstream media. Tom is looking forward to finishishing his exams this June so that he can focus 100% to push his freestyle level so that he can qualify for the World Freestyle tour in 2018. Tom will also be training for the Youth olympic Games (YOG) in 2018 where kitesurfing will have 1 medal for girls & 1 medal for boys under 18′s category twintip racing.