POSTED: Tuesday March 13th 2018

KTA: Asia's Tech Savvy Youth Make Waves at Kiteboarding's Olympic Debut

As young kite boarders from across the continent vie for a chance to represent their country at kiteboarding’s Olympic debut, new tech developments are working in the background to launch Asia’s youth onto the global stage.

Christian Tio (Philippines) one of the top 2018 contenders for the Youth Olympic Games at Buenos Aires / KTA
Christian Tio (Philippines) one of the top 2018 contenders for the Youth Olympic Games at Buenos Aires / KTA

Close exciting action in the new Youth Olympic TTR race format / KTA
Close exciting action in the new Youth Olympic TTR race format / KTA

Full fleet at the 2017 trial event in Pak Nam Pran, Thailand / KTA
Full fleet at the 2017 trial event in Pak Nam Pran, Thailand / KTA

Hong Kong: Thailand’s thermal winds are picking up and starting to blow across the quiet beaches of local fishing town Pak Nam Pran, as young athletes across Asia and Oceania are excitedly packing their bags and preparing themselves for an epic battle.

Next week, the Southeast Asian country will play host to the regional kiteboarding qualifiers for this year’s Youth Olympic Games, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October. This inaugural event will mark a moment of heated anticipation for thousands around the world, the competition will be a first for the sport of kiteboarding, whose Olympic dreams have been built and broken many times over the years.

With the Americas and European-African qualifiers already in the bag, next week’s Asia-Oceania event is the main chance for young riders across the region to score themselves a coveted place at these first Youth Olympic Games.

But for some, competition is the least of their worries.

For an upsetting number of young athletes, the chance to compete at the event has been swiped away because they cannot secure a passport to travel to abroad.

A harsh reality without doubt but, by the looks of things, one that can be tackled thanks to a single piece of technology that’s showing the potential to change everything.

Kiteboarding is a catalyst for significant economic change across Asia

Parallel with Asia’s own economic development, the sport of kiteboarding has laid down its own roots and over the past two decades grown steadily year by year.

Established sports hubs such as Mui Ne (Vietnam) and Boracay (Philippines), as well as newcomers like Kalpitiya (Sri Lanka) have all developed around their kitesurfing communities, attracting hordes of tourists every year, fostering a stable environment for new business, and bringing a much needed financial boost to the local economy.

Perhaps this is why, in such a short time, we’re able to see a plethora of young, talented kiteboarders emerging on the scene from all over Asia.

It would seem the recipe for success is simple:

Start a new business or kite school and have them to set up in an up-and-coming kiteboarding destination. Bring in some certified instructors who can train the next generation of local grassroots kiteboarders.

In just a few short years you’ll see the younger friends and siblings of the local instructors taking to the water learning to kite at a far younger age than those before them.

These are the young people that go on to dominate the international scene, as we have seen from the example set by young athletes like Christian Tio (Philippines), whose outstanding talent earned him a Red Bull sponsorship at the age of just 14.

These are Asia’s future Olympians representing kiteboarding.

Kiteboarding fuels Asian youth, but policy leaves many behind

When you consider the fact that the entire sport of kiteboarding has barely existed longer than the lifetimes of these young riders, it’s hard not to be impressed.

That said, the upcoming Asia-Oceania Youth Olympic qualifiers will be a bittersweet moment for many.

While the event marks an opportunity that most of these young athletes have waited their entire lives for, many others will not be making their way to Pak Nam Pran- despite their deepest wishes to do so.

A sour undercurrent to what would otherwise be a tale of triumph, a number of young kiteboarders will not be able to travel abroad to the competition because they have not been able to secure a national passport.

The harsh reality for many people in Asia’s developing nations (particularly those that have been affected by war in recent years) is that it’s common not to have birth records- or even to know your true birth date.

Without access to this seemingly ‘basic knowledge’ and with little to no support available for those facing such difficulties, it’s impossible to apply for a passport- and for these young kiteboarders, this will make it impossible to travel to the Olympic qualifiers.

“As the sport of kiteboarding has progressed over the past 10 years, we have started to see better recognition of the athletes within our region” says Neil Godbold, co-founder of the Kiteboard Tour Asia. “But these problems with passports”, he continues, “and even getting visas and funding have always been there.

Sadly, even during a high profile event like the Youth Olympics, there’s still a political line being followed that keeps some players out. People still have the same problems, which they wouldn’t if the authorities fully got behind the sport.”

Indeed it must be a heartbreaking realisation- one that most of us can’t imagine- to learn that years of arduous training and unwavering motivation is rendered invalid in the face of bureaucracy.

How a simple technological effort is rewriting the playbook

For the fortunate ones who will be competing at the qualifiers, they may find that they have a unique opportunity to affect change for others thanks to the help of some simple - but highly effective - technological efforts.

The well-known web domain, .Asia, has pledged to create a free athlete website for every young rider taking part in the competition. The hope is to design a site that not only recognizes and celebrates the person’s athletic skill and professionalism, but also legitimizes their potential in the minds of policy makers.

“The young riders are the future of this flourishing sport in the region”, says Pavan Budhrani, Director of Business Development for .Asia, “and we believe them having an online presence to communicate with their fans can take the sport to the next level.”

Any young athlete who is not able to attend the event due to the bureaucracy that prevented them from securing a passport, visa, or funding can simply get in touch with .Asia and work with the domain team to set up their own professional athlete profile.

With an eye for the future, the goal is to gain recognition from local and national policy makers for all of Asia’s youth, so that they may gain access the resources and support that they need to travel and compete abroad, develop their skills, and pursue their dreams.

Further information about the qualifiers can be found on the website of the Kiteboard Tour Asia or on the Twin Tip Racing website hosted by kiteboarding’s world sanctioning body, the IKA.

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Keywords · KTA · kiteboarding · Pak Nam Pran · Thailand

Name: Neil Godbold
Organization: KTA Media

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