FLYSURFER Kiteboarding teamrider Florian Gruber, supported by our SONIC race kite, experienced two career highlights during the last 10 days. After his glorious victory at the Red Bull Ragnarok in the discipline: Ski, he teamed up with Swiss champion Jonas Lengwiler to battle against mother nature during the VAKE race in one of the most exposed regions of Norway.
Varanger Arctic Kite Enduro (VAKE) is an annual long distance snow kite competition. It starts in Berlevåg, ends in Vardø and lasts for four days. In 2016 VAKE is arranged for the 8th time, raising the bar every year. Teams of two contestants are kiteskiing from Berlevåg across the Varanger Peninsula to Vardø. Varanger Peninsula has a varied and exciting terrain that will create abrupt changes in wind, weather and snow conditions along the route. The teams navigate freely between mandatory checkpoints, must be self sufficient, carrying all equipment to survive in the wild for at least five days. The route is about 200 kilometers, but the actual sailing/kiting distance can be twice as long due to wind direction and terrain conditions. It is necessary to have broad experience in snow kiting and be able to kite with sled in varied and rough terrain and wind. Participants must be able to stay out in the cold, have experience and knowledge of winter touring equipment and know how to pitch a tent in bad weather. Knowledge of map-, compass- and GPS navigation is also required.
This year 37 teams from various nations started on the 5th of April in Berlevag and after a short walk up the hill, all teams were able to launch their kites. Already on the way to the first checkpoint the battle between “Norwegian Express” with our FLYSURFER riders Thomas Sorensen / Klemet Store and “The Windyty Alpboys” with FLYSURFER Teamrider Florian Gurber / Jonas Lengwiler (Ozone) for the first place started, closely followed by “Team Sweden” with FLYSURFER rider Richard Wernersson / Simon Jaktlund (Ozone).
The two leading teams made a historic touch-down at checkpoint Bergebyvann late in the evening of the first day using mainly 18.0 meter kites for their advantage. They enjoyed some warmth in the tent and stayed overnight to get up early the next day. On the 2nd day things started off intense and “The Windyty Alpboys” as well as “Norwegian Express” rigged their big kites early in the morning. Between Bergebyvann and Vadsø, the teams progressed fast. Crew we’re barely in place at checkpoint Vadsø to welcome The Windyty Alpboys at 09:13..! Norwegian Express came in at 09:45 and Team Sweden at 10:26. As the wind increased the winning team took a big risk and stayed on their kites in a dangerous area. Florian and Jonas spent time in Komagvær finding the safest route between rocks. Teams have reported a lot of gullies and canyons, a great hazard in poor visibility. Checkpoints are warning all teams leaving about the danger.
Congratulations to the Swiss/German Windyty Alpboys in conquering the Varanger Peninsula as the fastest team ever! Close run with Norwegian Express all the way to Urdfjellet before checkpoint Vadsø, but the Norwegians lost time there when rigging down to smaller kites. The Windyty kids from the Alps got 30 minutes on them, and kept it to Vardø where they were clocked in by crew at 15:38 Wednesday April 6th 2016!
4 hours and 25 minutes after leaving Vadsø, The Windyty Alpboys arrived Votteskaret finish in Vardø and could start the celebration! “Very happy to be at the finish. Have been a hard race, a long race. The toughest, but best race we have done”, Florian Gruber and Jonas Lengwiler said, as Race Master Øyvind Stangnes served them some well deserved champagne.
FLYSURFER Kiteboarding is very proud of our great performing teams on the SONIC-FR kite, great teamwork and effort!
1st place – “The Windyty Alpboys” Florian Gruber (Flysurfer SONIC) / Jonas Lengwiler (Ozone R1)
2nd place – “Norwegian Express” Thomas Sorensen (Flysurfer SONIC) / Klemet Store (Flysurfer SONIC)
3rd place – “Team Sweden” Richard Wernersson (Flysurfer SONIC) / Simon Jaktlund (Ozone R1)
Some quotes by Florian Gruber about his wins in 2016 Ragnarok and VAKE:
“After the Event in Mexico I had just a few days at home to repack everything and heading up north to Norway for some Snowkite events. My first stop was the biggest snow kite Event in the world. The Red Bull Ragnarok. After not competing there last year, I was really motivated to give full power on this years race. I drove all the way up by car and had to get the ferry from north Denmark to Norway. Just in time for the registration I arrived in Haugastøl. Because I was late at the online Registration I had to put my name on the waiting list. Finally on the event day I got my place and finally my start number. After the briefing we went with the buses to the start line. As we arrived the wind was still really low and we had to wait a bit. So I prepared my 18m and 15m SONIC. After a bit of waiting finally the wind picked up and they announced the starting time. I felt good with my setup and 4 minutes before the start I could create a good start position in this big field.
3,2,1 Start!!!! Wow what an amazing feeling to go over the startline with so many people. Right after the start I was able to get the lead and so I got hunted by the riders behind me. Just before gate 3 the wind dropped immediately and mostly all kites felt down. I was able to keep my 18m SONIC up and managed to get an 20 minutes lead in front of the second rider. Not much later the wind picked up again and most of the kites where flying again. In lap 3 I also got some little problems. The wind shifted a lot and I had to cross the small hill in super light winds upwind just before gate 1. Also between gate 3 and 4 the wind switched off completely and my also kite went down for 5 minutes. As soon the wind kicked in again I managed to continue. In this lap I lost my big advantage against Björn Kaupang. He could catch up behind me. The last 2 laps the wind picked up and I could control the race. I always checked how close Björn was behind me but there was always a gap of more than a minute when I came tho the finish line, I couldn’t believe that I just won the biggest snowkite race in the world.
3 Days after the win of the Red Bull Ragnarok I was on my way to the next big challenge. Off to the VAKE Race. This is not just an normal race. It is a challenge out in the nature. The Race is around 300km Long and you have to sleep in your tent.
This year it was already the 3rd year that I took part in the toughest snowkite race in the World. With my new team partner Jonas Lengwiler I got a really talented racer and good friend. The start was at 10am on the first day. It was a walking start. From the startline we had to walk to the kite area for 1km. We managed to arrive there in the 4th position.
After we got the kites up we caught up some places and where in the front with together with the Norwegian FLYSURFER team. At checkpoint 7 there was a 2 hour stop. We arrived there with a 3 minute lead and it was super close between all top 3 teams. In the afternoon we had to fight against foggy conditions and the wind dropped off a lot sometimes. The Norwegian Team overtook us in the fog, but at checkpoint 9 we where able to catch up again and got a 4 minutes lead there. After a good night in the tent and fresh energy we got really lucky with the wind and the weather in the morning. In only 1,5 hours we reached checkpoint 13 and our advantage to team number 2 got even bigger because they had to change kites. After the 2 hours break we left the checkpoint in Vadso to go all the way to the finish line in Vardø which was checkpoint number 18. Up on the Mountains we got again a lot of fog. Our decision to stay on the big kites worked out well. I was super happy on my 18m SONIC. Sometimes we got some really rocky parts where it was not easy to find a way. On the way we saw some amazing animals like an elk and some reindeers. To cross the finish line as the first team in the hardest snowkite race and the official snowkite world championship was an amazing feeling and such a great experience.”
Thanks to my Sponsors for the great support!
All photos by Ekaterina Golitsyna/VAKE