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A Win To Remember – Northkiteboarding Blog

Steph Bridge took the Red Bull Ragnarok by storm, claiming 1st place in the immense snow kite race. Not for the faint heart, she spills the beans on the event as well as giving a few golden tips for those looking to participate next year.

How does one prepare for such a hardcore enduro race?

The key is to be aerobically fit, strong in the legs and have good kite and snow skills. I’m not claiming to be the best at any of those, but I have been flying Foil kites for a number of years now overpowered, underpowered, on Foil and Race boards. Having these skills are easily translated into racing with 350 kites all navigating in different directions. Also, like with any other competition preparation is vital, so familiarise yourself with the course and get organised. Take time to setup your gear and having a clear plan in your mind for when the race gets underway. 

What tactics do you have? 

I like to take the biggest kite I think I can hold down at the top of the ridges. It’s a pretty ballsy approach since there was around 44 knots of wind at Gate 3, and 5 knots at Gate 5. Being comfortable with controlling the power of the kite when racing across different terrains at top speeds, often dodging rocks and ridges is something to be aware of. It’s fully 3 dimensional out there with so many variables. You need to be thinking about all of the above over the 130 km course. The real strategy is to have a Caddy at the final Gate ready with a new kite in the air incase the wind has changed. Those who have the back up do the best. This year, there were even some who swapped kites and skis twice. 

What gear were you riding?

I rode the North Ace 8.5m with the Foil Bar on 18 meter lines and my ski’s are ‘all-mountain’ and fairly wide. I used the ION Radar seat harness, ION water pack and ION helmet. I would advise people to use a kite that they are familiar with. This year there were more people riding Foil kites than ever before, but you need to have experience using them before setting off on a race like this.  

What tips do you have for getting the most out of your gear?

Don’t try anything new on Race Day. Stick with what you know. Make your analysis of the wind forecast and create a setup that you can bear for 5 hours. A longer line selection when compared to riding on water will help too.

When the snow is wet, soft and heavy – like it was this year due to warmer weather –  it makes the snow really slow, so get your hands on the fastest skis you can and make sure they are thoroughly waxed.  We were very lucky to have Peter Martel helping us out, showing us how to wax our skis. It requires a lot of skill and is similar to sanding Foils; it’s technical! 

What were your highlights of the event? 

There were so many highlights and I hope that some of those listed below give an idea of the enormity of the experience. 

I guess the big thing is that you get to share everything with so many other people. Everyone has their own set of ambitions and goals, and yet you’re all competing on the same course. There are many who set out to complete 1 lap and others who have never snow kited before. The mix is massive and the vibe insane. The human drive to battle the mountain is truly visible at this event. 

One of my biggest highlights was when I came around Gate 3 and took off down a hill totally out of control. I didn’t realise how much speed I was accumulating as I took on the lip. With rocks, other kites and poor visibility I eventually landed with my kite completely out of the wind window. Having lost valuable ground whilst being pulled downwind at mack-million, I wrestled to get the kite sorted. And although still out of control with too much power, I found I will still in the race; a huge relief!

One of the reasons this event is so successful is that it is run from the Haugastol; a huge and extremely well run family hotel at the start of the Hardevanega Plateau. All the event organisation is run from here and it’s where most of the competitors stay, so it’s pretty lively! The atmosphere that surrounds the event starts the night before, followed by and early morning brief and mass evacuation to the event site! Even before you’ve got a kite in the air the feeling of involvement is something really quite special. 

I have the privilege to race all over the world, however this event stands apart. The race is physically and mentally hard with so many challenges throughout the course. The atmosphere is electric and unlike no other, with so many unknowns!  The organisation between Red Bull and the Haugastol is a smooth operation and I can’t wait for 2018!