Over the weekend of 14th-16th September Animal Windfest 2007 at Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset brought more action, adrenaline and fun to Sandbanks beach than has ever been seen before. During the 9th annual free beach festival an estimated 10,000 people enjoyed fantastic weather, thrills and spills and memorable parties.
The three day freesports event brought together professional kitesurfers, windsurfers, wakeboarders, volleyball players and Thundercat power boat racers from all over the UK and Europe to compete. Local rippers were invited to come and join in with fun tag team relay and speed races, and big air competitions across both kitesurfing and windsurfing.
The crowds were entertained on the Saturday by an action packed line-up both on and off the water. On the water, leading UK Windsurfing Association (UKWA) sailors put on a ‘tow-in freestyle’ windsurfing display using jet skis, while the Thundercat power boats raced around a buoy-marked course at break-necked speed just off-shore. Off the water, the crowds enjoyed back-to-back shows from professional mountain bikes trials and world bunny hop champion Martyn Ashton and his sidekick, the back flip specialist ‘Chopper’, at the Animal Braun CruZer Bike show area. The Breeze Volkswagen wakeboard Pool Gap display with three pools and rail sliders bridging the gap, saw its fair-share of action and drama with spins, rail slides, jumps and the occasional crash from the professional wakeboarders, keeping the St John’s ambulance crew on their toes and reminding the crowds why not to try this at home!
The wind graced Windfest with its presence on the Sunday, allowing the windsurfers and kitesurfers to showcase their talents. Throughout a gusty Sunday afternoon, which presented a challenge for the kitesurfers who struggled at times to keep their kites in the sky, Animal team kitesurfers Jo Ciastula and Tom Court managed to pull some glorious tricks out of the bag and find the odd gust to get up to 20 feet in the air for the big air competition. The downwind slalom racing was even more competitive with the ladies showing their foot to the floor attitude. All three finals were proper nail biting stuff, with positions swapping at each blink of an eye.
The UKWA took advantage of the wind conditions on the Sunday and managed to complete one championship round for Junior, Youth and Amateur windsurfing divisions, and a pro windsurfer ‘expression session’ allowed the riders to freestyle and show off their jumps and moves. The results of the 2007 UKWA Freestyle Championships were concluded at Windfest and the winners announced. Professional windsurfer and Animal team rider – Andy “Bubble” Chambers took the overall men’s freestyle title with Rich Jones taking first in the youth division and Ben Harwood the top spot in the juniors.
New for 2007 was the Animal tag team event, which saw teams of four windsurfers taking turns in a relay style event with F1 style changeovers. After blaster one mile out to seas to the gybe mark each competitor had to run up the beach to the judging area swapping rash vests with their next team rider. Matt Wemms took the win with a good show from the Animal office boys in 3rd.
In the JP Morgan sponsored volleyball tournament, teams from England took on the challenge from teams from Poland, Switzerland and Wales. The Polish team of Mateusz Michalski and Piotr Sznicer were the favourites having already won an event on the Volleyball England Beach Volleyball Tour at Ruislip, London and showed their supremacy at Windfest, taking the win from English rivals Adam Philips and Dave Cuthburt. All of the English teams this year were local, with one exception Kelly Jones and Rachael Turner from Wiltshire. In the women’s event they took on local girls from Poole, Sophia Speigal and Phoebe Jeffery – the women’s team that has dominated the Under-18s Beach Volleyball in the UK for the last 3 years. Both teams are the next generation of top women’s teams hoping for Olympic success and on this occasion Wiltshire girls Kelly Jones and Rachael Turner took the victory.
Event director Gary Willingham couldn’t be happier: “Windfest has exceeded all our expectations this year from the start when Neil Pryde officially opened the event. This year we had 150 competitors from all over the world taking part and with sunshine we ensured a great spectator experience and the wind god smiled upon us maintaining our credibility as a wind related event. The event grows each year and with the help of our sponsors we can ensure the event reaches its full potential. Next year’s 10th Anniversary event will be show-stopper.”
Check the website for a new Windfest event in April 2008 in the build up to more Windfest malarkey in September.