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Saved the Day

The first event of this year’s Kite Park League tour recently took place in remote Patagonia, an ambitious location to hold a competition that involves impressive rails and features. The event very nearly had to be cancelled but organizer and competitor Ramiro Gallart wouldn’t let that happen, and called in all the favors to ensure it went ahead.

PHOTOS: Martin Pastene and Oliver Umpierre (unless specified)
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This year marked the second edition of a project close to my heart: Kite Park League Patagonia. It all began last year with the dream of hosting a KPL event in Argentina, set against one of the most breathtaking backdrops on the planet – a project that remains ambitious, but our passion eclipses any setbacks. Organizing a park event is no joke – just as a base layer you need to consider things such as wind and rails, riders, media coverage, judges, insurance, permits and sponsors, but on top of that, add the idea of hosting the event at a remote island in a lake in Patagonia. For those unfamiliar with our last edition, the location was Isla de la Guarda in Villa La Angostura, nestled within one of Argentina’s most stunning national parks.

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You might assume that planning an event for the second time would be easier, but you never know when things could take an unexpected turn. Picture this: you’re the organizer, navigating a national economic crisis and a kite industry battered on the international front. Despite the odds, you manage to secure enough funding to proceed, leveraging favors and support from everyone you know. Yet, just when you’re on the brink of completion, ten days before the event, you receive the worst possible message from your associate at midnight. “Rami, I’ve just had a meeting with the owner of the features. He’s pulling out of the deal. He won’t provide the rails. I think we need to cancel the event.”

Faced with such a message, the choice between backing down or doubling down isn’t easy. With no funds left and a daunting problem to solve, most people would likely throw in the towel. But quitting wasn’t an option in my mind. I refused to let this setback ruin our event and leave everyone stranded. That very night, I reached out to everyone I thought could offer a solution. After a conversation with Simon Giovanelli, it became clear – I had no choice. I had to source the features from a plan B, I would do whatever I had to for the event to stay afloat.

The next morning, a miracle unfolded. I called Nico Karagozian, and he reassured me, “Rami, don’t worry. I understand the stress you’re under. You can use the features from my 2.0 for the event and return them whenever you can. Take it easy.” In that moment, everything fell into place. I had a path forward. Hours later, I was driving back to Buenos Aires to retrieve those features, arranging for a 20-meter truck and a crane to transport them 1700 kilometers to Villa La Angostura. I won’t bore you with the details of the logistics of actually taking those features to Patagonia, but just know, it wasn’t pretty or easy…

I am very proud to say that over the years, the KPL team has been able to create the most supportive and helpful family of riders from all over the world, so even though they are there to compete, they will always lend a helping hand in times of need and that is exactly what they did. The first day of the event, everyone worked together in moving the features to the island and setting them up for the days to come.

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Now on to the actual competition. On the first and second day most of the riders got to complete their heats that would set the final in place, except for the men’s heat 2 which was left for the third day of competition, and man was that an intense day. It began as sunny as it could get but with a forecast of a storm arriving in the afternoon, so we knew we would have to be as quick and effective as possible. By the time we arrived at the island, some clouds were already approaching so everyone got ready and in the water with no time to lose. But the storm reached us in the blink of an eye and the riders had to complete their last heat before the finals with freezing rain and gusty winds which resulted in some hard crashes that will be remembered in KPL’s history…

Day four was finals day of the first KPL event of the year which sets a precedent for the rest of the world tour stops ahead. As if that wasn’t a nerve-wracking feeling, I now had to get into competition mentality while at the same time maintaining the event organizer role and making sure everything ran smoothly. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t get to me a little… To begin with, we needed to set the angle of the features right for the new wind direction. For this, two other finalists, Noè Font and Xander Raith offered their help while the other finalists were already in the water warming up and practicing before we could even think about getting in – a bittersweet feeling since I knew I was doing what needed to be done to have the best possible final, but at the same time getting anxious knowing I would have zero warmup time. Once everything was ready, the heat started. I had asked the judges to make sure we ran the event as fast as possible to ensure we could finish it, but if I am being completely honest, I kinda wish I hadn’t although deep inside I knew it was the right call. So with almost no warmup time, the finals began with the right-foot-forward features.

Conditions were hectic but I did manage to score some decent hits in both features, a 50/50 bs2 over the gap to fakie on the A-frame, and a classic bs5 on the kicker. As we went for the left features, the wind started to get weird which shifted the features making it less than an ideal angle to hit them. The handrail was way downwind but miraculously I did manage to get a nice hit. This got me back in the right mindset. I had a chance, a good one – just one last feature, the left kicker. Just as we were about to move forward, the wind died making us stop for a few minutes. That destroyed my mindset once again. The momentum was gone. At this point I knew I needed to perform, but my mind was playing tricks on me. We were back-to-back with Noè for the top spot and I needed a big one to take home the win. It was all or nothing. Either I threw the best possible hit and take it all, or fail miserably and completely mess up my score. Unfortunately for me, it was the latter. The pressure of performing at my best, while keeping it all together finally got to me. I ended up getting a butt check on my first attempt and a failed fs9 and bs7 on the following ones which landed me in third place, behind Noè in first place and Xander in second place.

With that the competition was finished, but the event was far from over. The following days were filled with amazing freeride sessions without the stress of having to compete, hikes up the mountains, plenty of Argentinian BBQs and lots of wine, followed by the awards ceremony and closing party by the Nahuel Huapi lake. From zero to one hundred in a week. This year’s Patagonia invitational was a whirlwind of emotions – from dealing with the trials and tribulations of organizing the first stop of a world tour, to competing against great riders while trying to maintain the event afloat, it showed me that where there’s a will, there’s always a way. With the incredible effort of our team – media crew (Oli Umpierre, Javi Sanchez and Guincho Pastene), judges (Christophe Tack and Maximiliano Gambedotti), community manager (Martina Marcet), and co-organizer Mario Sampaolesi – we pulled off one of the most visually striking and community-driven kite events in the world. My head may have been going through it, but the event came out on top and set a high standard for the following tour stops ahead.

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