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Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton

Red Bull is renowned for putting on some cracking kiteboarding events, often involving mass participation and fun for all. Most recently the Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton celebrated it’s 8th year with 140 competitors racing across 19km of open water from Rottnest Island to Leighton Beach, Fremantle. 

Colleen Carroll, Steph Bridge, Tom Bridge and Aaron Hadlow took part in Australia’s favourite kiteboard race, sharing the stoke and supporting the local kitesurfing community. Congratulations to Colleen for winning the women’s twin tip division, Steph for dominating the women’s category and coming 1st overall by a huge 3 minutes, and Hadlow for taking 2nd place.

We catch up with them to hear how it went…

Photo : Daniel De Giosa

Colleen, Congrats on taking the win for the twin tip ladies!  How are the legs feeling after that one? 

Thanks! They were definitely a bit tight the day after but it actually wasn’t as brutal as I had expected.  Maybe if the wind was stronger or if I had been overpowered it would have been a different story, but all in all I think I faired pretty well.

Photo : Paul Smyth

What’s it like racing in open waters, in what sounds like at times light wind conditions, alongside 140 other kiters?

The start was definitely interesting. I actually tried to get going two times before the actual start of the race as I wanted to get off the beach before the majority of the competitors, but it was so light, I couldn’t even stay upwind. There were also a few holes in the middle of the crossing which definitely gave you a newfound sense of urgency to keep getting closer to shore, pump the kite, work your edge, pretty much do everything you could to be as efficient as possible and make it to the other side.

Photo : Peta North

What was your key to success?

I don’t normally participate in races so I wouldn’t say I necessarily had the most sophisticated strategy, but I pretty much did my best to get a decent start while most importantly avoiding any tangles. From there on I focused on the person in front of me and did everything I could to pass them. Once I passed him, I’d focus on the next. There are no course markers so you kind of have to trust in the riders in front of you who might have a better view of the start boat (which was way ahead in front of the Foilers).

Photo : Peta North

What else are you up to in Australia?

I’ve just finished a month tour of the East coast of Australia with Noe Font and Craig Cunningham for our final 'The Bubble Film' premieres.  We had an epic trip from the Gold Coast to Sydney and on to Melbourne with loads of stops in between. But by the end of the month I hadn’t gotten my freestyle fix so I headed over to one of my all-time favourite kite spots, Safety Bay and visited my friends at WA Surf.  It was a bit of a coincidence, but Aaron had booked a trip for almost the same dates to come over for the race so it’s been a great couple weeks living in the freestyle bubble.

Photo : Daniel De Giosa

Steph, Congrats on taking the big win for the ladies!  Tell us, how did the race go for you overall?

It was great to finally get to race on the North Kiteboarding Foil as previously I had competed on a Slalom board. There is alway a lot of seaweed to navigate on the crossing, so the person with the most effective technique to remove it wins! We were underpowered that’s for sure. It was 15m weather but we’d only travelled to WA with 11 and 13m kites. If you’re reaching on a Foil it’s good to not be over powered, but not only was the wind patchy it was also more downwind which meant sailing on more of a beam reach.

Photo : Peta North

You crossed the finish in 12th  position overall and over 3 minutes ahead of the next female racer, what was your strategy for such a dominating win?

Thanks! The goal was to finish in the top 10 and it would have been good to get a better time than my sons Olly and Guy. There is a lot of mental play in these kind of races and with the clock ticking, you have to keep focus on catching the person in front and keep the pressure on them. I have been racing for many years so physical and mental preparation are crucial, plus it helps to have done the race before so I know what to expect - other than the undesirables.

Photo : Paul Smyth

Is this similar to other races you do throughout the year?

This race is different since it entails just 1 point of sailing. The Hydro Foil Pro Tour is about racing on all points of sail with a massive upwind start which is also very tactical. I love is also the Redbull Raganrok in Norway and this race has many similarities such as huge numbers of people entering and a lot of chat about strategy, kite size etc. I love these mass participation events since it embraces how great the kitesurf community is all over the world.

Photo : Daniel De Giosa

Aaron Hadlow - As the previous champ of the Red Bull Lighthouse to Leighton race, tell us about the event and why you decided to travel all the way to Western Australia to defend your title?

I really enjoy Western Australia. Last year I spent a couple of months here and this year it wasn’t looking like I would be able to add it into my travel schedule. When I got the opportunity to come back for the race I didn’t have to think twice. After doing well last year and gaining some experience I was sure I could do even better, so I was excited to enter.

Photo : Paul Smyth

What’s different about this event compared to most of the other contests you participate in?

Well first off it includes the whole community. Racing does have a competitive aspect, but a lot of guys are out there doing it for fun. It brings people from all over the country together. This race in particular is unique in that it is a straight dash to the finish line. There are no turns, no tacks and that makes it really difficult as there is no relief for the duration and your legs really start to burn, that makes it a mental battle too.

Photo : Peta North

How did this year’s race go for you?

I came in second place in the twin tip division. The wind was really light so it didn’t suit me. I was hoping that I was going to be really powered so I could go as fast as I could possibly handle, but unfortunately I had to do my best to squeeze out every bit of power from the kite just to keep a constant speed. I did as good as I could for the conditions, I still had a 15m, but I learnt that I will come prepared with a few more gear options to make sure I have the right kite for the job next time.  

Any advice for those interested in giving it a go next year?

Yeah, stay out of trouble on the start line at the beginning and keep going to the end. Lots of people make mistakes and being a race you can never let off until the finish line.

Photo : Paul Smyth

What else are you enjoying about your stay in WA?

The great thing about the area around Perth is the kite conditions, I am riding every day in some great places. Safety Bay is one of my favourites and I got to do an advanced clinic in conjunction with WA Surf, our local shop out here, so it’s been a great couple of weeks.

Tom Bridge - Unfortunately, the race didn’t go your way and reminds us all that in competition, anything can happen. What went down at the start that made you unable to complete the race?

Yeah the race didn’t really go my way. I got tangled with another competitor on the start line which left my kite in a bowtie. Very frustrating! It then landed in the water, filled up with water so I was unable to relaunch it, by which point I was to far downwind I couldn’t even get back to the beach. 

Photo : Peta North

What about next year’s race?

I’ve learnt from this experience and next time i’ll make sure to be further up in the fleet. It’s such a great race with an awesome atmosphere at the event site. 

We saw that you were interviewed on a local TV Chanel shortly after arriving in Australia. What’s the kiteboarding scene like in WA? 

The kite scene in WA is really good and there’s such a good vibe on the water. There are so many good spots to ride and the conditions make it great for training new tricks. The local shredders are really good too so it pushes my riding. It’s a top place to be

Photo : Daniel De Giosa