Tag Archives: kitesurfing

A Profile Of Tiree’s Kitesurfing Champion

Helen_kitesurfIt was with great pleasure that I heard it was our own local resident Helen Thompson who was the BKSA Womens Champion 2013. My kite surfing friends had spoken highly of her and were impressed by her use of a strapless board and her apparent natural affinity with the ocean.

Helen winning the championship was a source of pride to us all. Aged 27 years, Helen IS originally from Killearn near Glasgow, but has lived on Tiree for 11 years. Visiting Tiree with her family in 1993, Helen learnt with a friend to windsurf on Loch Bhasapol – the place to go on Tiree if interested in this increasingly popular sport. Going on to learn surfing and kite buggying, Helen eventually had her first kite surfing experience in 2003 and that is where her interest has stayed.

Although Helen has not competed for four years, she is no stranger to competition and winning. She was British Amateur Champion in 2006, British Overall Kite surfing champion in 2008, British Wave Masters Champion in 2009 as well as South African National Cable Wakeboard Champion in 2009.

Helen a cheerful, friendly lass, started her own Tiree kite surfing academy in 2010 and gets a real buzz teaching a wide range of age groups, a skill that makes being in the water much more fun. Catching up with Helen at Crossapol beach after the weekend celebrations I asked her what the competition had been like for her.

“Well the weather conditions were amazing. Absolutely fantastic. We completed the competition a day early with three full rounds of all categories. We had cross off from two different tacks over the week and decent 20+knots. Tiree really lived up to its reputation as a world class venue. Elsewhere you can wait for days for the right weather conditions to occur. My favourite kiting beach is Crossapol; off shore, cross shore, its brilliant with waves in all directions, and although I have travelled extensively I would probably say that Tiree is my favourite place to kite surf as I haven’t been anywhere in the world that offers as many options in different conditions.

I had the best week I have ever had on Tiree and as I haven’t competed for 4 years it was great to see all the familiar faces again and I realised I really love competing. The camaraderie is great and we all get on. Of course we take the competition seriously as we all want to win, but even during the competition we are always chatting, exchanging thoughts on kit selection and analysing the weather conditions. Usually it’s the conditions you have to battle against not the competitor in your heat. You just have to go out and do your absolute best.”

As Helen and I sat on Crossapol beach drinking our hot chocolate I asked her what winning meant for her and if anyone inspired her. “Winning is a great feeling, it’s the clarification that my hard work training has paid off. I’ve been out on the strapless board in all conditions this year; on flat days, on massive days trying to dial in my feet and it has paid off. And as for inspiration, well other successful kite surfers inspire me, at the moment my Slingshot team mate Patrick Rebstock is a great inspiration.” As I prepare to leave Helen checking out the waves and the wind direction, I suddenly remember what advice would I want if I was contemplating taking up kite surfing. Helen smiles. “Well I would say to you the same as I tell my students; training, practice, keeping fit and trying to avoid injury, and fun, it’s fantastic fun and not just for the young.”

Thanking our new British Kite surfing champion for her time, I depart thinking of Alastair Mathieson (The Green). A keen kite surfer now in his early 70’s, Alastair is living proof that adrenalin sports aren’t just for the young and you’re never too old to have fun and keep fit at the same time.


A.J Sutherland

BKSA Wavemasters – 16th To 21st September 2013 – A First For Tiree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABritish Kitesports is the National Governing Body for the sport of Kitesurfing and is bringing the Wavemasters 2013 to the Isle of Tiree for the very first time.

The competition, now in its 8th year, has come to Scotland mainland however has never come to Tiree.

Kitesurfers use surfboards and kites to ride the waves and score points to advance in the competition in a knock out format. The kites are water re-launchable and if they go down in the surf will pop into the air again. Riders try and get the longest and biggest waves to score highly in their 7 minute heats.

We are excited to come to the Isle of Tiree and sample the wind and waves it has to offer to make the week a memorable one – top riders from across the UK will be coming. Defending their titles are Scots George Noble from Fraseburgh and Kierra Alwood ( now residing in Norwich).

The competition starts on the Tuesday and runs through to Saturday at various beaches on the island depending on the wind direction.

Down To Earth With A Bump……..and a crash and a wallop

On behalf of myself and Polly I would like to thank all the emergency services on Tiree that attended the call out to Salum last Monday. After 10 years on the mainland as a Mountain Rescue team member it is a humbling experience to be on the receiving end for once.

The care and commitment of the various services involved could not be bettered. It just felt a bit strange meeting neighbours and friends lying prone in such worrying circumstances. However the end result was not as serious as had been initially thought. Thankfully I do not have any neck or spinal injuries. I do now however have a fractured tibia and a resin braced leg cast as a reminder of the day. The circumstances that led to my injury and airlift could have been avoided in hindsight, so to put the record and rumours straight this is what happened.

I had just re-launched the 8m kite for a second session kitesurfing at Salum. As it rose to the zenith I noticed that kite was not fully locked in on my harness. I pulled in the steering bar to sort it out. A strong gust hit at the same time and I was lofted about 3m above the beach, a lot more than I expected, but it was still manageable. My right hand then slipped off the bar. This was the worst thing I could do and caused the kite to fly in tight circles developing maximum lift and power hurtling me up the beach. Even as I released the bar, I realised I was too high and travelling fast up the beach. Releasing the bar de-powers the kite. However this then allowed me to fall and crash to the soft sand.

My mistake was that I should have simply released the safety when I first spotted the problem, but in my hurry to get back on the water I took a short cut and paid the price. As I lay on the beach I realised that my right knee was damaged, but more worrying my left hand side was numb with pins and needles. I thought I had a neck or back injury. As I was still conscious I asked my friends to immobilise me and call the emergency services. This they did brilliantly and also tried to shield me from the blown sand while we waited for help to arrive. I was rapidly descending into shock and possibly hypothermia with the cool wind blowing on my face and wetsuit. I’m still not sure who it was that arrived first but in no time Doctor Todd and the teams had me in a neck brace strapped rigid in a stretcher to protect my neck and back. I do remember someone cutting off my nice new wetsuit before meeting the crew from the Rescue 177 Sea King helicopter that flies from HMS Gannet, Preswick.

So, I now I feel a real sense of guilt at causing so much work and wasting so much money in using the emergency services. However, someone said to me after the rescue regarding Rescue 177 – we must use it or lose it. All the essential services we are privileged to have on Tiree seem to be threatened by cut-backs and austerity measures. It is only when you are a customer of such services that you really appreciate what a fantastic resource of help and care we have. Thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments. But before anyone asks. Yes, I will be back on the water as soon as I can.