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VIRGIN KITESURFING ARMADA FESTIVAL: THE WEEKEND ROUND UP OF THE BIG, FREE, MUSIC AND BEACH FESTIVAL

Last weekend (9-11 June) Hayling Island hosted one of the biggest kitesurfing festivals in the world with over 6,000 visitors. Backed by Virgin, what started out as a charity fundraiser has grown into one of the best beach festivals in the UK. The free beach festival attracted some of the biggest names in kitesurfing, including ten-time female World Champion Gisela Pulido, British Champion and Brighton Pier jumper Lewis Crathern, Aaron Hadlow a British five-time World Champion and the current King of the Air Nick Jacobsen.

Families enjoyed the festival that was bustling with fun and live music throughout the weekend. The Fat Face Family Zone kept the kids entertained with a range of activities, whilst the Neilson Recovery Zone provided its own hot tub and relaxing massage area. The festival’s brand marquee brought together the biggest collection of kitesurfing apparel ever seen under one roof in the UK, including the latest gear from North Kiteboarding and Cabrinha.

On the water, festival goers were treated to unique stunt displays by the world’s top kitesurfers. Never before have spectators been able to enjoy a kitesurfing display from the world’s best kitesurfers, whilst listening to live commentary transmitted to speakers from the water to the beach whilst hundreds watched on.

Hayling Island provided an amazing backdrop for the British Kitesurfing Championships, foiling clinics and kitesurfing taster sessions on the beach. The festival raised significant funds for the Armada Trust and Virgin Unite, which support the grassroots of kitesurfing and Virgin Unite’s innovative projects.

Dan Charlish, Founder of The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival:

“This year’s Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival was the biggest and the best by far. We were extremely lucky to have perfect sun, wind and wave conditions for kitesurfing over the weekend. The new outdoor music stage was a fantastic addition to the festival. This year it really felt like the festival went beyond all we could have hoped for it to achieve – great kitesurfing and a brilliant festival on land that kept everyone entertained. Breaking Guinness World Records is always a great thing to try and do and we’re delighted to still hold the record for the largest parade of kitesurfers.  But on top of that we’ve now created a successful and unique music festival that combines the best that kitesurfing has to offer with festival fun that everyone can enjoy.”

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Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival returns to Hayling Island for its 5th Year!

The 2017 Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival will take place on Hayling Island from the 9-11th June.

The 3-day festival will be bigger than ever before, with an expanded live music schedule across 2 stages, a huge brands marquee showcasing all the latest gear and loads more going on across the festival for everyone to enjoy.

As always, entrance to the festival is free, and alongside the music and entertainment, festival goers can also take in talks from professional kitesurfers and industry experts, drop the kids off at the family zone for some kite-making and other activities and enjoy some quality food and drink at the food court whilst watching a band and enjoying the festival atmosphere.

On the beach over 500 kitesurfers will be taking part in as much kitesurfing as the wind allows – from big air competitions, boardercross racing and foiling to taster sessions for beginners, technique clinics and an attempt to break the mass participation kitesurfing World Record set at Hayling last year, with this year’s GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title attempt!

Furthermore, for the first time the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada will be hosting the British Kitesurfing Championship at the festival, showcasing the very best of UK kitesurfing talent.

Event founder Dan Charlish said, ‘This year feels like a big step up for the festival and we can’t wait to get everyone back to Hayling Island once again. The addition of the new outdoor music stage will give the whole event a great festival feel and we have had to expand the brands tent by 50% on last year to fit everyone in – which is really positive for the festival as there will be loads of fantastic stands to check out. Hosting the British Kitesurfing Championships is another exciting development. The UK punches way above its weight with the kitesurfers we have – and it will be awesome to have them demonstrating their skills to all the spectators and visitors on the beach.’

Charity fundraising remains central to the goals of the festival and this year sees the launch of a brand new ‘Kite-SUP-Run’ Charity Challenge which organisers are confident will be a hit with festival goers. Funds raised will be supporting Virgin Unite’s fantastic work as well as supporting the grassroots of the sport through the Armada Trust’s Kite & SUP Youth Tour. The Tour launched this year with over 8 tour stops around the country, and aims to enable over 1,000 children and young people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate in these sports, to get involved and get linked in to local kite schools.

International kiteboarder and UK pro rider Lewis Crathern will once again be hosting the festival, whilst a number of other world class kitesurfers including Nick Jacobsen, Gisela Pulido and Hannah Whiteley are planning on attending. Lewis said, ‘As always I am really looking forward to the festival and bringing everyone together for three fantastic days. It is such a positive event for kitesurfing and for the promotion of our sport, especially for all the kids who visit from the local schools to see kitesurfing in action and learn a bit more about the sport, wind energy and the environment. Having the main marquee packed with kids at the Schools event on the Friday always kicks the festival off with loads of energy and fun!’

Registration is now open for kitesurfers at www.kitesurfingarmada.com and you can also get your camping and campervan tickets here as well as sign up for the Kite SUP Run Charity Challenge! For everyone else who just wants to join us for the festival – we look forward to welcoming you to Hayling Island this June!

Virgin Kitesurfing Armada breaks the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the Largest Parade of Kitesurfers

19.6.2016

There was great excitement today on Hayling Island as the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada made an attempt on the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the Largest Parade of Kitesurfers.

With 416 kitesurfers needed to beat the record held by Cape Town in South Africa it was always going to be a challenging target. Fortunately around 13:00 today the wind finally arrived and the attempt was on!

Kitesurfers from around the world had gathered for the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival which culminated in the attempt to bring the title back to Hayling where it was first achieved in 2013. At 13:00 the wind finally arrived and the attempt was on. The kitesurfers headed out on to the water where they needed to complete a continuous parade over a 1 mile course. The current record was always going to be hard to beat but kitesurfers across the south responded to last minute calls to come down and join the attempt.

Finally, at 18:00, the announcement was made. They had done it! An amazing 423 kitesurfers had completed the course beating the old record by just 8! GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ verified the total and the title was officially awarded to Hayling Island and the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada.

Sophia Greenacre, Official Adjudicator from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ said, “Huge congratulations to everyone for 3.5 hours of determined kitesurfing. With 423 kitesurfers completing the course Virgin Kitesurfing Armada you are officially amazing and are all GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ holders.”

Dan Charlish, Event Organiser, said, “A huge thank you to everyone who has come down and supported the festival this weekend. It’s been an amazing experience. 423 kitesurfers is a fantastic total and everone should be really proud.

We couldn’t have done it without all the brilliant volunteers, industry support and the sponsors which include Virgin, WOO Sports, North Kiteboarding and Volvo Car UK. It’s been an awesome weekend.”

To see and download all the photos from the event see:  http://www.davewhite.photography/History/2016/Kitesurfing-Armada/

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Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival Brings Top Athletes and Family Fun To Hayling Island

10.6.16

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival is a unique kitesurfing festival being held on Hayling Island over the weekend of the 17-19 June, raising funds for local youth and rescue charities.

The festival is the biggest kitesurfing event in the UK and looks set to be a great weekend of kitesurfing, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™title attempt, music and family friendly on-shore activities. It is also proving to be a positive event for the local community with the chance for hundreds of local school children to experience the sport.

Dan Charlish from the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada said: “The festival is now in its fourth year and it’s fantastic to see the event going from strength to strength – kitesurfers and festival-goers love coming to Hayling! It’s a beautiful island, has great kitesurfing conditions and most importantly a great community.”

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival opens at 11am on Friday 17 June and that afternoon will see around 250 Year 6 and 7 children from local schools receiving a talk about kitesurfing, wind energy and general health and fitness from pro-kitesurfer Lewis Crathern. The children will then take a look at all the kitesurfing equipment on show and have the chance to get out on the beach for a practical introduction to the sport. On Sunday the children and their families are invited back to the Festival for more kitesurfing taster sessions, totally free of charge.

Assistant Head Teacher of Mengham Junior School, Odele Davies said: “Our Year 6 pupils are really excited to be visiting such a huge event for Hayling Island. We see so much kitesurfing on Hayling, so it’s great to actually learn about this sport thanks to Dan and the team at the Festival. The children are enthused to be a part of the weekend and to be asked to be involved.”

Friday will also see members of the local business community, local councillors and the local mayor in attendance in a bid to highlight the positive effects of the festival on the local area.

Virgin founder and kitesurfing enthusiast Sir Richard Branson said: “I am absolutely delighted to see the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada continuing to go from strength-to-strength. This year it’s all set to be a fantastic weekend on Hayling Island, encapsulating that summer festival spirit with live music, camping, exhibitions and great food, while raising funds for some fantastic causes, including Virgin Unite and the Armada Trust.”

Over the course of the weekend the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival will feature all the best kitesurfing brands exhibiting the latest gear and talks from pro-kiters, including five-time World Champion Team Volvo rider Steph Bridge, plus industry experts. There will also be plenty of great entertainment on the shore with live music, DJs, a bar area, quality food stalls, chill-out zone, a jumbo screen showing kitesurfing films and the Volvo Family Zone offering a range of family friendly activities. Entry to the shore-based attractions is free.

There will be plenty of kitesurfing activities going on over the course of the three days. Along with recreational kiting in the bay, big air competitions are planned, along with foiling clinics, a ‘Kite Something Unusual’ challenge and people of all ages kitesurfing, with those taking part ranging in age from 8-72 last year. There will also be a number of free beginner taster sessions, so, if you’d love to give kitesurfing a go, this is your chance!

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival are also thrilled to be offering kitesurfers the chance to take part in a Guinness World Records™ attempt for the largest parade of kitesurfers over a one-mile course. The South African Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, with a total of 415 kiters, currently holds the record which was set in Cape Town earlier this year. If you would like to take part in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™attempt you can register here: kitesurfingarmada.com Alternatively, you can watch on shore whilst enjoying the rest of the festival.

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada is supported by some fantastic brands including Virgin, Volvo, North Kitesurfing and WOO Sports – without which the success of the event couldn’t be achieved. All Armada events raise funds for local youth and rescue charities through the Armada Trust, with over £160,000 raised for good causes to date. Please come down and support the Festival and enjoy everything that the Kitesurfing Armada has to offer.

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VKSA UK 2016 launches today!

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival 2016 launches today, and it is going to be bigger, better, sunnier and windier than ever before! Check out the line up below – and sign up for the biggest kitesurfing festival the UK has ever seen: June 17-19 on Hayling Island. Sign up here.

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VKSA 2016 Dates Set: 17-19 June  2016…and the move to one weekend explained! 

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Kitesurfing Armada event over the past 3 years. It has been an amazing experience growing and developing the festival, as a team we have loved it all, and we are already looking forward to the 2016 event – which will see some big changes which we wanted to discuss for anyone who is interested!

At VKSA this year we were so pleased that despite the challenges with wind (which we will come to below) the event was still a big success thanks to the kitesurfing community and industry coming together to support us and make it happen.

We learnt a lot, and took the opportunity over the weekend and afterwards to get loads of feedback from kiters, brands, suppliers and everyone else involved to try to make the best decision for the event going forward. The results of all this feedback is given below:

In summary:

a) For the second year running, despite planning everything using a 3 weekend wind window – with all the logistical and financial challenges this involves for everyone – we still did not get one good weekend of SW wind for the festival.

b) Despite this, we saw a fantastic turn out of kitesurfers who wanted to support the festival regardless, understood the effort everyone was putting in and wanted to be part of it – even knowing before they left that we had a very poor forecast. This was hugely positive and we were VERY grateful for this.

c) Despite the wind challenges, people fed back that they enjoyed a lot of the areas we improved outside of the actual kitesurfing. These included the bigger and greatly improved Brands Tent, the variety and structure to the Talks Stage which went down really well, the first ever UK Kitesurfing Industry Awards which people felt was done to very high standard and the 2 nights of parties, live music, DJs etc.

d) Moving the timing of the festival to open a day earlier on Friday worked well and gave people a better reason to come for the long weekend (Camping and Campervans were up 34% on 2014) and enjoy 2 nights of parties, one more mellow one on Friday and then a bigger one on Saturday.

e) In the Community Tent the stage, jumbo screen, lighting, sound etc all worked very well and was a high standard. The Harveys bar and Bug Bar (DJ) also gave a great service once again.

f) Camping and Campervan-ing remained simple but worked well and the car park was very busy throughout. However, it was fairly cold for campers being the last weekend (see below)

g) Public turnout was up 43% on last year which was good, but many were still confused by the 3 dates and knowing when the festival was actually happening.

h) That said, our investment in a professional Press and PR Team (Into The Blue) worked well and social media interest, press releases going out far and wide and coverage on ITV, BBC Sussex, BBC Solent, Wave 102.7 and other stations really helped raise awareness, alongside the tweets and blogs from Sir Richard and Virgin.

i) Fundraising was around £30k for our 4 charities – still a fantastic amount but following the first year (£70k) second year (£50k) we can see a trend which we have to note – it’s hard for many of the same people to ask friends and family to sponsor them each year for kitesurfing…especially when we clearly can’t guarantee the downwinder itself will take place, even with 3 weekends. We need a new plan for fundraising from next year. (See below)

In the light of all this experience we are changing the event structure to move VKSA 2016 to a one weekend on June 17th-19th and to focus the whole event on becoming the best Kitesurfing Festival it can be for kiters, industry, charities and everyone concerned.

Benefits:

a) The logistical and financial challenges which everyone faces with having to work around 3 weekends is removed. We have always done the 3 weekend option to give ourselves the best chance of wind. It is a huge logistical challenge that we are happy to take on – but it has not worked over 6 weekends in the last 2 years, and I don’t think people will forgive us a third time. It’s hard for kiters and families, suppliers, brands, volunteers, staff and everyone involved – and we would carry on if it delivered what we need each year wind wise– but it hasn’t, and we need to take that onboard.

b) Picking one weekend enables us to deliver a greatly improved festival experience because we can plan it all long in advance and with confidence we know exactly when the event is happening.

c) We would be able get more public involvement as we could promote one weekend months in advance. I think this move would more than double footfall through the tents, opening up kiting to many more people, and enabling brands to support the festival with even greater confidence and providing a better opportunity to grow the sport and raise more funds for charity.

d) It will be warmer! Giving a nicer festival feel, better for camping, and again will attract more people.

e) It can act more as a summer season opening event, rather than a chilly weekend that closes the season. People motivated to buy new gear can use it over summer, people hearing about kiting for the first time can take up lessons right after the festival.

f) We can work out an even better schedule of talks and entertainment as people involved can commit much earlier – which can all be built into the brochure so people know what’s going on, and promoted through our media partners.

g) We will get more pro’s attending – many brands struggled to get their best riders to be available over 3 weekends. Over 1 weekend they would book them in.

h) We can improve loads of other areas of the festival itself – bringing in new things to keep it interesting and interactive, getting a greater variety of food concessions, arranging more stuff more stuff for kids etc – because we have just one weekend in mind and can plan accordingly.

The Kitesurfing

a) After the last 2 years we clearly need to change the downwinder and fundraising element of the event. Despite everyone being very supportive, we don’t want to have another experience of people fundraising and then not being able to do the mass downwinder they have been sponsored for. Most people are very cool about it, they can see we did everything we could to make it happen for them; they want the charities to benefit and ultimately wind is wind and they know we can’t control it. But there have been a few who are understandably a little uncomfortable with the situation having raised sponsorship, and we get it. Moving from 3 weekends to 1, with the challenges we have had even with the 3 weekend option – it seems crazy to promote the mass downwinder again, with the odds of that actually happening being even further reduced – we are setting ourselves up for more problems.

b) And alongside this, we want to try to broaden the kitesurfing element of the weekend anyway so the registration fee would include your rashie and access to all kinds of kitesurfing activities as well as foiling, racing, boardercross, big air, demos, taster sessions, recreational kiting – if we pick one weekend instead of 3 we can have so much more ready to go IF the wind delivers.

c) And of course everyone can still do the World Record Attempt as part of the weekend using the mile stretch from CBK to land on Hayling Public Beach. This significantly reduces the risk of people being disappointed about not being able to do the mass downwinder after raising sponsorship – but keeps the option of doing the World Record which people like and is a key part of the festival. And since it is hard for most people to ask the same people each year for sponsorship, we need to freshen up the way we raise funds through the event – using fundraising pages only for those who want them without any obligation and finding new ways of contributing through registration / auctions / text giving etc.

d) We also feel we could maximize fundraising in a different way using the World Record mile…fancy dress of course is always good, but maybe Kite Something Interesting could see people taking off in dingys, on ironing boards, doors etc…who knows what people would come up with. Could be fun. (Safety to be considered!)

We have seen that despite the challenging forecast in 2015 the kitesurfing community still came to support the event. Around two thirds of people who registered came, and considering the festival will be even bigger and better, we hope we can attract the others too – regardless of the wind. Based on the feedback we received, people want the weekend away, the community vibe, the chance to chat kitesurfing and catch up with mates, see new gear, hear some talks, have a party, bring the new van etc

We want the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival to be the place people come once a year to do all these things AND who knows, knowing our luck moving to a one weekend option we will suddenly get a weekend of amazing wind and can cram in loads of kitesurfing in too.

So that’s the plan! VKSA 2016 will be one massive kitesurfing extravanganza running on June 17th-19th on Hayling Island. We will be officially launching the event in late Feb / early March – but please save the date, come and get involved and we will see you all there. Thank you again for the fantastic support.