Although wind is usually regarded as a hindrance in the eyes of the Animal Bike Tour, once a year it is completely embraced at the South coast’s largest action sports festival, Windfest.
The family atmosphere, vast range of activities and amazing demos, always make this festival, on the doorstep of Animal HQ, one of our favourite stops of the tour. This year though the weather forecast wasn’t looking great, making the task of deploying the rig to the wet sand of Sandbanks beach in Poole that bit more demanding. In prefect weather conditions we can concentrate all of our energy on delivering the best shows possible, but with rain and wind forecast, and memories of Bournemouth Air Fest fresh in our minds, we were a little bit worried about the challenges that lay ahead. But once again we would prevail glorious in the face of the home crowd, make a pact with the weather, and deliver some of our most exciting shows of the year.
The event is run over three days and arriving early on Friday the atmosphere was building. The miserable morning weather cleared and the boardwalk started to vibrate with the throb of expectancy. The two shows we performed on the Friday both had humble beginnings, but rapidly built into healthy sized crowds who were super appreciative of the performances Blake and Martyn put on. This was early days for Windfest and we were excited for the main days of the weekend ahead.
Saturday came round quickly, and as the morning progressed there were patches of blue in the sky, a strong breeze blowing and a sky line filled with kites and windsurfers, the beach became flooded with people up for a day of free entertainment. Windfest was on!
It’s hard to get across the atmosphere of Windfest with words, but if I had to use one adjective it would be ‘friendly’. Windfest is in it’s 13th year, and everywhere roams a familiar happy face; Matt Crowhurst was there with some of the nations best at the wakeboard pool gap, Redbull put on the skateboard demos and banging tunes, the beach was littered with free to try windsurfers and a scattering of famous faces showing everyone how it’s done.
Animal Team rider Bubble showed us a few flips and was joined by our own Robin Kitchin (Tour Manager), for a blast in the clear waves. In the main Marquee during the day there was a table tennis tournament, a family area with bands playing, face painting, and an array of children’s activities, and then by night played host to the awesome Windfest parties. Also on the beach were free kitesurfing introductions, and the ever popular slackliners who had their National Championship at the event, and a constant queue of people lining up for a go.
There is also a serious element of competition on and off the water with Life guard paddle races, sea swimming, SUP 5mile round Brown sea Island race, Sea Surf and Nipper racing, Windsurfing/Kitesurfing racing and freestyle comps, ultimate Frisbee and volleyball tournaments, and all with beginner tasters and coaching going on. And of course Jay Stevenson on the event Mic keeping everyone informed and up to speed with all the amazing proceedings on and off the water.
After a run of fantastical shows, mainly due to the awesome-tastic Sandbanks crowds, who always bring out the best in the riders with an overwhelming amount of support, it was time for the commencement of operation Legendary Saturday Night Windfest Party!!
This year’s theme was “Rubix Cube” – the Idea being to dress in all six colours of the Rubix cube then throughout the night make friends and swap clothes until you are mono coloured by the time you leave. Martyn stayed in for a night of Kung Fu Panda, whilst the rest of us headed out to cause our own blows to style! Due to these fashion infringements it was a hilarious Saturday night Windfest party but the pics are currently banned – so instead…
Sunday was forecast as the worst day of the weekend for weather…but turned out to be the finest! Yes the wind was out to cause trouble, but the guys were on a high after the amazing responses from the pervious day’s shows and were getting truly stuck in, serving up liquid hot golden performances every show regardless. They shared the skies in the afternoon with the incredible Red Bull Matadors. Their bonkers aerobatic show finished with a heart shaped cloud stream to also show their love for Windfest.
“Every year it seems to get better, there were so many people watching the shows and all so up for it. It’s an incredible feeling to ride a show with such a buzzing atmosphere.”
“At times I felt like an untethered human kite…but even in those harsh meteorological conditions it’s futile to resist pushing yourself as far as you can in front of such great crowds.”
As the sand of the final show on Sunday settled we began our breakdown (of the show not sanity). It was our fastest beach break down yet, I guess the more you do something the better you get at it, it certainly rings true here. I can remember the year the sun had long passed the horizon by the time the last vehicle left the sand of Windfest!
So although not the best weather for the Bike Tour, we prevailed, and in doing so helped play our part in one of the most successful Windfest’s on record!