Mark Doyle’s fans were on high Tuesday as the 19-year-old local favorite surprised an elite field to win the Ford Gorge Games kiteboarding competition at the Hood River Event Site.
Employing a series of high-flying, body-cavorting maneuvers to impress the hometown crowd, the 2001 Trout Lake High School graduate oscillated his way past former world champion Martin Vari of Argentina in the finals.
“A lot of it is just going big,” said Doyle, who took second in the 2001 event. “That’s what impresses the judges. And it also helps if you can land everything.”
Doyle and Vari were the last two kites on the water after a scintillating day-long battle between world-class kiters such as Jeff Tobias (third), Ben Wilson (fourth), another former world champ, Julien Sadrat of France, and local standout David Tyburski.
2001 Gorge Games champion Adam Koch of Mokowao, Hawaii, was controversially ousted in the round of 16.
“People may not realize how deep this year’s field was,” said Tyburski, owner of New Wind Kiteboarding School and recent winner of the Cabarete World Cup title.
“Coming off a big win, I felt some of the hometown pressure. But I’ve been spending so much time with the school that I didn’t feel super solid. Either way, I’m happy with top eight.”
Also joining Tyburski in the quarterfinals were Sky Solbach, Jaime Herraiz and Sudrat, but few onlookers could look past the performance of Doyle, who is sponsored by local kite manufacturer, Slingshot.
“There were so many good guys this year that it ended up coming down to who had the best variety,” he said.
Doyle took home $5,000 for his breakout performance, while Vari netted $3,000, Tobias $1,500 and Wilson $500.