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Ro-Sham kite contest highlights growing trend

Pro kiteboarders Sam Light, Brandon Scheid and Alex Fox finished one-two-three Saturday in an exciting final heat of the week-long Ro-Sham-Throwdown kiteboarding contest. Using a “terrain park” of jumps, rails and sliders anchored at the east end of the Hood River delta, the event brought some of the sport’s most progressive athletes to town to compete in the fast-evolving niche of “slopestyle” kiteboarding.

The annual event started early last week with several rounds of elimination heats to narrow down the field of competitors to the top 12, who would move on to compete in Saturday’s main event. A women’s contest was also held during the week, which saw Colleen Carroll rising to the top over fellow finalists Colleen Carroll, Sensi Graves, Laura Maher and Dominique Granger.

After variable wind all week, Saturday’s final was held in light but workable conditions. Three preliminary heats that day brought the field of 12 down to the top six, with several notable kiters getting knocked out of the competition by their more progressive adversaries. The final round pitted Light, Shield, Fox, Craig Cunningtham, Sam Medesky and Eric Rienstra against one another in an impressive showing that awarded points for technical difficulty, style and overall use of obstacles.

Judges gave Light top honors after putting in the best all-around performance. Scheid edged out Fox for second place by a mere 1.5 points.

“The level of competition was incredible,” said Forest Rea, co-founder of the event and a judge this year. “In particular, Sam Light’s riding was insane.”

Relatively new to the kiteboarding world, in-water rails, sliders and kickers have evolved directly from snowboarding and skateboarding features of the same sort. The Hood River delta is unique around the world in that it’s one of the few places with direct wind, shallow water and a community of kiteboarders dedicated enough to build and maintain features free and open to the general public.

The Ro-Sham-Throwdown, and the features used for the event, were created by the Hood River Slider Project, a local nonprofit whose purpose is to supporting the growth of the sport in the Gorge.

“It’s definitely a growing trend,” Rea said. “We’re seeing a lot more young riders out there kiteboarding because it follows in the footsteps of snowboarding and skateboarding.”

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