Top-level kitesurfers who competed in the freestyle championships in Skegness say they have been so blown away by the resort and the welcome they received they can’t wait to come back.
The community and businesses came together to welcome the British Kite Sports Association (BKC) Freestyle Championships and the competitors who had travelled from around the country to take part.
And when the wind was just not quite strong enough for the competitions, taster sessions in powerkiting still went ahead and crowds were able to watch breathtaking displays on a spine ramp by Team Extreme, including six times world champion BMX rider Mark Webb.
Andy Gratwick, chairman of the BKC, said: “I’m very pleased with how the weekend went. We had a successful event with the wind finally kicking in on the Sunday to complete the championships.
“For tasters it was perfect all weekend and we introduced 200 people to kite-sports, which is great.
“I’ve also got to say that the beach is one of the best that we have ever run events at: there’s 100 metres between low and high tide, the competitors were able to camp right next to the site, there’s a lovely big rigging area and loads of open space in the sea.
“In the end the wind gave us a really positive ending to a great weekend and huge thanks for the warm welcome we had from the organisers at the Grosvenor House Hotel and the Visit Lincs Coast team. We will be back!”
The championships at the weekend were part of the first East Coast Beach and Watersports Festival, funded by headline sponsors Russ Sparkes of the Grosvenor House Hotel and the Lincolnshire Coastal BID.
Preparations began on Wednesday with Skegness Police Cadets and Coastal Access for All volunteers turning out in the evening to remove rubbish and rocks from the beach that might have proven a hazard to riders.
Friday was the schools power kiting taster sessions, with 70 students from Great Steeping Primary School, Hogsthorpe Primary Academy and Skegness Academy getting tuition led by British Kite Sports Association instructor Will Kay.
Will said he was particularly impressed when a student returned the next day with her parents and carried on improving her powerkite flying technique for the entire festival.
“It’s very gratifying when a student is inspired to take up the sport and find out more about how to get involved,” said Will.
The organisers were supported over the weekend by Skegness Ambassadors and senior police cadet Ben White who had helped on Wednesday took his friends along to join the volunteers.
East Lindsey District Council’s beach cleaning team made sure the sand was perfectly raked to show it at its best and Magna Vitae provided the showers for competitors at its refurbished leisure centre.
The weekend started on Saturday morning with an opening ceremony including the Skegness Junior Marching Band and Wainfleet Warriors Wainfleet Warriors All Star Cheer and Dance.
Many businesses also supported the weekend, with the Pier Beach Bar providing live music on its outside stage. The Hildreds Centre held a kite workship run by Steve and Wendy Gould, with 200 kites being made to fly at the festival.
Russ Sparkes said: “We were overwhelmed how people came together to help make the event a success and would like to thank everyone who got involved and helped. This is just the start, We are now looking at how we can take the event forward in the future and make it bigger and even better.”
Reaction from businesses was also good. Former Mayor Coun Danny Brookes, who has a kiosk on the sea front said: “The town was extremely busy and when we asked if people had come for the kite festival they were very positive about it.”
Lisa Collins, BID manager, said: “We were delighted to sponsor this new and exciting event. This is exactly what we need to host on the Lincolnshire coast to ensure we attract new visitors to the area.
“This was demonstrated with participants travelling to the event from across the country. The entrants and participants loved our beach and town and are very keen to return. Many said they had no idea how good the beaches are. The town was busy and had a great atmosphere, the beach was fully utilised and it was fantastic to see the kitesurfers in action as well as the performances from Team Extreme. Everyone involved is delighted at the success of the season’s first major event.”