Kiting, Community, and Charity

Published on June 18th, 2014

The Virgin Kitesurfing Armada began as an idea to raise funds for charity by getting together some local kitesurfers from Lancing Kitesurfing Club to undertake an endurance downwinder – originally from Hayling Island to Lancing in the UK – to raise sponsorship for youth charity Snow-Camp, the founding charity of the event.

Initially entitled The Big Charity Downwinder, the event grew at a rapid rate and had over 300 kitesurfers signed up within months. Virgin came onboard as Title Sponsors in the last month before the event, Sir Richard Branson committed to attend, and the event was renamed the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada.

In 2013, the inaugural event successfully ran on 15th September 2013, setting a new World Record with 318 kitesurfers riding together and raising over £70,000 for its supported charities. This year, the event has set the target of getting over 500 GPS tracked kitesurfers to ride together for fifteen miles from Hayling Island to Pagham and raise funds for three charities: Snow-Camp, Virgin Unite, and the RNLI.

“It is magnificent a world record can be made by so many people,” said Sir Richard Branson, who led last year’s record-breaking fleet. “I think the most important thing that any of us can do is stay healthy and stay active, and if you can do it in a fun way like kitesurfing, so much the better. There is something absolutely magical about kitesurfing; you are out there on the waves being blown by the wind without any Blackberries or iPhones.”

Steph Bridge, four-time Kite World Champion and current European Race titleholder, sees the event as hugely positive for kiting. “It is very unique in that there are a huge number of kitesurfers in this country who are all doing their own thing, on their own beaches, but there is a sense of community around this event where everyone gets together to support a great cause by raising funds for three important charities. It is also a fun challenge as the weather is never straightforward in this country and you need to be prepared for anything!”

The event operates on a ‘wind window format’ meaning the dates of the festival are dependent of specific wind conditions. This year the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada will run the first weekend that the conditions meet the criteria on 13-14 September, 27-28 September or 11-12 October. An official decision will be made and communicated to participants 48 hours beforehand based on the forecast.

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