Our Local Beach
The previous weekend the Local Council sponsored a horse racing event on our beach – a first in Australia. The pleasant wafting smell of horse dung, jockeys in their colourful silks, handsome and powerful horses whinnying and snorting, fun-fair attractions and food stalls along the park made it all a bit of a special day. This very colourful event drew 50,000 people to the area.
The Council is trying its darndest to liven up the local economy. Having no interest in this once sleepy-hollow becoming some dynamic tourist drawcard we, however, are in two minds about it all. Rockingham Beach already attracts a considerable amount of tourists and weekend picnickers and has a dozen or so beach-side bars and restaurants for all to enjoy – enough for us anyway. With the recently built Quest international hotel, a fancy yacht marina yet to be approved, the prospective construction of another international hotel chain and more high-rise apartments on the foreshore, this sleepy-hollow is waking up.
As yet, there’s little to complain about and for the last six days down our end of the beach, where my wife swims her 2km per day, we have had the International Hydrofoil Kite-Boarding Championship. We’ve been able to observe this strange sport from close up. The weather is currently perfect; the wind comes in every afternoon and the beach, with its pale sand and translucent, turquoise water, borders on being idyllic.
Hydrofoil Kite-boards are a strange craft. Under the board, a long aerofoil shaft extends one metre down and on which, at its foot, is the hydrofoil which in appearance and shape is remarkably like a flattened model aeroplane.
The kites themselves seem to have evolved from the ordinary kite-boarding kites too. They are longer, not as wide and do not require air to be pumped into their leading edge (they have vents along the fore-edge to consume the air). They are clever designs. They have an even greater web of cords attached and they are not cheap. I had it confirmed this afternoon that the kites cost around $AUD2000 each and the boards with their appendages another $AUD1500 – and, these enthusiasts tend to have different kites for different wind conditions.
In addition, they must bear the cost of travel around the world to these events which offer perhaps as little as a $10,000 prize kitty. Are we witnessing yet another ‘Sport of Kings, Princes and Rock Stars’ (including a ‘female’ and ‘youth’ category)? Francophiles will be pleased to know that a Frenchman cleaned up in every event. He, clearly, has the tactical-sailor’s knack of reading and working the wind’s vagaries. There will have been much champagne consumed.
It is fascinating watching them set out. When they get their kites up above and have hopped down into the water they need a bit of depth, but once on the board and underway they give a little hop and a backwards lean and up they come out of the water looking for all the world like they are riding above the water on a stalk. The advantage, and difference, is that these babies can reach speeds of 45 knots (83kph) and even more. That is seriously fast on the water; the old kite boarders would be lucky to do 30 knots. Coming back in to the beach most adopt a well-practiced and stylish landing which necessitates jettisoning the board with a flashy tilt just before its hydrofoil hits bottom.
Oh, and did I mention the kite colours? With 50 or so beating about out there they make a pretty picture in the bay. Skill, prowess, technique, tactics and a certain physical strength – it seems to have it all. They couldn’t complain about lack of wind either. On the last of the races the wind was gusting in what I estimate was the 20 knot range: they had to use smaller kites. The course they sailed (or is it ‘flew’) was quite long and with multiple runs throughout each afternoon. Quite tiring, I’d imagine, even for these fit folk, but clearly good fun too.