Kiteboarders from around the world gathered in northeastern Brazil this past Saturday for the first edition of the Red Bull Rally dos Ventos, a unique competition that sees athletes travel across both sand and water. Local hero Alexandre Neto won the men’s event, with Kristiin Oja from Estonia the fastest woman.
The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, also known as the wettest desert on the planet, hosted the first ever Red Bull Rally dos Ventos this Saturday, a one-of-a-kind kiteboard competition where athletes must overcome sand dunes up to 45m tall to reach the natural lagoons that make the place unique.
On a course measuring 16km, the rules were simple: the first to arrive at the finish line wins. The challenge, though, was very complicated, riders normally used to water were suddenly having to also deal with sand.
Among the starting field were athletes from four countries, with a strong contingent of local riders keen to impress. The winner of the men’s competition was Alexandre Neto, who is currently in the top 5 standings on the PKRA World Tour. The Brasilian beat Carlos “Baby” Mário on the final metres to claim top spot.
“I was in first place during almost the entire race, but right before the end I made a mistake and Carlos moved into first place,” said Neto after the race. “When we got to the last dune, I saw that he picked a path through the dune and I decided to go to his right. Fortunately I found water and could accelerate over the lagoon to win the race.”
The women’s event also saw a high-class field take on this unique desert challenge. Among the riders participating were two former world champions, the Brazilian Bruna Kajiya and the American Susi Mai, but it was Kristiin Oja from Estonia who outshone them all to claim victory.
“I did not have a good start and I saw a lot of kites in front of me. As anyone could pick different paths, I did not realise that I had passed all of them. I was really surprised when I was told that I was the fastest woman. I was super happy to be in first place and I’m even happier now the result has been confirmed,” smiled Oja in the finish area.
Final Standings Men:
1. Alexandre Neto, BRA – 37.3s
2. Carlos Mário (Bebê), BRA – 37.45s
3. Bruno Lobo, BRA – 39.12s
4. Wanderson Souza, BRA – 40.47s
5. Roberto Veiga, BRA – 50.05s