'Women of Ireland, get on your board!'
Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30
In the rare Irish sunshine, Dollymount Strand could be confused for Bondi Beach this weekend as the 10th annual 'Battle for the Bay' Watersport Festival brings world champion kitesurfers, beach volleyball players, land yacht enthusiasts and everything in between, to Dublin Bay.
As music pulsed and professional athletes prepped their equipment yesterday morning, Frenchman Francois Colussi, who runs the local kitesurfing school Pure Magic, told the Sunday Independent what spurred him to establish the festival.
"Ireland is fantastic for kite surfing," he says.
"And it took a little while for people to understand how lucky we actually are here."
The festival began as a small gathering of 50 in 2006 to celebrate the sport and has grown into a two-day watersports festival that expects a footfall of 10,000 this weekend, with fireworks lighting up the bay last night to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
"It is high-performance kitesurfing but we are mixing it, celebrating the sport - a mix of professionals with amateurs," says Francois.
"The two main sports for international competitors are stand-up paddle boarding and kiteboarding, inviting the best from Hawaii, to California, all around Europe and everywhere.
"And then there's loads of fringe events such as power kiting and land yachts, the beach volleyball is huge and there's so much entertainment, with a funfair, beach market and music.
"The main message is come to the beach and enjoy," he said.
World Champion kite surfer Jalou Langeree flew into Dublin from her home in Holland in order to compete for the coveted title of 'Queen of the Bay'.
Jalou, who has been kiting since the age of 12 and has won several international titles in wave riding, currently leads the ladies' world-ranking list.
"I'm super excited to be here," she said.
"Ireland is really good for kitesurfing, especially in the west of Ireland where there's some beautiful waves and it's really windy."
After spending the past few months training in Capetown where she'd spend up to four hours a day on the water, Dublin is her first stop as she prepares to take part in up to 45 international competitions this year.
"I love everything about kitesurfing," the 26-year-old Dutch athlete explains.
"I really like to be in the ocean, it just makes you feel really free and it's been taking me all over the world.
"It's a sport for anybody," she added. "It's easy to pick up for younger people and you can make it as extreme as you want."
However, the world champion said: "It's definitely a sport dominated by men, so I hope to be a role model for other females to get into extreme sport and make it more accessible so they don't get scared by all the men in the sport," she laughs.
While she said it's "slowly" improving, she added "I don't think there's too many girls kiting in Ireland."
With some encouraging parting words, Jalou implored Irish women to hit the waves.
"Women of Ireland, get out there. There's beautiful beaches, there's plenty of water, plenty of wind so yeah, I don't know what you're waiting for, get on your board!"
The free and family friendly festival continues today, with competitions and events taking place from 9.30am until 6pm on Dollymount Strand.