The Snowkiting World Cup: Eric Marchand, Man on a Mission
Every two years, the Snowkiting World Cup - the largest snowkiting competition in the world - is held in North America. This year is one of those years, and on February 10th-17th, hundreds of snowkiters from around the world will come together in Quebec, to compete for the title of World Champion. With a format similar to kite course racing on the water (which is very similar to sailboat racing), the contest consists mainly of triangle races, with upwind and downwind reaches, where the main goal to be the first person across the finish line.
In 2001, Best Team Rider Eric Marchand won the World Cup, and this year, not only will he attempt to win the World Title once again, he will also attempt to defend his title as winner of the 2007 Quebec Snowkiting Cup. The Quebec Snowkiting Cup consists of three stops, with the World Cup in February essentially doubling as the second stop of the Quebec Cup, and will conclude with the third stop in Pointe-Claire, on March 7-9th, where the winner (the person with the best overall score) will be declared.
So far Eric is off to a brilliant start, having just won the first stop of the Quebec Cup this past weekend (Jan 25-27th). Here, Eric shares a little about himself, his background, and the ever-growing sport of snowkiting. We'll be following Eric on his journey over the next couple of months, so stay tuned!
Rider Profile: Eric Marchand
Where are you from, and where do you live currently? I am from Quebec, Canada and I currently live in the Magdalen Islands since 1998.
How old are you? 38.
When did you start kiting? In 1997.
How did you become interested in kiting? I was a professional snowboarder and I wanted to use something that will allow me to go across the snow-covered fields.
What kind of kites did you learn on, and who taught you? I first used ram air kites (foil kites). Mostly I learned by myself. At some point I was taught by Peter Lynn in New Zealand.
Were you a skier first? No. I only competed snowboarding. I was two times in a row Canadian champion in half pipe.
Do you kite in the water? If so, you do this first, or did you snowkite first? I snowkited first. Now I kite in the water also. We have the biggest kiting school in Canada in the Magdalen Islands. 3000 thousand clients come each summer to learn from us ... www.aerosport.ca
If you do water kite, which do you prefer? Which one do you think is easier? Which do you feel you're better at? I like both of them. Different sensations. Different climates.
How often do you get to kite? I try to kite everyday.
What do you do for a living? I own Aerosport.ca, the biggest kiting school in Canada.
What was your first job, and how did you get from there, to where you are now? My first job was to deliver balloons in hospitals to make people happy. When I first tried powerkiting, it changed my life from the sensation I got from it. I am also a paraglider, I like to fly. Evel Knievel is my hero! So when I discovered powerkiting I knew it was going to be the best sport for me.
Who are your sponsors, and what is your involvement with Best? My sponsors are BEST kites, HELLY HANSEN, DAKINE, CARRERA sunglasses, ROSSIGNOL skis. We use BEST kites in our school and I think BEST make the best products for our customers to learn on and to progress with those same kites. I try to get involved with designers to give my feedback. I also try to promote BEST in all events I attend.
This year, you're defending your title as winner of the Quebec Snowkiting Cup. What makes up the Quebec Snowkiting Cup? Last year I won the Quebec Snowkiting Cup, which is three stops in all. This year, the second stop is the World Cup (they take points from the World Cup, and use them as points towards the Quebec Cup.) This year, I am trying to win the WISSA (World Ice and Snow Sailing Association) World Cup - I was the world champion in 2001 - and to defend my title in the Quebec Snowkiting Cup. They are mostly races, triangles, the same as on water. I am competing in the men's division which is the largest category (almost 100 competiters from all over the world). It is an Olympic triangle race. There is no judge for the races as it is the first that goes along the line.
How big is the World Cup, and who competes in it? It is the largest snowkiting competition in the World. Lots of European do the Tour. Every two years it is here in America. I think there are some very good kiters out there that never compete. But to become good you need to compete against other competitors.
In a way, it must be easier not to be a Defending Champion. That's a lot of pressure. How are you dealing with that? I am loving it!!!!
How are you preparing/training for the competition? I kite as much as I can in every condition.
Who are the biggest contenders in your division? Russians.
Do you do anything off the slopes or water, as part of a training regimen? I just kite as much as I can.
What kites are you currently riding? Nemesis HP.
Before Best, what kites did you ride? Foil kites.
For snowkiting, do you prefer bow kites or c kites? And why? Bow kites because they are ease of use, they offer safety, stability and power.
What changes or improvements do you feel are needed to the current kites that would be beneficial to snow kiters? The valve system so you don't freeze your fingers!
How would you describe your riding style? Freeride.
What are you working on now? Go as fast as I can.
What is the hardest trick you can do? Backside and frontside 1080.
What do you like least about snowkiting? Freezing my fingers and having to wear heavy clothes.
What are your favorite conditions for snowkiting? Deep snow, not too cold, between 15 and 20 knots
Are there any conditions that you don't do well in, or would try to avoid if you could? Ice.
What's the best place you've ever snowkited? At home in the Magdalen Islands, Quebec.
What other snow kiters do you most admire, or have influenced your riding style? My girlfriend.
How has the sport of snow kiting grown or changed since you first got into it? I have been in the sport for 12 years now. I've seen lots of positive change true the years, mostly the last few years with all the new product developement (kite design).
What new directions is the sport taking? I think the sport needs to go a bit more mainstream to get more recognition and inspire confidence to people so the sport can still grow without any beaches close.
How big is the snow kite community, and how do you all stay on top of things ... is there a big snowkiting forum that everyone's a part of? Ya, snowkiting is getting very big because it is very accessible compared to water. All northern countries with frozen lakes and snow covered fields. It is easier to learn on snow than on water. Kitezone.ca is the forum we use mostly in Canada.
What do you do in the offseason, when you're not snow kiting? I kitesurf in the Bahamas. We have a sailboat down there and I teach kiting in the Magdalen Islands.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Same place as I am now. I enjoy living in the Magdalen Islands. Kiting year around on snow and water and vacationing in the Bahamas maybe travel some more to discover some more spots and teach people how to kite. I love to share this passion with people.
Congratulations, Eric, on the weekend's win! We wish you all the best in the upcoming season!