[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 12:24 GMT
Island gets extreme makeover
By David Fuller
BBC News Online, Isle of Wight

Louise Emery
The competition sees UK finals in five different extreme sports
A decade ago the idea of an extreme sports festival on the Isle of Wight would have seemed a joke.

As Paul McCartney sang in the Beatles' hit When I'm 64, the island was seen as the kind of place to retire to, or for a family holiday at most.

But as it becomes a Mecca for extreme sports enthusiasts, this image is no longer accurate.

People's impressions of the island have changed, and the main reason is the White Air extreme sports festival, according to its organiser.

Now in its seventh year, White Air, which finishes on Sunday, has grown from a windsurfing contest of 30 competitors in 1997 to the largest extreme sports festival in Europe.

It's amazing how well it's done - it promotes a different image of the Isle of Wight, an outdoor, trendy one
Elaine Cesar
"The competition has changed people's ideas about the Isle of Wight, it's as simple as that," says Nigel Howell, the man behind the festival.

He reckons the Isle of Wight is the best place in the country for wind-dependent extreme sports.

"Every wind direction and surf angle is covered, if the wind's coming from the wrong direction here, just move round the coast," he said.

"In seven years, we've had a result in every category and that's almost unheard of in competitions like this."

Paragliding courses

In the last 10 years, extreme sports courses have sprung up all over the island, and now you are as likely to see adverts for paragliding courses as coach tours.

"Even the local school, Sandown High School, has started doing windsurfing," Mr Howell said.

Elaine Cesar, of the Isle of Wight council's leisure department, said they had supported the festival since the beginning.

"It's amazing how well it's done - it promotes a different image of the Isle of Wight, an outdoor, trendy one," she said.

Vert ramp
On land, White Air offers BMX, skateboarding and mountain boarding
It is one of the few events that sees champions in several different extreme sports come together, setting aside any antagonisms between the different disciplines.

As newly-crowned Triple Crown windsurf champion Louise Emery puts it: "Normally kitesurfers are the enemy, there's only so many people who will do these sports, and we're in competition with them."

Mr Howell believes White Air allows people to see through the "egos and antagonism".

"Here everyone gets to see the other sports up close, and develop a respect for them - whatever sport you do, you watch the other guys on the water and you just think 'wow, that's impressive'," he said.

Simple aim

For Mr Howell, a former World Cup wavesailor and keen kitesurfer himself, the festival's main aim is a simple one.

He wants to see as many spectators and as many children as possible at the event.

"It's simple, the kids coming to watch us this week are the future - they're the next generation of champions."

White Air Extreme Sports festival, Sandown, Isle of White, Saturday October 25 to Sunday November 2.



Dog on crest of a wave
25 Jul 03  |  Cornwall
Indoor surfing proposed
15 May 03  |  Cornwall
Pair steamed up on mountain
23 Apr 03  |  Gloucestershire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific