Could you endure 5 hours of non-stop snowkiting?

Going through the Red Bull Ragnarok course requires more than kiteboarding skills: it demands grit.
By Dom Granger

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök – or the doom of the gods – is a cyclical end of the world, a battle of the gods and the forces of good and evil, where everything on Earth is destroyed and flooded, where only a few survive. After Ragnarök, there is re-birth. Just like the cycle of the seasons… and just like the Red Bull snowkite event, where only a few competitors actually complete the course, but many come back, year after year, for the battle with the elements.

A battle against the elements and against each other

Venue of Red Bull Ragnarok Haugastol Norway Mars 31 2017
A one-of-a-kind venue © Daniel Tengs/Red Bull Content Pool

Well let us tell you, the name of the event was extremely well chosen: with only eight out of 350 competitors actually completing all five laps in under five hours, it's indeed pretty representative of the Nordic tale after which the event is named.

This year more than ever the course was tough. Really tough. The organisers decided to make the course even more challenging than in the six previous editions of the event. The course was 30 percent longer (making it the longest ever Red Bull Ragnarok), with a goal of five laps of 26km each, adding up to a total of a gruelling 130km.

And as if this wasn't enough, the distance is calculated in a straight line from checkpoint to checkpoint, but the distance actually covered could be more than 10 percent more than that. As kiteboarding works a lot like sailing, you often can't go from point A to B  in a straight line, so you have to zig zag, which increases the real distance. Felix Kersten, winner of the men's ski category, actually rode 145km, as you can see from his GPS tracking.

Getting into the action

Participant at the 2017 Red Bull Ragnarok snowkite race in Norway
The local population skyrocketed that day © LightBros Productions

But just being part of the race is an experience in itself. The start is a truly unique view from the outside: The colourful kites, looking like a bunch of multicoloured balloons floating on a white snowy background, is far from an ordinary, everyday sight.

Buzzing with activity in the launch zone

But the experience is even more unique from the inside. Kite tangles are to be expected and only the luckiest and most skilled riders will be able to make it through all five checkpoints. Because, yes, there's some luck involved. If you find yourself at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong kite, you might not be able to continue. This is what happened to Christophe Tack, and what almost happened to our reporter in the video above.

Behind the scenes

The course took the competitors to the top of ridges, where the winds were blowing up to speeds of 80kph or more, all the way down to the valleys below, where the wind slowed to barely 15kph. Needless to say that these extreme wind conditions made getting from gate to gate a real challenge.

Aerial view from the kite of the Red Bull Ragnarok race
Watch out for: rocks, holes, moss... and people © LightBros Productions

Aside from that, you had to:

  • Not get lost
  • Slalom through rocks and patches of moss
  • Dodge kites falling out of the ski in lower wind areas
  • Have the mental strength not to abandon the whole thing and lie in a foetal position after riding for hours on end (trying to do the first three points above)

The face of a tired person

Participant at the 2017 Red Bull Ragnarok snowkite race in Norway
Best way in the world to work on your goggle tan © LightBros Productions

The feeling of completing the race, or at least one lap, is one of satisfaction, relief and accomplishment. And as much as it hurts everywhere for the few days after, you'll soon find yourself struggling to get one idea out of your mind: that you'll do better next year.

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