The Winds of Corona

From Redbull Ragnarok to being stuck in Munich

Stay Strong – Du ist Stark

March 8th 2020, my fellow kitesurfer and rider from Kuwait Abdulaziz Albanna and I started our trip and preparation camp for the biggest Snowkite event ever, the Rebdull Ragnarok 2020. It is the 10th addition of the snowkite race that Redbull organizes. The Ragnarok should take place in Norway between March 19 and 22. It was expected to have 400 riders from 30 different countries. We were super excited to get into the race and to also get sponsored to go on the race. We were flattered.

Our program for the race was to start the camp in Austria, spend 10 days on the snow and the mountains. Get our body adjusting to the snow and skies. It is the first time for both of us to do snowkiting. We managed to find snowkiting schools in Austria, and our program was to snowkite on the windy days, and ski on the other days. For Aziz, it is his first time on the snow, thus we got some days for him to learn and practice snowboard, as a snowboard is his choice for snowkiting, and my choose is to ski.

Our first stop in Austria was in Tyrol. We wanted to snowkite near Achensee lake, however increasing weather temperatures melted all the snow. We utilized couple of days in Kitzbuhel to warm up on the snow. And immediately we moved to Obertauern, Salzburg.

On March 10, we drove from Kitzbuhel to Obertauern, about two hours in the car. When I arriving at Obertauern I felt like discovering a hidden gem in the Austrian’s Alps. The village sets above 1600m elevation, small in size and full of fun vibes; apres ski and party crowd. And ironically , the Beatles came to Obertauern in 1965 to film their album Help!

On our second or third day, indeed it was Friday, in Obertauern we got the news that Redbull Ragnarok is cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic. Earlier we got the news from home that Kuwait is shutting down the airport completely on Friday night. It was hard situation, initially we thought we could continue snow-kiting in Austria then move to Norway for the race, by the time the race is over, we thought the airport will be running again. We didn’t have much choices, first no flights from Munich to Kuwait on Friday, our closest airport and the airport we flew-to from Kuwait. Second, Friday and Saturday forecast was showing good wind, and good days for us to practice snow kiting.

As kitesurfers, we choose to chase the wind. We chose to stay in Obertauern and quarantine there till the pandemic passes. However, not before that same Friday evening, we get informed that Obertauern will be completely shutdown starting Monday. We didn’t waste a minute, we kept skiing and snow kiting till Sunday afternoon.

The wind on Sunday was great, I was completely in control of my kite, getting into the directions I want, and I was able to make small jumps. The only downside of the conditions that day was the icy grounds. The prior two days were a bit warm in Obertauern, and the snow was melting and then freezing on the windy day, which makes jumping on the ice a bit scary for beginners.

In Obertauern we met with Florian, an awesome Austrian and full of adrenaline, and full of enthusiasm for the spot. Florian has a kite school called Hang On, he teaches kitesurfing in the summer and snow kiting during the winter. He got a nice tiny Huate on the side of slopes, where all the kite gear are stored, and strategically located near the high voltage electricity cables, which only adds to the adrenaline rush!

Florian, Obertauern March 2020
Florian – Hang On Kite – Obertauern

I am thankful for Florian for brining us to Obertauern and give us the chance to experience snowkiting. Though Redbull Ragnarok got canceled in 2020, we are still determined in doing the race next year. I left my skies and ski boots in Obertauern, because I’m promising myself to only start the next ski season there, and get seriously developed in Snowkiting.

Meanwhile, March 23, is my 9th day staying at the the Sofitel hotel in the city of Munich, waiting to get the news of opening Kuwait’s airport, and the news only long wait to come. The city of Munich have gone under curfew for three days now, and its on going for 2 weeks. The hotel is quite empty, we are less than 10 people now occupying a 500 rooms hotel. There are about 20 to 30 strong and brave people coming to work here everyday to keep the hotel running for us 8 people. The staying in this hotel is becoming a real life experience of the song Hotel California;

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’

I’m working with Aziz on editing some videos of our trip and hope to post soon. Stay tuned, Stay Healthy, and Stay STRONG.

Du ist Stark!

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