AS LIGHT winds zipped across Hayling Bay yesterday one reveller jokingly likened the conditions for the seventh Kitesurfing Armada Festival to the French Riviera.
In truth it was six degrees cooler, but the first official days of summer were a smash hit as the event drew its biggest crowd to date.
By Saturday afternoon organiser Dan Charlish was already celebrating the arrival of more than 5,000 festivalgoers – a Hayling armada record with Sunday events still to go.
And partly to thank were the scores who went along for the first time – like South African pals Theo Botha and Peter Mack.
‘I’ve lived on the island for about eight months now and I’ve obviously heard a lot about the event,’ said Mr Mack, 44.
‘Living on the island I do a lot of open-water swimming so I see kite surfers on a daily basis, all-year round, but it's lovely to see all these people enjoying the same thing I get to see every time I look outside my window.’
Mr Botha, 43 from Buckinghamshire, added: ‘Being South African this is something we see at home a lot, but to see it done so well here is amazing. It makes me feel proud of the UK because this is world class.’
The festival, which has previously raised more than £200,000 for charity, welcomed revellers at 10am on Friday – kick-starting a weekend of live music, professional watersport demonstrations and extreme sport workshops.
For Team GB athlete Jasmine Wallis, 17 from Portsmouth, Saturday’s conditions were perfect for hydrofoil kitesurfing, which sees riders use light wind to maneouver water using a board with a wing lifting it off the surface.
‘The armada is one of the biggest events of the year and I've been having a blast trying out some new foils,’ said the three-time visitor.
On the hundreds watching her in action from Hayling Beach, she added: ‘You get a rush of adrenaline that kicks in and you just want to keep coming back.’
The free event also inspired some revellers to try something new, like Adam Cloke from Clanfield.
The 38-year-old said: ‘I'm definitely going to give kitesurfer a go and come down and get some lessons at some stage.’