The Lebanon Water Festival held the kiteboarding contest at the Rabbit Island near Tripoli on Sunday August 23, 2015. It is the first time since 2012 that it was calm enough to hold a sporting event in Tripoli.
7 amateurs and 12 professional kiteboarders from Lebanon and Germany took part in the event, which was organized in collaboration with Sun & Surf for the sporting event and Oceanic Dive Center, Eddy Daou for the rescue and security logistics. The event was held in difficult conditions, with unequal wind all around the island, which forced the cancellation of the freestyle challenge. Riders were however able to compete in the race, judged by Henri Esseily. In the women's division, Tatiana Lati won the first position, while Stephanie Mansour took the second position and Roba Hamadani finished third. In the men's division, Josef El-Kerdi took the first position putting up a strong battle against the wind and arrived in 38 minutes. Charbel Abou Chibil took the second position and Mario Abou Chibil finished third.
"It was very important this year to be able to hold an event in Tripoli and be able to promote this beautiful region of Lebanon. Since we started in 2012 the instability would always play against us and force us to cancel last minute. The Rabbits Island is a beautiful location being cared for by the Palm Islands Nature Reserve Management Committee. Having held the Kiteboarding event there for the first time, it is now clear to us that in the future, Tripoli shores would be more advantageous for the quality of the event. In addition we have already discussed developing a sporting event on the beach that would better fit the natural habitat of the Island: kayaking, Stand up Paddle, and or Wind surfing. This way the sport itself could better develop on the Island for day to day enjoyment", said Annette Khoury, Co-Founder of the Lebanon Water Festival.
While 2013 contest was held at Colonel Beach in Batroun, this year's event was organized at the famous Rabbit Island, a natural reserve and a resting place for migratory birds and endangered reptiles located 5.5 kilometers offshore and northwest of Tripoli. The decision to change location was motivated by a desire to anchor Kiteboarding in the Tripoli region as winds allow that sport all year round.
In the past years, the Palm Islands Nature Reserve Management Committee, in charge of protecting the island's flora and fauna, has been raising awareness among visitors about the preservation of the natural reserve and putting in place cleaning and recycling operation from the island.
"We come to the island everyday at 7h00 am and stay until 19h00 to ensure it remains clean. We sort the trash and send it to Tripoli to be recycled. We also talk to visitors about the importance of cleaning after themselves, but it people need time to change their habits. We also get a lot of trash from the sea. This week and the week before have been terrible. Maybe because of the garbage crisis and the wind", explains Issam Sidawi, the island's ranger who also work with the Palm Islands Nature Reserve Management Committee.
"We are putting a lot of efforts into bringing more tourists and we are working with the University of Balamand to promote eco-tourism on the island. Events like the kiteboarding contest should be very beneficial for the island", added Ghassan Jaradi, President of the Palm Islands Nature Reserve Management Committee.