RS:X More Youthful Than Kite Racing

The average age of male athletes at the most recent Kiteboard Racing World Championships (Sylt, 2011) was 32 years old, while the average age of male athletes at the most recent RS:X World Championships (Cadiz, 2012) was 25.

Those who do not follow kiteboarding very closely are surprised to learn that the sport encompasses multiple disciplines: freestyle, big air, speed, waves, slalom, course racing, etc. Those disciplines involve different sets of skills, but they also have distinct audiences. Freestyle, for instance, appeals to young kiters, while course racing appeals to older kiters. Many casual observers make the mistake of assuming that the youthful appeal of freestyle kiteboarding applies equally to other kiteboarding disciplines. The Technical Report of the ISAF Kiteboarding Format Trials takes that leap as well (“Kiteboarding is colorful, attractive to spectators and media and especially appealing to youth,” page 1).

We examined the age distribution of male athletes at the most recent World Championships for each sport (sources: IKA, PKRA, RS:X Class). The age pyramids for kite racing and for the RS:X look as follows:

  • the pyramid for kite racers shows a much greater proportion of older athletes.
  • the average age of kite racers was 32 years old, vs. 25 for the windsurfers.
  • 18% of kite racers were under 25, vs. 59% of windsurfers.
  • 41% of kite racers were over 35, vs. 9% of windsurfers.
  • 64% of kite racers were over 30, vs. 22% of windsurfers.

The age pyramid for the 2011 edition of the RS:X World Championships (Perth) looks substantially the same as that of the 2012 edition, with the same average age of 25. We also examined the age of the top-50 male athletes in the 2012 international rankings (IKA for kite racing and ISAF World Cup for the RS:X), and our findings are very much in line with the data above:

  • the average age of the top-50 kite racers is 31 years old, vs. 26 for the top-50 RS:X sailors.
  • 38% of the top-50 kite racers are over the age of 35, vs. 10% among the top-50 RS:X sailors.
  • 60% of the top-50 kite racers are over the age of 30, vs. 28% among the top-50 RS:X sailors.

It is essential for the Olympic Games to appeal to “the youth of the world.” This analysis shows that the youth of the world is much better represented by the RS:X Class than by the Kite Racing discipline.

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