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Red Bull Skyride day 1

Hawaii’s world champion kitesurfer Marcus "Flash" Austin landed moves never before seen on New Zealand shores and leapt to top-spot on the first day of full-on freestyle action at the Red Bull Skyride.The contest is Australasia’s first international kitesurfing event and has drawn 24 select athletes from Hawaii, Australia, Germany and New Zealand to an isolated beach on Mangawhai Heads, north of Auckland. One metre waves and 10 – 15 knot winds picked up slightly over the course of the day as round one of the Freestyle Competition came to a close today.While the reigning kitesurf ‘King of the Air’ Flash Austin was living up to his reputation in the water today, other elite competitors from around the world could not beat the explosive 720 degree spins and clean, stylish airs pulled off by top New Zealanders.Among them, Australasian champ Kane Hartill, of Christchurch, who took second place overall in the first round of the Freestyle Competition. Newcomer Dave Edwards, of Mt Maunganui, took third place in round one, despite only taking up the sport less than a year ago and Australian Ben Merkenhoff came 4th.Edwards, of Mt Maunganui, proved himself a worthy contender in international competition, landing technical moves he had never tried before. The 31-year-old has focused solely on the radical new watersport since February this year and reckoned his result today proved it was the right decision."I come from a wakeboarding, gymnastics and springboard diving background, so if I see something I like it’s just a matter of trying it," he said of the 540 degree spins and back flips executed with style on the water."Since February I’ve basically given up my whole life. I just decided I’m going to make a go of this because it’s a new sport and I’m just going to give it everything for the next two or three years. I want to get on the World Tour and this event has shown me I’ve got the capability to do that," he said with a beaming smile.The Red Bull Skyride kicked off today and runs until Sunday December 10 with two disciplines taking place in that time – the Freestyle Competition and Hang Time, in which athletes are judged on the amount of time they spend in the air.Athletes compete in heats of four, with rounds aiming to show the kind of explosive manoeuvres, massive air and individual style fast developing in a sport which takes its inspiration from surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding and windsurfing.For a full list of athletes or more information on kitesurfing and the Red Bull Skyride contact:Alison SmithMangawhai Media Centre: Ph64-9-431 5572 orFax64-9-431 5573Ph (mob)021-50-70-20alisonsmith99@hotmail.com or enquiries@redbull.co.nz **Professional photographs will be available to press at the end of competition. Please contact the media centre at Mangawhai during competition or Alison Smith on Ph021-50-70-20 or check the Red Bull photo archive site at www.redbull-photofiles.comENDS

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