Issue 78: What is Virtual Freestyle?

Video kite competition, online!

We’ve been watching Virtual Freestyle (VF) with great interest since the first round was held in September of 2004… Especially now, at a time when fliers in North America are traveling to far fewer competition events than they did in the 90s, the digital format of VF has opened the door for folks to enter trick competition from their home field, compared with other fliers from all over the world.

Promo videos from VF16:

While we believe there is no replacement for face to face competition on the field (if you’re into that sort of thing), the VF concept is a great example of adapting kiting to the Internet era and providing an opportunity to get involved in the community from afar.

In our own interest to learn a little more, we got in touch with Yan Spooner (the current organizer of VF) for some insight that we could take back to the pages Kitelife and share with you, our readers.

First of all, how would you describe Virtual Freestyle to someone hearing about it for the first time?

In essence Virtual Freestyle is a global freestyle flying competition that is coordinated from one central place. It is open to all who want to enter and there is no minimum (or maximum) standard. All you have to do to enter is submit an unedited video of your flying by the closing date, then score all the entrys…. the video must start with the kite on the ground and be between 60 and 90 seconds long… easy!

But, like many things, Virtual Freestyle is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a chance for an isolated flyer to be part of something bigger than just the local playing field, for flyers to test themselves against other flyers. It’s a chance to see what styles or tricks are popular in different areas, to get ideas for your own flying.

What was the original inspiration behind the format, how did it come into being?

I wasn’t flying at that time, but like most good ideas, I think it was conceived through chat and thought in some field somewhere….

Who was responsible for that original idea, and where did the brainstorming take place?

I suspect that the original idea was formed by several folk, there is a thread on the ‘old’ Fractured Axel forum that shows the discussions that went on and how it developed.

I’m sure the administrative side of VF can be quite busy at times, who kept the wheels turning in the early days?

Dave Moore was the guy who really picked the idea up and ran with it, certainly he was the guy who got it going and kept it moving forward for long time.

So, having given due recognition to the pioneers, how did you end up in the saddle?

Well, Mike Emery had been running VF for a long time and had said that he needed a break from it. At that point I wasn’t I sure wanted to run it but i really wanted VF to go on, so I e-mailed Mike and said that if no one had a strong urge to take it on I would step in. I must say, I’m glad it came my way… some of the admin can be dull, but It’s put me in contact with flyers and manufacturers from all over the world which is great.

How many countries have you received entries from up until now?

You know, that’s something I’m curious about as well… I know that entries have been received from the UK, Norway, Estonia, France, Italy, USA, Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Finland I’m sure the list is longer than this so when I get chance I am going to put a map onto the VF website so people can mark where they are…

How does the scoring system work?

VF is peer judged, so every entrant is expected to score everyone else’s flying. Each flyer gets two scored on two aspects of their flying – 0~10 for Technical (what was flown) and 0~10 for Artistic (how it was flown). – this is freestyle after all!

The winner is the flyer with the highest total score.

And for those who might be interested, how exactly does someone go about entering themselves into Virtual Freestyle?

Its easy, film yourself flying and submit the best 60-90 seconds to me by email by the closing date for that round. The video must be un-edited and start with the kite on the ground and in an ideal world the kite will remain in frame for the duration. Small out of frame indiscretions are Ok, but it may impact on your overall score. The only other rules are that the video must be 20mb or less and that every entrant must submit a set of scores. If anybody wants more information just click here to email me and I will give all the help/information you need.

For those who might question the long term community impact of running a video competition via the Internet, what are your thoughts on the dynamics of running a competition online versus folks actually attending traditional competitions? Do you think VF gives people an out so they can stay at home, or does it encourage people to interact with the community more than they would normally?

Traditional competitions in whatever format are vital for the ongoing health of our (or any) sport and community(s). I don’t think that VF will or could ever replace them.

However VF is great in terms of creating and maintaining an international community of freestyle pilots and providing something for flyers to be part of.
There are a lot of flyers out there on their own or in small groups with no local kiting community to be part of other than the VF community. VF gives them a chance to hold up their hands and say “Hey, I’m over here and this what I can do” or to say “let’s get together and make some VF entries”.

So I think VF is great at a local level and at an international level.

We know you’ve had some real “super fliers” enter VF before… Can you share with us some of the most recognized names that have participated, and while you’re at it – got any video links we can share with our readers?

Previous winners have included Andy Wardley, Piero Serra, Martin Madsen, David Rueger, Davide Equizzi.

#1 winning videos from each of the last 4 rounds:

Round 18 – Adrien Gauteux
Round 17 – David Rueger
Round 16 – David Rueger
Round 15 – Davide Equizzi

I’m sure there have been many, but are there are particular supporters and/or sponsors you’d like to recognize for their contributions or involvement in VF?

VF is completely dependent on sponsors for everything and is truly an international effort.

First off Davey Moore (Ireland) and Mike Emery (Finland) must get due credit for getting VF off the ground and keeping it going through the early years and Thomas Peterson (Denmark) ( for allowing us to use his online storage. Also worthy of special mention for more recent support in the form of art work is Rafa (Cuba).

Other sponsors have included Benson Kites, Jest of Eve, Sturdy Designs, Sportkitedesign, R-Sky,, Kite Related Design top name but a few. Also some individuals who have been generous enough to contribute all sorts of personal items from actual Kites (recently Carlo De Rond) to stained glass representations of the winners kites – which is a prize in round 19.

And finally, with nearly six years behind VF, what direction(s) would you like to see it take in the future?

Personally, I don’t think it needs to change direction at all. It works well in its current format, it’s simple and accessible.

Thank you so much for having a “sit down” with us Yan, great to learn a little more about Virtual Freestyle from the source… It’s an interesting concept for kite fliers, we’ve heard nothing but good things and we wish you all the best.

Your welcome, thanks for the interest.

Virtual Freestyle on the web:

VF home page

VF on YouTube

VF discussions

Previous results

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Author:John Barresi

Involved in the greater kiting community since 1990, John is an avid kite flier in several disciplines, has served as President of the American Kitefliers Association, and is co-founder of the Revolution sport kite team iQuad. View John Barresi's Profile →

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