Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA — June 3, 2012
Last night marked the official kickoff of the world’s most exclusive and prestigious invite-only kiteboarding event — the Triple-S Invitational. Running from June 2 to 8, this seventh annual event will showcase the planet’s most progressive surf- and wake-influenced action on three fronts: Surf, Slicks and Sliders.

Top freeride kiteboarders and kite surfers poured in from nine different countries yesterday for seven days of riding, parties and music at North America’s most notorious kiting destination. Riders and spectators congregated at the REAL Watersports compound, the Triple-S epicenter. Amidst super-light winds in the afternoon, competitors warmed up behind PWCs, practicing their rail-riding skills on two of the event’s world-class obstacles: the 80-foot-long John Wayne A-frame (which can convert to an M-gap) and the freshly-built Best rooftop rail.

As the sun went down, hundreds of people gathered for the Red Bull Kickoff Party at REAL, which featured an autograph-signing session, an opening ceremony, good drinks, stellar music (provided by DJ Chela) and an incredible vibe.

Twenty-six men and eight women will compete for the trio of Triple-S crowns, and the event’s first-ever monetary purse, totaling $10,000. Also new this year is the slightly modified format, which will split the pack into two to reduce crowding on the water. Depending on the day’s conditions, the group will take hour-long turns slaying obstacles, throwing flatwater tricks or riding sick surf.

At week’s end, the riders and media will vote for the winners. New for this year, however, organizers added a third layer of judging: a mysterious three-person panel comprised of some of the sport’s foremost experts.

Following Hurricane Irene last fall, which completely destroyed REAL’s state-of-the-art, world-class slider park, the features were rebuilt better than ever. The new fleet of obstacles features the Slingshot Kicker, Naish Kicker, Best Rooftop, Liquid Force Reverse Rainbow and the restored John Wayne A-frame.

The men’s invited lineup includes: Andre Phillip, Billy Parker, Brandon Scheid, Brian Smith, Chris Burke, Davey Blair, Eric Rienstra, Evan Netsch, Jake Kelsick, James Boulding, Jason Slezak, Joby Cook, Joe Ruscito, Josh Mulcoy, Mark Miedama, Niccolo Porcella, Rick Jensen, Sam Bell, Sam Light, Sam Medysky, and Tom Court. Plus two wildcards who won invites via video submissions: two-time vice world champion Alex Pastor from Spain, and California-based wave-slayer Bear Karry. Alternates Craig Cunningham, Rich Sabo, and Teddy Lyons made the cut as well.

On the women’s side, the invited lineup includes: nine-time world champion Gisela Pulido, Kris Kinn, Lulu Vroman, and Susi Mai, plus wildcard winner Colleen Carroll, and alternates Claire Lutz, Paula Rosales, and Sensi Graves.

The 2012 Triple-S Invitational is supported by REAL Watersports, John Wayne Cancer Foundation, Outer Beaches Realty, Stance, SBC, Liquid Force, Slingshot, Best Kiteboarding, BWS, Naish, Dakine, Arnette, Skullcandy, Rebootizer, Red Bull, Soloshot, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Watermen’s Retreat, MOJOs Sunset Cafe.

And a special thanks to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau for sponsoring the 2012 Triple-S Session Reports.

Words: Brian Wheeler, Photos: Bryan Elkus