Lifestyles Festival takes sport to extremes

The adrenaline will be pumping, the surf will be ready for action and the atmosphere will definitely be of the chilled out kind - at the sixth annual extreme sport activities and culture Lifestyles Festival. RACHEL BULLER reports.

It is surely one of the coolest events on the Norfolk calendar. Thousands of extreme sports fanatics gather on the coast for a three day extravaganza not only showing off their own skills but also letting others try their hand at some high octane activities.

The Hunstanton Lifestyles Festival begins tomorrow and is now in its sixth year.

As well as hosting the National kite surfing and wind surfing competitions over the weekend, there will be demonstrations and classes in skating and BMX biking led by top professionals in the sports, as well as a have a go sessions in skateboarding, street dance, various water sports and Parkour.

Throughout the weekend, there will also be live music, stalls, entertainment and lots of exciting demonstrations.

Reflecting the chilled out reputation of the extreme sports lifestyle, the event has its own VW car show attracts a growing number of classic campervans and Beetles - last year there were more than 300 iconic Volkswagen vehicles and organisers are expecting even more this year which will gather on the Green between 10am and 6pm both days.

Key to the festival's success, is giving as many people as possible the chance to try out the different sports.

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Tony Devenish, sports development officer for King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, which runs the event, said: 'Outside of the demos and competitions there is a lot of public access time. People can try their hand at power kiting and wind surfing and lots of other exciting things. We will also have climbing and the chance to try some street art.

'Tomorrow , we have a school day where he have lots of local schools coming in during the day to have a go at different activities.'

He said although the council runs the event, it would be impossible without the local clubs and organisations, who play a vital role in connecting the festival with ongoing work with youngsters throughout the year.

'We have been doing work in the schools for a while now and the importance of this event is to leave a legacy for the whole year after the festival, to encourage participation. We wouldn't be able to do it without the various organisations who help us run after school clubs and get children doing activities they might not usually try. We have found that it engages people who are not normally sporty types.'

The festival was launched in 2005 and it has grown into a massive event attracting tens of thousands of visitors keen to soak up the atmosphere and see the extreme sports up close.

'You get all sorts of people coming to the festival, it is quite family orientated which surprises a lot of people,' said Tony. 'You might think it is a young person's thing but actually that is not the case. Things like BMX and skateboarding are movements that have been around for years and now you have guys who did it when they were young coming back with their own kids. Also people like to see something completely different and enjoy the excitement of watching extreme sports.'

Taking place on the North Prom and the sea off Town Beach, the shallow waters off Hunstanton are perfect conditions for the kite surfing and wind surfing.

For the fifth year running, the British Kite Surfing Association will be holding a round of its National Freestyle kite surfing competition during the event, and part of the National Wind Surfing Slalom competition will also take place over the weekend.

'I think Norfolk is definitely now on the map for extreme sports. It is the most popular place in the country for kite surfing and has a big water sports scene. It has waves and stretches of flat water so it is good for lots of different disciplines.'

He said that street sports were also really popular in Norfolk which engaged children who might not usually be interested in conventional sports or have the opportunity to participate.

'I think when you live in rural areas and there isn't always that much to do, you tend to be more creative about what you do for fun and you can pretty much skateboard or BMX anywhere. Although Norfolk has some great skate parks, you don't actually need one to do the sport, they are after all 'street sports'.

'It means anyone can really take part and they like being part of that culture - it is a lifestyle after all, that's why we call it the Lifestyles festival. It is not just about competing,' said Tony.

This year for the first time there will be two new elements to the show. The solo Bboy Battle, hosted by choreographer and performance professional Kymberlee Jay will see spectators treated to a hip-hop dance extravaganza on Saturday. Then on Sunday, some of the country's best street dance crews will be showing off some of the hottest choreography around to compete for the title of Lifestyle's 2011 Street Dance champions.

'It is a massive growing movement and it is just huge at the moment, it is all over the television and getting great attention,' said Tony.

'We have had street dancing at Lifestyles before but it seemed the natural progression to move it on to a competition level. Just as we get the top kite surfers and BMXers and skaters from all over the country, we can attract the best dancers.'

The festival skate part, with ramps, rails, hips and much more will be open throughout the weekend to let people have a go, and it will also host many displays and workshops with the experts showing off their daredevil tricks.

This year, Parkour will also play a key role in the festival, with the King's Lynn Free Runners returning to the show.

With the Parkour craze showing little sign of slowing down, the professionals will be there to offer some tips and to teach the basics of climbing, vaulting, rolling and climbing to those wanting to have a go.