WORTHING kitesurfer Lewis Crathern finished fifth in round one of the big air division of the Virgin Kitesurfing World Championships in Morocco.
There were 52 men from around the world who competed in the newly-branded World Tour, which has seen heavy investment from Richard Branson and Virgin.
There have been many changes to the format, including the addition of multiple disciplines.
Crathern rode well during the early stages and advanced into the semi-finals but missed out on a place in the main final by 0.2 points in a split judges decision.
He said: “I was devastated I didn’t make the podium but fifth is not such a bad result to build on. My goal is to finish in the top three but I believe I have what it takes to be Big Air world champion.
“It’s incredible that the World Tour has received a whole new look and investment from Virgin. The future is bright for kitesurfing. In the past, I’ve competed mostly in the freestyle discipline and recently tried my hand at the slalom.
“I’m extremely excited by the inclusion of the big air discipline. It’s what I have been waiting for my whole career.”
Crathern added that training in Worthing was ideal for him and said: “Training in Worthing is directly benefiting my big air riding. When you can kitesurf in the strong gales the town receives, you can kitesurf anywhere around the world.”
At 29, questions have been raised if it is too late for Crathern to make a stake for a World Championship but the West Sussex-born rider argues age is just a number.
He said: “Some guys on my beach are in their 70s and doing this to a good level.
“What’s great with big air is that it’s like being an airline pilot. The more experience you have, the better you become. Big air is not so strenuous on the body.
“I fancy my chances of competing in this discipline competitively until I’m at least 50.”