GKA Kitesurf World Cup (Strapless Freestyle)

Expression Session

Day Five GKA Kite-Surf World Tour
4th August 2017: Sotavento, Fuerteventura

It’s been a solid week of pumping wind here in Sotavento and Friday's plan was to hold a Big-Air competition in which riders would go for maximum height and 'wow' factor over more technical tricks. However, with the wind not blowing hard enough and the riders warming up on 8-11 metre kites the decision was made to throw an expression session instead.

No heats, no scoring and no pressure - the riders were free to do as they pleased and many treated it as an opportunity to go for some new tricks that they might not normally attempt in a competitive heat. Local rider Thorben Jasper landed a smooth board-off frontroll, a trick not seen yet at this event, while Gustavo Arrojo proved once again that he’s a rider to watch on this year’s tour as he narrowly missed a frontroll shuvit before sticking a 360 shuvit straight after.

Airton was also pushing it, pulling off a double kickflip transition and then from there the silliness ensued! Matchu emerged from behind the judges tower wearing a full Superman outfit and proceeded to team up with Paulino, Jan Marcos and Airton in successive attempts to nail the elusive ‘triple stack’ in which three riders kite along sat on each other’s shoulders.

They came close to pulling it off before an epic line-tangle (which was perhaps inevitable) and then Airton channeled Sir Richard Branson by plucking a willing participant from the audience and riding off the beach with her on his back. Unfortunately, they encountered a low-patch of wind on their way back and she got dunked but these things happen!

Although today’s session was all about fun it did also highlight the sheer level of kite / board control and skill the riders on this tour have at their disposal. Whether it was Keahi kiting along on the nose of his upturned board before casually flipping it onto its base and riding away or Jan Marcos manoeuvring his way through the crowded contest zone riding two boards while wearing a rubber ring - it may be funny but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Tomorrow marks the end of the event and the goal is still to hold the Big-Air comp if conditions allow.

Airton Seizes the Day and the Cape Verdeans Storm the Podium
Day Three GKA Kite-Surf World Tour
3rd August 2017: Sotavento, Fuerteventura

After a packed day of competition yesterday it was straight into the quarter-finals today as the remaining eight riders pushed for a place in the finals. The Alisios trade winds were blowing stronger and cleaner than they were on day two and Keahi and Matchu were up in the first heat.

Both riders were quick off the blocks and Keahi opened with a huge rotation before going trick for trick with Matchu. Matchu remained calm and composed, sticking some of his bigger tricks before sealing the deal with a front shuvit in the last minute to end Keahi’s competition there while he progressed to the semis.

Airton then hit the water and was utterly relentless against Gustavo Arrojo. Airton stuck the biggest rotation of the event so far but Gustavo didn’t back down, coming close on a front to blind after taking hands down the biggest crash of the event but he couldn’t overcome Airton.

In the following heat, Portuguese powerhouse Paulino Pereira took down Camille Delannoy. Camille was sticking some of the smoothest front and double frontrolls yet seen on this year’s tour but Paulino took the win with a truly massive rodeo kiteloop which the crowd went wild for.

From there the remaining four riders battled for a spot in the finals and Airton and Matchu were first up. Fully aware of his old friend Matchu’s ability, Airton was leaving nothing to chance. He put together a surgical yet savage display with a stomped flat-3 before coming close on what would have been his biggest shifty-3 to date in competition. Matchu met Airton’s powerful barrage of tricks with his own big, but fluid, moves nailing a smooth front to blind before coming close on a double frontroll varial. However, Airton then pulled ahead with a powered shifty-3 and Matchu came close to a triple frontroll but it was too late. The buzzer sounded and Airton was through to the final.

Matchu considers his options as he prepares for the mini-final / Photo: @Ydwer
Paulino and Mitu then locked horns as they vied for the chance to take on Airton and this was the tightest heat of the day. Paulino went so hard he snapped his board in half after one of the heaviest landings ever seen in this discipline, let alone the competition, but he couldn’t match his opponent on style and execution and Mitu, although still nursing an injury and in increasing pain, battled through to the finals.

It was down to Paulino to dust himself off and head back out against Matchu for third place in the mini-final and both riders had their hearts set on the last place on the podium. Matchu edged in front though with a nice front to blind followed by a double frontroll to claim his place on what would be a full Cape Verdean podium.

The final went off in ideal conditions for Airton’s aggressive riding style as he launched huge rotations from the start. Mitu gave it his all, coming close on a flat-3 and nailing some stylish tricks but Airton was unstoppable sticking a shifty 3 and a super-powered front to blind. Mitu put it all on the line and went for a massive board-off kiteloop but he came down too hard and the landing took its toll. He rode back to the beach without any more trick attempts and limped from the water before the buzzer sounded. Airton had done it!

This now puts Airton back in the lead on the tour and he’ll be looking to build on his performance at the next event in Fehmarn later on this month. This event is far from over though and the riders will take part in a big air and best trick competition later on this week with the main event now complete. Tonight though, it’s the afterparty at the infamous La Calpa where the Cape Verdean contingent will have some serious cause for celebration!

01.08.2017 - Main Event Action and Riders Begin to Drop on Day Two

A steadily building wind greeted the riders today as they prepared to pitch into the main event. Before round one kicked off a handful of riders competed in three heats to gain their seedings and local riders Kuba Juras (originally from Poland) and German transplant Thorben Jasper looked perfectly at home in the Sotavento conditions while crowd pleaser Luis Brito clearly relished being back in Sotavento nailing a variety of flamboyant tricks from the off.

Round one then got underway with Matchu winning the first heat after a slightly reserved but smooth performance against Italian Tony Cili. Keahi followed with what was undoubtedly the most polished, and complete, display of the day with everything from low angle technical tricks like powered toeside pops to wrapped to big rotations and board-offs. Keahi’s always quick to play down his own strapless freestyle level but is going to be one to watch at this event.

A Tarifan duel followed in which Gustavo Arrojo beat Jan Marcos Riveras in one of the tightest heats of the day.

As round two began the wind was ramping up and some small waves emerged as the gust range increased so that riders would have to switch kites during their heats at times. While this event isn’t being judged under the same mixed format as Dakhla, riding the waves on offer will still add to the judges’ overall impression so the riders were looking to make use of the swell when possible.

Matchu was given a real run for his money by current Spanish champion Kiko Roig Torres who rode outside of himself with powered tricks close in to shore but it wasn’t enough to unseat defending champion Matchu who progresses straight through to round three while Kiko exits the competition.

Next up was Theo Demanez and Keahi in another example of a young rider rising to the occasion against one of the tour’s big hitters. 17 year-old Demanez showed his considerable talent, answering Keahi’s frontroll shuvit with one of his own, and he met Keahi’s endless stream of stylish, varied tricks with his own creative riding. When Keahi crashed and made a last minute kite change in the final minute it looked like we were perhaps about to see a major upset with Demanez taking the win, but Keahi’s competitive edge came through and he stuck a board-off kiteloop in the dying seconds to seal Demanez’ fate.

In round three, Airton’s fondness for punchy conditions shone through as he dispatched Luis Brito with a powered toeside flat-3 and the biggest backroll of the day before Paulino Pereira launched a no-holds barred assault on Thorben Jasper, including a massive double can-can board-off, to win the heat.

In the last heat of the day, tour leader Mitu battled through an injury he’d sustained yesterday in the warm-up to beat fellow Cape Verdean Djo Silva - coming excruciatingly close on a double frontroll shuvit in the last minute to finish the day’s action.

Tomorrow the remaining eight riders will duke it out in the quarter-finals. The rider’s meeting is at 11.30am with a first possible start at 12pm and strong winds are forecasted. The aim is to push towards the finals so stay tuned!

31.07.2017 - Fuerteventura Fires Up For The Warm-Up

After a quick turnaround following the last event in Dakhla just one week ago, the riders and the GKA crew are back in action once again in Sotavento, Fuerteventura, where the third event on this year’s tour began today (Monday).

The competitors began arriving at the Reni Egli watersports centre at 11am to register for what’s sure to be a pivotal stop on the tour as the top riders (a number of whom are in clear contention to take the overall lead) vie for the win and first place on the tour. Mitu Monteiro's victory in Dakhla has lit a fire in Airton and he’ll no doubt be planning to pull out all the stops at this event in the strong, choppy conditions that favour his powerful riding style.

Once the registration period had finished the riders took to the water for the official first warm-up session, giving them a chance to gauge the conditions they’ll be working with this week. The wind was blowing cross-off from the left and fluctuating between 20 and 25 knots, quite similar to what the riders experienced last month in Tarifa, and it looks as though the guys who are more specialised towards flat water tricks are relishing the opportunity to bring their pure strapless freestyle experience to bear at this event.

Airton was landing backside flat-3s, seemingly without even trying, while the young Frenchman Camille Delannoy nailed some of the best double frontrolls we’ve seen so far on this year’s tour. Matchu and Jan Marcos Riveras geed up the crowds throughout the 90 minute warm-up, throwing crowd pleasing tricks close to the beach, while current tour leader Mitu alternated between tearing up the small but hack-able shorebreak and dialling in some freestyle tricks of his own.

One thing that’s clear is that, even though the riders were holding back to some extent (perhaps due to race director Juan Antonio’s request that they don’t push themselves too hard before the main event), this discipline is fast evolving. New tricks are being landed and different styles being developed as some riders gravitate towards powered tricks with their kites low in the window, while others focus on bigger, floatier, more flowing manoeuvres.

However, it's when the main event begins on Tuesday that we’ll see the riders really going for it with maximum commitment and at full speed. The skipper’s meeting is at 10am with a first possible start at 10.30am. There's a solid forecast in the pipeline and thermal effects expected throughout the afternoon, so it’s sure to be an explosive first day of competition!

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