A challenging week at the GKA Tarifa
Shaky winds blighted the kite capital of Europe – here’s how the event wrapped up
Words: Jim Gaunt / Photos: Ydwer van der Heide
The taste of final day glory on a ‘super Sunday’ of cross discipline kiteboarding competition in front of a packed Valdevaqueros beach at the Bibo Beach Club was oh so close… Tarifa you tease!
After five frustrating days of competition, taunted by low lying cloud which pushed back the thermal winds, or voodoo local effects playing hocus pocus right in front of the race director’s eyes, on Sunday we arrived at the beach this morning and were greeted by a very different scene: clear skies and the Poniente blowing.
Final day highlights below
Over 80 riders registered for this event, one of only a few truly cross-discipline official World Championship events ever seen, and with such strangely absent conditions this week, there were a lot of heats to get through. All riders were on the same page though and accepted a slightly shortened format for their heats in order to fight collectively for a result.
We flew through the afternoon heats, seeing both Men’s and Women’s Freestyle and Men’s Kite-Surf strapless freestyle on the water, often switching from one discipline to the next in back-to-back heats. It was a real optical feast of kiting on the beach!
Maxime Chabloz continued his impressive charge towards the title this year, achieving the highest Freestyle heat score of the day, which was second only to Adeuri Corniel’s opening heat tally of over 34 on day four.
Pippa van Iersel and Therese Taabel actually made it to the women’s Freestyle final on Sunday, but as the wind dropped just before the second semi-final ran, sadly for them, with only 10 riders in their competition, as they hadn’t eliminated over 50% of the competitors, the result doesn’t stand.
Of course we had already reached a final result for the women’s Kite-Surf strapless freestyle back on day three, with Carla Herrera-Oria claiming back-to-back event victories and moving ahead in the championship.
The Kite-Surf men had reached the quarter final stage before Sunday began. They managed to get through two quarter final rounds, won by Simon Joosten and Mitu Monteiro but the result rocks back to the quarter final stage, and is an official result with shared points for the top eight, due to the number of competitors eliminated.
Race director Juan Antonio Aragon is all too aware of how the World Championship point system works and, up against an incredibly tough time frame in the end, with a drought of normal conditions at this time of year here in Tarifa, by hook and by crook, we have an official points result for both men’s disciplines and the women’s Kite-Surf strapless freestyle.
In spite of the challenging conditions, Airton Cozzolino was mesmeric as ever. In the last four years Airton has amassed legions of fans who have seen him ride live, either in competition or, perhaps even better, when freeriding. He has such an incredible ability to amaze on his strapless freestyle board that he regularly has everyone on the beach standing still in amazement. In high winds his aerial ability is truly incredible and poses the question to big air event organisers that he really should be allowed to complete in any discipline on his surfboard. Last hear he managed 19 seconds of hangtime at Sotavento and can kite loop like a king.
In light winds, however, his natural flair takes a little more technical understanding to appreciate. Today, his aim was obvious: to show the world his vision for strapless freestyle, and what better stage to do it than on the livestream at a double discipline event, where 40 of the world’s best twin-tip Freestylers were waiting on the sidelines to start their competition directly after his heat.
“Sure, he ended up doing more tricks from the same trick family than we’d usually like to see, but his riding was insane today!” Remarked head judge Mallory de la Villemarque. “You could see that he was thinking, ‘Hey guys, I can do sick handle-passes too, powered and with my kite low, and I’ve got no straps.’”
It would have been great to see if Airton could take another event win, but the top finishing riders crowded on to their respective podiums at the end of the event and organiser Jaime Herraiz took to the mic to thank everyone.
“What can I say? Of course we’re a little disappointed with the wind this week, but you guys know me, and know that I like a challenge. So we will be back bigger and stronger next year and Tarifa will always have a place for all of you. Good luck with the rest of the world tour and we look forward to welcoming you all back!”
For sure we all leave here as a tighter unit and who knows what the future holds? Will we see world class Freestyle riders training hard to compete in two disciplines next year… in order to become the ultimate kiteboard rider? Don’t put it past them!
What we do know is that the current Freestyle riders will be back in action at Sotavento on Fuerteventura, Spain from 19 – 24th July for round four, before heading to Bel Ombre on the beautiful island of Mauritius, where we’ll see another double discipline event go off with Freestyle and Kite-Surf (wave discipline), from the 6th – 15th September!
Here’s a summary of how far we reached in Sunday’s competition after a busy, vibey day at Valdevaqueros:
Women’s Freestyle Semi-Finalists
Pippa van Iersel
Men’s Freestyle Semi-finalists (Official Result)
Luis Alberto Cruz
Men’s Kite-Surf Strapless Quarter finalists (Official Result)
Kiko Roig Torres
Jan Marcos Riveras