Airton Completes Amazing Eight Heat Comeback to Win Dakhla!
Monday 14th October 2019
Location: Dakhla, Morocco
Words: Jim Gaunt
Photos: Ydwer van der Heide
Video: Oliver Umpierre
On the tenth and final day of the GKA Kite World Cup Dakhla Airton Cozzolino yet again took the headlines with an incredible eight back-to-back heat winning comeback in the men’s Kite-Surf double elimination. In doing so the Cape Verdean has also ensured that he’ll retain his World Championship crown.
In the women’s Carla Herrera-Oria also fought bravely through the entire double elimination, facing down five heats and reaching the final for her own re-match against Kirsty Jones. In guaranteeing her second place finish at the event, Carla too has done enough to win her first World Title.
Mikaili Sol won the women’s Freestyle event earlier in the week and she too will retain her Freestyle World Title, now making her a three time World Champion (she also has four junior World Titles) at just 14 years-of-age.
Watch the highlights:
Conditions had really dropped away, but there was a little wind. The forecast showed for it to die through the day so the men’s semi final ran in what became a pure wave shore break showdown.
REECE V AIRTON
Opportunities were scarce but both riders challenged themselves to catch the jacking waves closer and closer in to shore. Nearing the end of the heat Airton somehow sensed that a little pulse of energy was going to turn into something workable and it did. He fired in four turns in very close succession, getting a 5.23 score and took the lead: 11.03 to 10.53. His sixth heat win in a row was complete. There was only Mitu left, and he’d have to beat him twice if he wanted to claim the event win.
KIRSTY V CARLA
Focus switched to the women’s final between Kirsty Jones and Carla Herrera-Oria in what were very difficult conditions. Kirsty’s second wave did most of the damage – taking full advantage of the most open face in the heat, carving out a 5.7 score. She went on to slowly increase her second wave score throughout the heat and finished with a two wave tally of 10.33 to 6.06.
A multiple world champion in the past, Kirsty said that she was so pleased to win. “It’s disappointing that the waves weren’t better for the final, but I’m just so happy. The girls have convinced me to work on my strapless freestyle, so let’s see what happens. Right now I feel very motivated to come back.”
MITU V AIRTON (PART 1)
The wind then turned more offshore and with the higher tide taking effect the waves flattened off. The competition remained on hold until finally at 5.20pm the final between single elimination winner Mitu Monteiro and Airton Cozzolino was on. These weren’t the dream conditions for the tour, but the freestyle and wave combination format is what the future of strapless riding is about and sometimes World Championships are wrestled out in a dog fight.
What isn’t in doubt is that the vision and ability of these riders really can inspire us to look at our own ordinary conditions very differently.
Both riders got into wave action within the first two minutes. Airton looked incredibly hungry, managing six hits on one wave, such is the intensity of his riding and how he can manage to pack in a succession of tight turns – pure surf style. Mitu matched him almost wave for wave and this turned into a titanic battle, including a barrage of fins-out hacks, airs off-the-lip and wave 360s in the pocket.
The separation came with freestyle – Airton having landed a particularly big back tic-tac to switch, scoring 7.27. After a nail biting final flurry of wave attacks from both riders, in the end Airton won by 20.37 to 17.43, forcing a super final.
MITU V AIRTON: THE SUPER FINAL
The two Cape Verdeans – great friends and the best of foes – went at it again in the same vein. Mitu made several beautiful airs, somehow always riding them out and he looked to be linking the sections for longer, though Airton seemed to have the upper hand in actual wave selection.
Airton eventually picked a vertical kicker on the way out and landed a big, powerful unhooked backside 3! He scored a massive 9.17 points… it was almost perfect and couldn’t have been done better in wakeboard boots. The reigning Champion moved way out in front with 22.97 points, while Mitu was back on just 12 points, still yet to register a freestyle move.
If anyone could come back though it was Mitu…
These two are so inspiring to watch and it blows the mind to think what they’re doing with their kites as well as their boards to maintain such speed and flow. The scores had moved on with more waves to 24.17 to 17.45 in Airton’s favour. Mitu’s better wave riding had brought him to within around 8 points.
Mitu came in on the inside, not looking for a kicker, working off the flats… he unhooked and landed a pop to blind and span 360 out… a fairly new trick for him and it was clean, but not as good as Airton’s. He got 6.16…
The score: 24.17 to 21.1. What more could Mitu do? Three minutes left…
Mitu found a set wave in the closing moments – could he improve on his lowest wave score of 6.63? He managed just three turns unfortunately and turned off the back… 50 seconds left.
Airton was heading in on another wave… but suddenly downwind and into the sunlight Mitu completed a neat backside 3! Amazing drama – what would it score?
Both riders did all they could and yet again had gifted us with an amazing show. Airton’s two best wave rides were a 7 and an 8 which, when added to his backside 3 that had scored 9.17, gave him a 24.76 final total.
Mitu’s two best waves were worth 6.63 and 8.3 and then that unhooked backside 3 off the flats right at the end… got 7.83. So Airton had done it. One of the best comebacks we’ve ever seen, completing his eight heat winning streak through the double elimination and beating Mitu Monteiro TWICE!
AIRTON WINS THE EVENT: 24.17 to 22.76
Airton: “I have no words, I was pretty nervous but I just went for it and I’m so stoked. Big thanks to my friends and everyone online who supported me, to my trainer and also my caddy for the day Francesco Cappuzzo! Amazing. Yes!”
Mitu: “Against Airton you never know what he’s going to do. It’s a shame we didn’t get bigger waves, but it’s always fun to ride with him on the water. So I’m happy and now I look forward to Brazil.”
So that is a wrap for Dakhla! Find the season’s current rankings with one more round to go in brazil here