19th August 2017: Fehmarn, Germany
Report: Matt Pearce / Photos: Joern Pollex and James Stanley
NEWSFLASH: Championship contender Mitu Monteiro crashes out early, while title chasers Matchu Lopes, Paulino Pereira and Airton Cozzolino remain in the final heats in this crucial penultimate contest of the season
Today's action was fast paced in Fehmarn at the Kitesurf World Cup, the fourth stop on the 2017 GKA Kite-Surf World Tour, as riders progressed through the trials and the first four rounds of the main event in strong westerly winds. The HydroFoil Pro Tour and Kite Park League are also sharing the event site and running events in tandem with the GKA. In this busy beachside festival setting at surely the biggest kitesurfing event of the year, there's a real buzz in the air at Sudstrand!
Triumphant return for Julien / Photo: Joern Pollex
The trials saw French rider Julien Kerneur make his return to the tour after breaking his leg at the Tarifa Strapless Pro last year and he surged into the main event alongside his Airush teammate, American Reider Decker. The flying Dutchman Steven Akkersdijk is also here and, although primarily known for being a Red Bull King of the Air big-air specialist, he showed his range and versatility on the surfboard as well.
Beachside buzz / Photo: James Stanley
In round one of the main event, Keahi de Aboitiz calmly picked his way through his heat with smooth, cleanly executed tricks, coming close to a 540 shuvit and went directly to round three. Matchu followed next, linking stylish variations, including a tweaked one-footed frontroll. Always a crowd favourite, Jan Marcos Riveras and Mitu Monteiro then followed, before Camille Delannoy beat Tony Cili and Jeremy Chan in a tight heat to go through to round three alongside Paulino Pereira, Gustavo Arrojo and Airton Cozzolino.
Gustavo Arrojo / Photo: James Stanley
In the second round riders were eliminated from the competition. Reider Decker dispatched Steven Akkersdijk who exited the competition alongside Jeremy Chan and Nicola Abadjiev. Reider would go on to cause one of the biggest upsets of the tour so far in round three when he knocked Mitu Monteiro out of the competition to secure his spot in the quarter finals!
Matchu Lopes then put together one of the best displays of the day in round three with some ultra-stylish grabbed rotations in his heat against Djo Silva. One of the most improved riders of the year, Camille Delannoy, narrowly lost to Ismail Adarzane who also progressed on to the quarter-finals.
Teamwork makes the dream work for Ralph Boelen / Photo: Joern Pollex
As the wind continued to build, Keahi lost to Matchu after a seriously tight call from the judges that saw him trailing by just half a point. Paulino then beat Ismail Adarzane with some huge powered rotations and his unmistakable flat-out riding style before Airush teammates Julien Kerneur and Reider Decker locked horns in yet another tight heat which was a fantastic display of their creative riding styles.
Team mates up against each other for the day - Reider Decker and Julien Kerneur / Photo: James Stanley
Julien took the win landing an unhooked pop to blind just before Reider Decker stomped a varial kickflip, a trick not yet seen on this year's tour. In the last heat of the day Airton scored a place in the semis after an impeccable performance against Ralph Boelen that underpinned just why he has the overall lead on this year's tour.
Airton's got a steady stream of tricks and is so confident in freestyle, but with this being a mixed tour the next round in Mauritius is in good waves, and we've seen that place bring a few big names to their knees before. Including Airton last year... / Photo: James Stanley
This fourth event of the season is a pivotal one on the tour: Airton could fully cement his lead or will defending champ Matchu close the gap on his old friend and rival and take the race for the title all the way? There's no chance for Matchu to overtake Airton in the overall rankings at this event but, if Airton were to finish fourth tomorrow and Matchu first, it would close the gap between them to just 200 points.
Matchu back in action after a strong event in Fuerte / Photo: Joern Pollex
Matchu won't be alone in his efforts to unseat Airton as Paulino Pereira is still ranked third with less of a mountain to climb than Matchu in terms of points. Perhaps Julian Kerneur, who has been solid through the heats today, will be able to find a chink in Airton's armour with his fresh approach.
The kiting world's elite takes centre stage in Fehmarn / Photo: Joern Pollex
After today's heats ended the official opening ceremony took place in which the riders paraded flags from their home countries to formally open the event. There are riders from 16 different nations here in Fehmarn at the Kitesurf World Cup but tonight's festivities will no doubt be subdued for the riders still in the event as tomorrow it's all to play for.
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Find the full GKA Kite-Surf World Tour 2017 event schedule here: www.global-kitesports.org/world-tours/wave