GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE TOUR ROUND TWO, DAY TWO
BLOWING THE DOORS OFF AT SOTAVENTO!
Sotavento, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain, 2nd August 2016
Day two and the start of the main event here in Sotavento brought some intense action on the water and the crowds got the chance to really see what this new kitesurfing discipline is all about. And entertainment factored highly!
Spectators at Rene Egli beach at Sotavento!
Two sessions saw us rattle through the eight heats of round one in the morning and eight more in the afternoon, bringing the contest to the quarter final stages to come from tomorrow.
The crowds here at the Rene Egli centre in Sotavento have already experienced ten back-to-back days of windsurfing slalom and freestyle World Cup competition in the build up to this kitesurfing strapless freestyle contest, but everyone agreed that this is the first time that the crowds have truly erupted in appreciation of the huge entertainment.
There were times today that, in genuine appreciation of the crowd's involvement. the riders would run by on a lap of honour, amping the atmosphere up even further.
The Rene Egli team have been running world class events here in windsports for over 30 years because it's awesomely windy! We are literally on the edge of this new discipline and watching it develop further with each stop of this tour this year. Last month at round one in Tarifa we had consistent 20 knot conditions each day and riders looked comfortable, yet stylish. During the warm-up day yesterday and throughout all of today, the wind reading barely ever dropped below 30 knots and regularly gusted 40, meaning riders were on their six and eight metre kites.
Adaptation as well as innovation is what's required here and the 17 riders are rising to the challenge. The speed at which they are attempting to land after their crazy horse kite loops sends a shudder down your spine... but they're going for it, and the crowd are loving it!
Here's a brief rundown of the heats from today:
Solid start from Sandro the Italian, with clean front roll and air reverses, whetting the crowd's appetite.
Easing into the Sotavento event, Jan Marcos, who finished 4th in Tarifa, looked supremely comfortable in these really strong winds, in particular during his massive front rolls. Thorben is a local Fuerte rider and looked to be lapping up the experience, but couldn't match Jan Marcos' control.
Camille rode with a huge smile throughout the warm-up yesterday and kept it constant today. A hugely entertaining rider from France, he took the win with a massive, clean double front roll. His was a special show and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Cool, calm and collected, Tarifa's runner-up has fire in his eyes for this event, but as we saw last time, Matchu is very steadily increasing his performance. Matchu just makes it all look so casual. A front to blind was his best trick over the local Fuerteventura rider, but within the heat he also laid down a massive crazy horse kite loop and Jesus walk in close for the crowds.
A really good, close heat of very equal riders who are following the whole tour this year, but Ralph had a bit more height and variation with high front rolls, crazy horse loops and big board off kite loops. Francesco landed big front rolls and air reverses and, as a first time rider on tour, the Italian looked good.
Paulino finished 3rd in Tarifa and started this event intent on equalling that position at least. He has some of the most powerful front rolls in the fleet – they almost look like S-bends. Good speed on both tacks saw him through without sweat.
Close heat, but Jose Maria landed a front roll in difficult conditions, as well as his signature move, a toeside air reverse 3 – the only time we've seen it landed on this tour so far. Brito got huge crowd points with a Jesus walk and crazy horse.
Airton came out of the blocks like a beast this morning. So much control, yet seemingly riding right on the edge of explosion. His secret to success: riding away from impending doom. So powered and clinical. A joy to watch for the fellow pros and the crowds. A tough heat and yet surely a joy to share the heat with him for the local riders.
Juanfra and Jose carried the flag for the Canaries through to the next round as Canadian Tundra Max struggled in a tough dog-eat-dog knock out heat and still on borrowed kit thanks to the airline still having not supplied his gear from the flight!
Jan Marcos is fast becoming a crowd favourite at each tour stop and he was back with his unique slow, high front rolls and air reverses. Kuba's clean back roll wasn't enough come the final count.
Luis from Cape Verde busted out one of the biggest crazy horse kite loops of the contest in what was surely the heat that drew the most whoops and hollers. A big mix of tricks from two flambuoyant riders, but it was the French rider Camille who advanced, especially for his huge front roll and massive boost in front of the crowd (yes, including a fist pump!).
Matchu, collected, calm, composed and injecting enough fuel to walk away with the win. Front roll, double front... methodical and consistent. Plus Jesus walk and front roll to toeside with a reverse for good measure.
Two French riders with big smiles for each other this heat. A workman like performance from each rider though with not much to pick between them, but in the end Ralph eeked out more height and more consequence in the control of his front and back rolls.
Bags of skills on show again from Paulino, emphasising his immense ability on both tacks. Air reverses and big crazy horse manoeuvres mixed with super stylish tweaks – this Portuguese rider is a rapidly evolving talent. His crazy horse showed the crowd just why it's called a crazy horse... yeeee haaa!
It's evident that Jose Maria is a close friend and riding partner of Paulino – both riders exhibiting a tight, clinical and especially powered style, yet Jose Maria has command of a very unique move – that even the judges have had to adapt the name of - the toeside air reverse 3 – taking off in toeside and doing a flat 360, landing in toeside, powered. Nice!
What can be said about Airton – he's in his element – strong winds, challenging conditions, cameras and crowds close-in. Massive front roll shuvits and insanely powered kite loops – though as yet he didn't land a really powered one... but they're coming. Air reverses and front rolls are now mandatory in his routine...as is landing hot!
Quarter finals and the start of the big air tomorrow!
QUARTER FINAL LINE-UP:
Sandro Pisu Vs Jan Marcos Riveras
Camille Dellannoy Vs Matchu Lopes
Ralph Boelen Vis Paulino Pereira
Jose Maria Neto Vs Airton Cozzolino
Here's the GKA Strapless Freestyle Grand Slam Fuerteventura - Day 1 Video Highlights
The GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Tour will see a mix of freestyle and wave events over the next few months, eventually resulting in the crowning of a GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Rider of the Year. After Sotavento in Fuerteventura the tour moves on to Mauritius in September, Dakhla - Morocco in October and Fortaleza in Brazil in November. This first event in Tarifa kicks things off as a purely strapless freestyle event.
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