When the favourite is dumped out of international competition early by a local rider, things change, throwing the event wide open. Here’s the reaction from Mauritius when Airton went out of the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle event at One Eye, allowing Matchu Lopes to jump ahead in the championship with one event to go.
ALEX PASTOR: GKA FREESTYLE RIDER OF THE YEAR
Alex Pastor was crowned Men's GKA Rider of the Year after the Germany WKL event and an incredibly close run contest with Aaron Hadlow over the season. This is the story of how the five event GKA Grand Slam Freestyle series played out!
In 2015 Liam Whaley and Gisela Pulido were the overall freestyle champions when the tour was run by the WKT (previously VKWC), but due to conflicting association politics and poor organisation a string of events were cancelled at the end of the season. Liam and Gisela never actually got to stand on a podium as champions. Sadly they were notified of their titles via email.
That capped off a tumultuous and damaging couple of seasons for the image of the freestyle competition world, resulting in the GKA devising the 'Rider of the Year' ranking to ensure that, regardless of which freestyle event associations sanctioned the events, there would be five 'freestyle based' 'Grand Slam' events on the calendar that were guaranteed to be run by good local organisers who have proved to be well organised, have sufficient prize money and infrastructure for riders. As a GKA Grand Slam event, the GKA member brands would ensure support by making sure that their team riders attend.
ALEX PASTOR: BOARD MEMBER - KRU AND THE WORLD KITEBOARDING LEAGUE
Alex is our GKA Freestyle Rider of the Year 2016, but he's also been at the forefront of pulling together the Kiteboarding Riders United (KRU) and the World Kiteboarding League. The freestyle world competition circuit once again looks exciting and progressive. We speak to Alex about his involvement and how things have changed apparently for the better from this time last year...
The fiery Portuguese rider has been a revelation this year with his full power approach in everything he does. Sitting solidly in third position, he’s one of the few riders consistently and confidently nailing strapless handle-passes, but also throws the biggest kite loops on the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Tour. Here’s a little more about this military aircraft mechanic.
This week we announce the launch of our series of videos building up to the final round of the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Tour 2016 in Dakhla.
The first video sees us catch up with Mauritius winner and new tour leader Matchu Lopes to get his thoughts and reaction to that huge victory a couple of weeks ago.
Here's a little more background of the current situation:
2016 has already been a very exciting year on tour. Looking back at three fantastic events we've seen some incredible performances and there's no doubt in just a short few months that this incredibly talented pack of new school surfboard wave kiters have pushed the disciplines of Wave & Strapless Freestyle to new levels.
GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE STOP #03 - THE FINAL WRAP
Le Morne, Mauritius, 16th September 2016
2016 has already been a very exciting year on tour. Looking back at three fantastic events in Tarifa, Sotavento and now wrapping up here in Mauritius, we've seen some incredible performances and there's no doubt in just a short few months that this incredibly talented pack of new school surfboard wave kiters have pushed the disciplines of Wave & Strapless Freestyle to new levels.
The last event in Dakhla is shaping up to offer yet more highs as it will feature a single discipline that combines both Wave and Strapless Freestyle into the same competition to decide the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Rider of the Year for 2016.
The GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle boys were back in action on Saturday, putting on a show for the crowds at Le Morne with a Big Air Strapless Freestyle comp. They know how to keep the tempo high.
Here's the action!
Patience and training paid off last week after a long wait for high-performance wave competition as the women stepped up at One Eye for the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle Mauritius event.
At the end of four rounds of competition we were presented with an intriguing women’s final that saw local hotshot and winner of the KSP event here in 2012, Ninja Bichler, go up against Moona Whyte from Hawaii and Milla Ferreira from Brazil.
The final was tight with each rider picking good waves with commitment and flow. Here’s how it panned out!
GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE STOP #03 - DAY SIX – MEN'S STRAPLESS BIG AIR CONTEST!
Le Morne, Mauritius, 12th September 2016
Saturday saw the promise of a carnivalesque performance from the strapless freestylers as they put on a show right in front of the spectators, really up close and personal at the offshore point of the public Kite Beach in Le Morne.
As riders sped in towards the spectators they'd pull the trigger on their tricks just feet away from the beach, firing themselves away from the crowd, downwind into the lagoon.
Photos: Toby Bromwich and Jim Gaunt
GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE STOP #03 - DAY THREE – THE LADIES CONTEST!
Le Morne, Mauritius, 9th September 2016
The girls had to wait until the conclusion of the guy's contests yesterday here in Le Morne to get their first taste of competition at One Eye. Three days spent training upwind at Chameaux paid off as we were treated to a show of measured power and finesse in the surf.
In truth, the girl's contest was only confirmed just a few short weeks ago thanks to extra sponsors making that possible, and what good news that was with nine girls eventually either making the long journey here, or registering as a local.
Photos: Toby Bromwich
It's been a long wait for a super-charge elite wave kiting contest and the Mauritius GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle tour round three has not disappointed! At the start of yesterday morning four men remained in the contest.
GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE STOP #03 - DAY THREE – THE FINAL ROUNDS AND THE LADIES!
Le Morne, Mauritius, 8th September 2016
It was a long night's wait for Keahi de Aboitiz and Matchu Lopes who were first up in semi final number one. The waves were a little smaller than day two and the wind a little lighter at times, but as Patri McLaughlin said, “The waves were still really good, and One Eye is really good no matter how big it is!”
The story of wave kiting, especially at One Eye in Mauritius is a special one, and the 2016 GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle tour is filled with great characters and riders. This video takes you through rounds two, three and the quarter finals of the Mauritius stop of the tour - and yes, it was a good day of action! Semis and finals action to come.
GKA WAVE & STRAPLESS FREESTYLE STOP #03 - DAY TWO - OH BOY!
Le Morne, Mauritius, 7th September 2016
Day two at the GKA Wave & Strapless Freestyle round 3 in Mauritius saw non-stop action from the start of the day to sundown. Starting from just over halfway through round one, we then whipped through round two which was the dingle round for those riders who finished in second and third in round one, then it was onto round three where the biggest news was the championship leader Airton Cozzolino was dumped out of the contest by local Jeremy Chan! There was barely time to catch breath as the action continued thick and fast as One Eye continued to blow savagely hot, or cooler at times - during certain 15 minute heats riders had to scratch around and show their technicality on some smaller waves to do enough to get through. But generally it was all-on!