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With slightly lighter winds forecasted than yesterday, riders prepped their gear while the windline that could already be seen advancing towards the shore moved in and the first heats began at 1.30pm.

The first heat saw Jan Marcos Riveras composed from the off as he despatched fellow North teamrider Ralph Boelen with some big backroll kiteloops close into shore as the home crowd cheered him on. He would go on to face Airton Cozzolino in the semi final but couldn’t match his barrage of powered, technical tricks. Speaking after his heat he said he felt positive about the result and is already looking ahead to tomorrow’s mini final in which he’ll battle Paulino Perreira for third place.

Airton’s first heat against Mitu Monteiro was today’s standout performance and judge Mallory de la Villemarque proclaimed it the best heat he’s ever seen.

Airton, always starts his heats with a bang / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

Airton went huge from the off with massive back rolls and rodeos as well as a front roll shuvit three but his pièce de resistance was yet another powered 313 handlepass!

Mitu held nothing back of course and pulled out his new trick, a double back roll rodeo with a kiteloop, to great applause but, while it impressed the judges, it wasn’t enough to overcome Airton’s display that blended height, power, ‘wow factor’ and technicality securing his path to tomorrow’s much anticipated final.

Mitu is bringing his unhooked game to the table this year too / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

Airton will meet his close friend and fellow Cape Verdean rider Matchu Lopes who had displayed a slightly more relaxed approach in the early heats but that was a distant memory today and he dispatched Camille Delannoy and then Paulino Perreira to book his place in the final.

Matchu Lopes, stoked to make another final and a re-match with Airton tomorrow / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

His style is very different to Airton’s but his riding is still technical and a clean double front shuvit sealed the deal for him. Tomorrow’s final won’t be his first against Airton but he says he’s relishing the opportunity to put it all on the line in the strong Levante winds that are forecasted and will come in cross-offshore from the left.

Paulino Pereira knows that the front roll shuvit is key to making finals / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

Paulino didn’t make it easy for Matchu though and rode with his customary power and zeal but the slight drop in winds during the last couple of heats of the day didn’t suit his powerful riding style. Keeping a cool head is key at this level of competition and, after the heat, he recognized that his focus on trying to land a front roll to shuvit had caused him to lose momentum against Matchu. He’s positive about tomorrow’s mini-final against Jan Marcos though and has done well to maintain his competitive level over the winter as he juggles training with his full-time job as a mechanic in the Portuguese airforce.

Big call for the crew: good conditions, but the decision was taken to now wait for the Levante wind and the huge weekend crowds / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide

The final four: Airton, Jan Marcos, Matchu and Paulino / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide