Three years into its existence, the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour is turning into a grueling surf battle between Airton Cozzolini and Keahi de Aboitiz—each unloading fierce hits in the pocket and unrivaled technical airs. Cabo Verde’s Matchu Lopez, Portugul’s Paulino Pereira and Brazil’s Sebastian Ribeiro are all wildcards capable of an upset and with the podium anything but a given, the best seat in the house belongs to Mallory de la Villemarque. The Tarifa-based Frenchman is perched up in the judging tower, assigning a single numerical value to every wave ridden since the GKA reincarnated competitive kitesurfing.

Mallory himself is no stranger to competition; holding multiple freestyle French championships and after a stint on the PKRA, he later earned his bachelors and strapless surf pedigree while attending college in the Hawaiian Islands. Looking back on the state of competitive kitesurfing, Mallory recalls a PKRA wave stop in Mantanzas, Chile in 2007. The winner back then was Martin Vari and all the boards had footstraps—the biggest difference between then and now, he says is, “these days the tour actually looks like surfing.” In the spring 2018 issue, we interviewed Mallory to assess the state of the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour and survey the competitive terrain that lays ahead.