The challenge as a race director is to try to reach an official result after managing to run a lot of hours of competition, while also trying to seek out timing for the best conditions for the final rounds… ideally. There are times, especially in wave competitions, that conditions can look under par at first glance, but World Championships are won and lost when riders take their eye off the ball. The GKA Kite World Tour is a long season. Six events will decide the championship this year and there’s just one more round to come in Brazil next month. A good result here at Dakhla is vital.
What has always been evident ever since the GKA brought this main group of strapless freestyle and wave riders together to form a successful World Tour, is that they are always keen to ride and improve their level in all conditions and are supportive of the vision for the tour. They understand that in order to have a successful world tour, it would need to be combined with strapless freestyle at flatter locations, in order to have the backing to put on high calibre wave contests at locations like Mauritius or Dakhla. When it’s on here, the wave peels incredibly smoothly and inspires high levels of riding. On Thursday it brought about big performances too, but perhaps not in the usual way we’d expect.
The competition wasn’t called on yesterday until late in the afternoon, and possibly only because it had been Keahi de Aboitiz who had gone out there to check the conditions. The Australian chose this round to make a return to competition because he connects with this places like no other, having been undefeated in world wave competition here for five years (until two seasons ago). He is one of the most efficient riders when it comes to light wind wave performance and when he went out and very casually stayed connected with a small wave from the outside, all the way in, controlling his speed, expertly choosing his moments of rapid acceleration to turn and smack a section… and did that seven times on one wave, Juan Antonio Aragon had no option but to call the contest on.
If you tuned in to the livestream for short periods you may have been underwhelmed, but if you stuck with it and knew what you were looking for, you’d have seen two things:
1. The connection that the top riders have with a wave and the ability to read it and remain positioned in the key section all the time is amazing, and is actually very difficult in small waves. The judges were still looking for riders using the power of the wave rather than the kite to maintain flow, and in smaller waves that takes a lot of subtle skill. When freeriding, most of us come way out the front of a small wave, send the kite back hard and smash the section mostly due to the power of the kite. That’s not how these guys do it… try it next time. It’s super difficult.
2. Today’s kite-surfing equipment is amazing. Even though the riders were slacking their lines during their turns we rarely saw any hint of back stalling in super light conditions. Instead, we saw riders stay impeccably in tune with their (mostly) 12 metre kites, finding power and drift on tap as and when needed. And that’s before we even think about the technology at play under their feet.
The performance of the day came in the last heat of the day from Pedro Matos who is surely bound for a podium before the end of the season. His stylish rise this season has been exponential and he managed to score a 9.07 ride which is incredible in the small and light conditions today. His vision for the waves and ability to work the section and stay in it was amazing, from making the first section and hitting it hard way out on the point, he stayed connected with it all the way into the bay without any hesitations and showed a great display of variety in his hits. Full power and flow all the time, even if his lines went fully slack at times. Great surfing and he got that highest heat score of the day against Italian, Toni Ciliberto.
Airton Cozzolino, Keahi de Aboitiz, Mitu Monteiro and James Carew all cruised through their heats, a cut above in terms of their ‘surfing’ level in these conditions, but special mention should also go to Reece Myerscough in (round one) heat 07A. A dedicated tour rider for the last two seasons, the Canadian usually excels in strong conditions but he registered amongst the highest heat scores of this session, breaking into the 8 point scores with one wave. He worked the wave from the outside all the way in – showing a super high level of control and wave reading. He went through comfortably against Moroccan, Abaid.
The competition day ended with just two more heats to come in round two:
Heat 12 A
Reece Myerscough V Kiko Roig
Heat 12 B
Airton Cozzolino V Jorn Donat.