On the tenth and final day of the GKA Kite World Cup Dakhla Airton Cozzolino yet again took the headlines with an incredible eight back-to-back heat winning comeback in the men’s Kite-Surf double elimination. In doing so the Cape Verdean has also ensured that he’ll retain his World Championship crown.
In the women’s Carla Herrera-Oria also fought bravely through the entire double elimination, facing down five heats and reaching the final for her own re-match against Kirsty Jones. In guaranteeing her second place finish at the event, Carla too has done enough to win her first World Title.
Mikaili Sol won the women’s Freestyle event earlier in the week and she too will retain her Freestyle World Title, now making her a three time World Champion (she also has four junior World Titles) at just 14 years-of-age.
The men’s Freestyle will go down to the wire at the final round in Brazil, as will the remaining podium male and female podium positions in both disciplines.
Dakhla has delivered on all levels as the penultimate event of the season with wind on each of the ten days, justifying its status as one of the best and most all-round kitesurfing locations in the world. The Freestylers completed their nail biting competition in the first five days on Dakhla’s famous big lagoon in front of Dakhla Attitude, before the competition crew moved to Westpoint where the Kite-Surfers competed for the remaining half of the event window.
KITE-SURF DOUBLE ELIMINATION WEEKEND CATCH-UP
A double elimination ladder can sometimes feel like an endless competition, but at a constantly windy location like Dakhla, where time allows for it, once the single elimination cards fall into place and the big names who lost early start to re-enter the competition, it becomes very exciting.
Eventually the elimination ladder narrows when most of the riders have been eliminated to leave a single line of back-to-back heats that a rider must win in order to reach the final where, in this case, Mitu Monteiro was already waiting as men’s single elimination winner.
After a long wait until mid afternoon on Saturday, Airton began his comeback against Charly Martin, a rapidly rising 14 year-old wave talent from Reunion Island.
As fortune would have it, the waves were smaller and the sets more infrequent, so the format changed from pure wave to now allowing the best freestyle trick score (from six attempts) and the best two wave scores to count. Few riders can of course match Airton when it comes down to a single trick score with such consistency and, when he has a taste for revenge, no one attacks waves with such intensity.
Having dealt with young Martin, Airton lined up a huge match-up against another single elimination quarter final loser, Keahi de Aboitiz. We’re used to seeing these two do battle in finals, but this was where the competition really lit up as it was now a pure knock-out system: ‘win your heat and take on the next highest finisher’.
Scores remained close throughout with Keahi’s typically smooth and fluid surf style against Airton’s ferocious attack. Airton’s big back roll tic-tac to switch stance is a high scoring freestyle move that he can seemingly always pull out and was the difference for most of the heat. We held our breath as Keahi finally managed to land the double shuvit he’d been trying for his last two heats, but it was butt checked quite heavily and couldn’t bring him up to Airton’s heat score of 20.03.
As Airton picked off his challengers one by one there was a sense of inevitability about what he was setting out to achieve. The more he rides and gets into his flow, the better he becomes and in a way having back to back heats is better for him, but even Airton can start to get tired. His last two heats of the day were epic battles against James Carew and then Pedro Matos – time to pull out his trusted dragon slayer – his unhooked backside 3 handle-pass off a wave kicker. Phenomenal. The wind and light faded just ahead of his semi-final re-match against Reece Myerscough.
In the women’s single elimination, Dakhla resident wildcard originally from Wales, Kirsty Jones, was peerless in her fluid wave approach and did the most damage possible. Drawn against tour leader Carla Herrera-Oria in round one of the single elimination, the Spaniard was promptly beaten by Kirsty and found herself facing the unenviable task of working her way back through the double elimination from the very bottom.
The women’s double elimination had begun on Friday afternoon and, by the end of Saturday evening, Carla had herself battled through five heats – as with Airton the adjusted competition format played to her strengths as the most accomplished freestyler on tour right now. However, her backside wave approach in these smaller waves made her flow and wave connection more difficult, so all her heats were closely contested in the end.
Peri Roberts was her first victim on Saturday, a new charger from Australia on tour this season who is improving event to event. Carla’s back-roll board-off the difference between them in this otherwise fairly even backside duel.
Swede Catharina Edin put up the highest wave score in the next heat, but again Carla’s freestyle prowess carried her through, this time pulling the advantage from a front roll board-off.
The semi-final against Charlotte Carpentier was an important heat as these are the top two riders in the championship. It was very tight too, but Charlotte only managed two waves and one freestyle trick in the heat (you could say she was efficient!) Carla’s tic tac was judged better than Charlotte’s straight air and with that, although the maths was still being calculated, Carla had done enough to secure the title!
Conditions had really dropped away, but there was a little wind. The forecast showed for it to die through the day so the men’s semi final ran in what became a pure wave shore break showdown.