GKA Kitesurf World Cup (Strapless Freestyle)


The 2018 GKA Kite-Surf World Tour 2018 round 5 at Sotavento in Fuerteventura has been truly memorable. Big winds every day have thrown up some mind blowing action, including a new hang-time world record for Airton Cozzolino on Tuesday, on top of having made it a hat-trick of wins here in Sotavento with his fourth event victory of the season. New moves have also been stomped and 19 year-old James Carew from Australia fulfilled his growing potential by claiming his first victory in the second discipline, the Big Air contest.

So as the Kite-Surf World Tour leaves, the windsurfers arrive for another 11 days at the Fuerteventura Windsurfing & Kitesurfing World Cup – which has now been run by Rene Egli for 33 consecutive years. The forecast for them looks equally epic for their slalom and freestyle events!

So we congratulate all the riders for a fantastic week of performance and brave action and look forward to seeing them again at round six of the Kite-Surf World Tour at Prea in Brazil in November, before the World Championship climax in December in Australia. 

Up next for the GKA it’s the Kiteboarding World Tour Air Games at Fehmarn in Germany, from 24 – 28th August.



1 AIRton Cozzolino (CV / ITA)

2 Matchu Lopes (SPN)

3 Keahi de Aboitiz (AUS)

BIG AIR RESULTS (Doesn't count towards World Championship)

1 James Carew (AUS)

2 Mitu Monteiro (CV)

3 Airton Cozzolino (CV / ITA)


The Big Air competition is supposed to be the secondary discipline for the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour if there’s time to run a show once the main event has been completed. Today at Sotavento was anything but secondary to anything. The action was mental! 

The Big Air contest riders ended up playing catch the sky hook this afternoon at GKA Kite-Surf World Tour Fuerteventura with some very unusual upper level winds that saw some competitors not just getting extra lift once or twice… Airton in fact registered one incredible slice of hang-time at 20 seconds by repeatedly heli-looping his kite overhead! He just kept going… and going!

When he eventually landed out of the competition zone all the riders, crew and crowd were on their feet, head in hands, speechless at what they’d just seen in this quarter final.

Airton pulled himself up, looked back the beach (which was now a long way upwind of him) and we could see him waving back at the crowd wondering himself quite what had just happened?

His head was surely still spinning because that was the second crazy air fish he’d caught that hour. In his previous heat in the third round against Arsenio Dias, he’d had another similar experience, boosting high and then flying, up, up up and just hovering. Perhaps he was trying to find a way back to his home planet? He landed that jump at the end of a approximately 15 second flight. The beach erupted; it was goosebumps all round.

Up in the tower we were quickly refreshing our memories and Macs with the details of Jesse Richman’s hangtime record of 22 seconds that he set way back in 2007, also with a freak gust that he managed to tap into and somehow harness control of in Germany.

But I’ve never seen anything like it. So that’s two riders in 20 years of the sport, over a decade apart, who have experienced around 20 seconds of hang-time… and Airton did it without straps. It was just silly.

Aaaanyway, Airton didn’t actually make the final! Although he was landing sick tricks like his now signature huge back roll double tick-tack, Mitu Monteiro himself managed to hook into a wild series of lifts out back and navigated a long and undulating helicopter ride, knocking Airton out at his own game!

Of course, you might be able to hook one, but can you keep the fish on the line? And then land it? Any good fisherman will tell you the thrill is in the chase and playing the fish till it tires. Mitu rode that gust till it had nothing more to give, covered 100 metres, and landed in the final.

He met Australian James Carew to fight for the win after 16 riders had competed in a dingle elimination format. The heats were judged slightly higher on height today in the windier conditions, up from 60 to 70% from yesterday, with another 30% of points available technical difficulty. In other words what you do while you’re up there. Judges weren’t just looking for straight airs, but the motivation is primarily to go as big as possible.

One trick would take it and with no overall impression, the aim was to just send it!

It’s amazing what these riders can achieve in big wind conditions. Looking back over three years of strapless freestyle competition, many of these riders have done every event and their progression has been such that they’ve taken what was a show discipline and created a fully legit sector of a combination wave and strapless freestyle world tour. Reverting back to the show element like this Big Air comp, the riders were in their element, holding down up to ten metre kites in 30+ knots on a surfboard.

Being strapless the whole journey and technique of big air is so different. From the very first moment you take off, it’s technical. Watch this video of riders talking about Airton’s skills with extended interview text to understand a little more. The obvious thrill for any spectator, kiter or not, is that moment when they’re careering back towards the water as the kite climbs back up through the window from a kite loop and everyone on the beach wills them to be able to somehow get their board underfoot for a fast but stable landing.

Mitu caught another big air out back in the final, but perhaps thankfully, James Carew took his first event win with a damn fine high back roll, with a shuvit 360 at the apex, catching the board, placing it into the infamous ‘rodeo’ position between his legs, sending a kite loop and then piloting his way back down to a stomped planing landing. A move that he only cracked today (but managed it several times). When asked why he didn’t take the board in hand and flip it for a tick tack like everyone else, he said, “Nah, I’m rubbish with my hands, so I flipped it with my feet!”

GKA Sotavento big air podium 

Podium winners, left to right: Mitu Monteiro (CV) 2nd, James Carew (AUS) 1st, Airton Cozzolino (CV / ITA) 3rd, Matchu Lopes (SPN) 4th

Fair enough. Congrats to him and to all riders for reminding us how much fun and laughter a kiting competition can bring when the contenders are all mates, stood on the shoreline and hollering each other to ‘kite loooop’!


1 James Carew (AUS)

2 Mitu Monteiro (CV)

3 Airton Cozzolino (CV / ITA)

4 Matchu Lopes (SPN)

5 Keahi de Aboitiz (AUD)

5 Paulino Pereira (POR)

5 Gustavo Arrojo (SPN)

5 Simon Joosten (BAR)

9 Camille Delannoy (FRA)

9 Ralph Boelen (FRA)

9 Jakub Juras (POL)

9 Arsenio Dias (CV)

9 Francesco Capuzzo (ITA)

9 Reece Myerscough (CAN)

9 Laurens Meyer Kittel (GER)

9 Thorben Jasper (GER)


Today was very nearly the first day in three years that the GKA has been staged at Sotavento in Fuerteventura that the organisation didn’t run some kind of action. We said ‘nearly’…

However, that’s without explaining that all morning had been 25 knots, but just after the Big Air round one riders took to the water at 2pm, a freaky little wind system / full moon / high tide / hot Calima effect (yes, we discussed it for a while), came in, dropped the wind and switched it onshore.

 Keahi de Aboitiz knows how to fill time. These days there are no conditions that are unfit for shred. Watching Keahi link small wave after small wave, pumping his way off the back of one and onto another left us all... wanting a go! 90 minutes later, the flags were cross off-shore again and Sotavento was back up to scratch and pulling in the standard wind stats.

After the climax to yesterday’s main event GKA Kite-Surf Tour round five, when we have the luxury of finishing early with wind still in the pocket like this, the riders like to throw up a real spectacle for the crowd, usually in the form of a big air contest.

Judged 60% on absolute height, there are also another 40% of points available for what you do while you’re up there. In other words, judges aren’t just looking for straight airs, but the motivation is primarily to go as big as possible.

One trick takes it and with no overall impression, wipeouts are many… causing hoots and hollers from the riders as well as the spectators.

It’s formats like this where real progression can potentially come. All riders go harder when encouraged by their friends, and even more so when there’s a crowd to impress.

The wind was fairly gusty when it first came back in after the drop, but James Carew and Paulino Pereira managed to lock in some big, beefy kite loops, Simon Joosten further compounded his reputation for style against Camille Delannoy.

Of course, at the end of a late afternoon session that completed round one of the Big Air contest, Airton Cozzolino once again closed out the show and any number of tricks could have been the best ‘big air’ move, but his massive back roll double tick-tack was the trick of the day.

16 riders registered for the big air contest, so in a dingle variation, the heats are mixed once more for round three when eight riders will be eliminated. 


Matchu pulled frustratedly on his bar after a slow and uneasy landing because of a high kite. Where Airton was finding a body and kite angle to rescue a tricky landing and create some forward pull at the last moment, Matchu seemed to be left scrambling for aerial position in the final.

Approaching the last minute, they both took off; Matchu attempting a fast triple front roll on the inside as Airton adjusted to the gusts around another huge back roll combination out back.

As the final few seconds ticked by Airton took off halfway inside the competition box, landing 100 yards from where he started… a late back roll rodeo into a powered kite loop saw him projected in front of his kite. Still 15 feet up with his board locked between his knees he arched his back and craned his neck to look up and check his kite before pulling it in a wide arc around the top of the window, propelling his flight further still. He threw another body spin before reaching down for his board, releasing it from his knees and holding his position… holding… he pulled the kite back around another rescue loop overhead, tucked his legs up to his chest, placed the board under his feet and instinctively pressed them into the deck on landing.

He rode away and ran his fingers through the water, letting his kite pull him downwind and out of the competition zone. The Job was done.

The judges later decided to call it a ‘Late back roll rodeo double loop ending with a board off’… whatever it was we’d just seen the most undulating trick of the entire contest that exhibited Airton’s crazy control as a pilot in challenging conditions.

Back on terra firma, the reigning Champion said, “Oh man, did you see it, ha ha, it felt so good. I hope they count the landing!”

All five judges had given Airton three 10s for his heat’s ‘technical difficulty’, ‘variety’ and ‘overall impression.’ Alvaro Onieva commented, “His scores were so high because his heat was full of crazy tricks with tremendous power and performance!” That rating is a first in Kite-Surf World Tour history, and a mark of what Airton was building up to over the last few days.

This result takes him to four wins from five events (in this seven event season), and up to two wins over Matchu in the three finals they’ve contested in 2018. Of his own performance in the final Matchu said, “What can you do when it doesn’t connect!” Five minutes later, as we awaited the official result over the loud speaker in front of the Rene Egli Sotavento crowd, Matchu lifted Airton’s arm before the MC had chance to announce the winner, as all riders hailed ‘Airton the Alien’ (otherwise now known, thanks to the event MC, as ‘Cozzolino Airways’!)

No doubt, Airton makes it three wins on the trot at Sotavento… the result confirmed by fellow finalist, Matchu / Photo: Tom Brendt – Tillmanns Team

The day started at the quarter final stage in this dingle elimination contest of man-on-man knockout rounds. Here are today’s results (further heat breakdowns to come – so stay tuned to the site):

Quarter finals:

Keahi de Aboitiz (W) V Camille Delannoy

Matchu Lopes (W) V Simon Joosten

Mitu Monteiro (W) V Paulino Pereira

Airton Cozzolino (W) V Gustavo Arrojo

Semi finals:

Matchu Lopes (W) V Keahi de Aboitiz

Airton Cozzolino (W) V Mitu Monteiro

Mini Final:

Keahi de Aboitiz (W) V Mitu Monteiro

The Final:

Airton Cozzolino (W) V Matchu Lopes


The howling winds were already in by mid morning and signified a pumping Saturday afternoon of action.

At 12 noon, the first riders were sending it on 7s.

When it's gnarly like today, Sotavento is undoubtedly a technical place to land all your tricks perfectly in competition, but the Kite-Surf World Tour format rewards all aspects of manoeuvres and heat management. Can you go high? Yes! Is it still possible to do a variety of moves? Yes. And because it’s technical, Airton Cozzolino managed to nail almost a perfect ten from all five judges for technical difficulty in the last heat of round one on Saturday.

The essence of kitesurfing makes sense when you see good riders going big with control. Airton demonstrated once again that his ability to progress quickly is still at an unbelievable level. Remember when Aaron Hadlow was innovating almost by the event in freestyle? Well, Airton’s pretty much doing the same thing in strapless freestyle. But he manages to do it by going huge! When walking past the judges tower, they could be heard exclaiming that he should be in the Air Games!

Other highlights of the first session today came from Matchu Lopes who had one of the most consistent heats against Laurens Karls-Kittel and Jorge Suarez. Where Airton explodes, Matchu measures majestically. Double front, followed by a double back roll as well as a back roll kite loop all added to a good score for variety.

However, if it’s variety that you’re looking for, check out Airton’s trick list from this first heat:

Massive back roll

Massive back roll kite loop rodeo

Kite loop back roll

Kite loop rodeo

Back roll tick tack

Front shuvit 3

Sadly for Justyna Sierpinska, one of two women in this contest, he blasted them out against her!

There was a buzz on the beach today because, not only were the riders competing against each other, they were on a journey together with the undulating strong wind conditions.

When asked at the end of the day, Matchu Lopes said, “Oh man, you have to concentrate so much through your tricks. You can send a loop and have three different stages of kite control throughout the trick. The wind is strong so you go high, but then if you catch a gust, or even two while you’re up there, you can go even higher and it was fun to watch all the other riders going up and down!”

The technical mastery on show today was great to watch. One of the newest moves is a back roll kite loop tick tack (a tick-tack being a board spin in your hand). So what’s involved? Firstly, controlling the board on take-off, showing the base of the board to the wind as you go into a back roll. Take the board into your hand as you send the kite into a kite loop and as the kite comes up through the loop spin the board 360 with one hand and catch it again as you traverse the sky line. Manage all that then maintain forward flight by keeping power in your kite without it stalling overhead as you drop down. Inevitably you’ll have to throw a rescue heli loop but with just one hand on the bar you’ll be coming at speed and judging the final gamble of whether you can get board securely underfoot without twisting your ankle when you land. Airton nailed several variations of similar manoeuvres as well as almost landing a big boogie loop rodeo (a move we saw him attempting to land in the tricky lighter Tarifa winds at the last round a few weeks ago).

Paulino Pereira would however go on to land the first ever full strapless boogie loop rodeo in competition in round three against James Carew. He needed to pull out all the stops against the Australian in the best heat of the day. James had had to come through the losers round two and was relishing the conditions, as well as the heckles from all the riders on the beach that became standard in each heat: ‘Kite looooop!’

Send it he did, time and time again. James also landed the first toe-side frontside 3 with a shuvit 3 in that heat too, but it was Paulino’s boogie loop rodeo (a big kite loop sending the kite back through the window as his body does a front roll with the board locked between his legs, before being pulled out neatly for landing).

Airton’s never one to be outdone, though. The quarter finals are coming up tomorrow when this big wind Sotavento turbulent rollercoaster will continue to enthral!

Camille Delannoy vs Keahi de Aboitiz

Matchu Lopes vs Simon Joosten

Gustavo Arrojo vs AIRton Cozzolino

Paulino Pereira vs Mitu Monteiro

Simon Joosten from Barbados is continuing his impressive improvement, having knocked Keahi de Aboitiz out in round three in Tarifa, and will face the very smooth looking Matchu Lopes. Keahi de Aboitiz’ ability to adapt impressed today as he steadily cycled his way through bigger and bigger tricks. He’ll face the young French powerhouse Camille Delannoy who remains an unpredictable opponent. If he nails everything in his powers, he’s a capable winner and rode with huge power, propelling himself far across the contest zone today! Regular top five finisher Gustavo Arrojo from Spain faces Airton who has his sights set on a hat trick of wins here in Sotavento, while Paulino Perreira and Mitu Monteiro are two riders who have attended every wave and strapless freestyle event since the GKA launched this tour, and have a super close record against each other.

The pumping thermals that this southern corner of Fuerteventura island in the Canaries is famous for were in effect from early this morning. By the afternoon, the 24 registered riders (including two women) for this fifth event in what is now a seven event 2018 World Tour season, hit the water for a demonstration to show the Hotel Meliá Fuerteventura / Rene Egli Kitesurfing Centre crowds, a little of what’s to come over the next five days.

This is the third year that the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour has visited Sotavento and is part of the Fuerteventura Windsurfing and Kitesurfing World Cup – a two week extravaganza run by Rene Egli and the Meliá Fuerteventura Hotel.

Airton Cozzolino is undefeated here and shooting for his hat trick in Sotavento, which would give him four wins from five events this season, and a dominant lead heading into the last two events, which have recently been announced as Prea in Brazil in November, and Torquay in Australia in December. Both of those will be mixed events though, and as we’ve seen in the past Airton is ‘beatable’ in waves, so he’ll be determined to claim maximum points here.

All the riders put on a superb afternoon warm-up show. The riders really enjoy riding here because the Sotavento crowds love to get involved and cheer their heroes on to go higher and higher.

We expect many more people to the beach tomorrow and the performances to shift up a gear as the main event begins.

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