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Tarifa Strapless Pro Win for Airton

It was a show stopping event in Tarifa this weekend at the Tarifa Strapless Pro. Marking the start of the 2017 GKA World Tour, it was time for the riders to come out of hiding and showcase their new trick lists! 

It was no surprise that the event attracted 28 competitors from across the globe, what with Tarifa being a place with so much wind sport history it needs no introduction. “I think Tarifa has been the most forward-thinking destination in the world. The vibe on its 12km long sandy beach has always been very welcoming to new trends and when the Andalusian spirit merges with the athletes, it’s a show that has no equivalents in our industry,” say’s Jaime Herraiz.

Of the 28 entrants, 12 went through into the main event having prequalified with their ranking on last year’s tour, whilst the remaining 16 - four of who were local wildcard entires - battled it out in the trials. The conditions delivered from the get-go and competition flowed with some of the most innovative Strapless Freestyle riding to date. Spectators filled the world-renowned Valdevaqueros beach to watch the world’s best go head to head through the rounds.

Up first was Team Rider Ralph Boelen (FRA) who put on a great display of technical tricks, whilst Spanish National Team Rider Jan Marcos secured 1st place in Heat 2. Airton Cozzolino took a while to find his feet initially in Heat 4, but in the end his crowd pleasing performance delivered the necessary scores. Hawaiian big wave charger Patri McLaughlin impressed the judges with a huge front roll, setting the bar high with powered front rolls off the kickers. In the final heat of day one, textbook conditions gave defending Champion Matchu Lopes the perfect opportunity to throw down front roll shuvits and powered rotations with great technicality advancing with ease.

Round 3 saw the winners of Round 1 get back on the water, starting with Ralf Boelen who took on Luis Brito in a tough heat. “I was worried when I saw Luis' back loop kiteloop as I knew it was going to be a big scoring trick so I was happy to still win,”  say’s Ralph.  With the event organisers running a slick show, there was no rest for the wicked as Jan Marcos, Airton and Matchu all put on top display’s to secure their spots in the Semi Finals.

The last day of the event say the wind switching from Poniente to the more challenging and strong Levante. Airton, Matchu, Jan Marcos and Paulino all came chanrging out of the gate for the Semi Finals, but in the end there was only one real battle for the top spot which was between Team Riders and longterm friends Matchu and Airton. Both riders opened up with huge moves, with Matchu coming close to landing a triple front. Airton responded with a blend of powered tricks including big 313’s and kite loops which would rack up a winning score to claim 1st place!

Catching up with Airton and Matchu who are currently on route to Lima for an official North Kiteboarding shoot, it seems that spirits are high and both are buzzing follow a great start to the competitive season.

Airton. How was Tarifa for you?

This year’s event was amazing! The conditions were always there, as were the crowd who were motivated to watch using action. I’m super happy to take my third win at this event.

The wind changed during the event from Poniente to Levante. Which do you prefer?

It depends. When I want to do Flat 3’s and 313’s I prefer Poiniente because it makes everything easier. When it’s Levante, man, it’s heavy conditions so I like to fly and do tricks like a Crazy Horse Kite Loop. This year I saw Matchu trying a triple so I knew I had to do something big. I managed a 313 in over 40 knots of wind which was crazy! When I landed it I was super stoked.

What expectations do you have for the next stop on the tour in Dakhla?

I’ve been to Dakhla four times already and I know the spot pretty well.  I hope the conditions deliver. Fingers crossed we get to score some waves as that’s the discipline I’m most comfortable with. The right-hander there suits my style and I’m looking forward to doing some big airs.

Dakhla was my first International competition ever and I came 2nd which was cool. Before that i’d only participated in some National events in Italy, so it was great to do so well in my first comp away from home. 

How has your riding evolved since that first International event in Dakhla?

My riding has changed a lot! I’ve had a lot more experience, support and opportunity to travel and train. Being able to experience different spots with a variety of wind and waves makes you better for sure. Living in Cape Verde means I get great conditions to train hard and us riders have really pushed the sport over the years.

Any final words before you hop on your plane to Peru?

Yes! I’d like to say a huge thank you to the organisation in Tarifa. They really look after us well and put on a well run event. Also, a big thanks to people who came to watch the event. Seeing a beach full of spectators really makes this event special and motivates me to go big or go home. 

Hey Matchu. Tarifa was the first event of the season where you came 2nd. How do you feel about your result?

I’m stoked with it! It was a very nice event and well organised. There were a lot of people there to watch the high level of riding on the water with lots of variation, styles and approached to  competition. I had a lot of friends there to support and push me. Airton’s Father - who’s like a Father to me - was also there to motivate me which was incredible. In the Finals I was pretty nervous and in hindsight I feel like I could have done better, but I wasn’t connecting with the conditions although I tried to do my best. Ultimately I’m happy with how everything went. 

Tell us about the contest area in Tarifa and all the spectators on the beach?

It’s the only place where i’ve seen so many people there to support the riders and the event. The vibe that everyone is carrying is beautiful. The weather, the wind, the location; it’s so special and the perfect place to kick off the World Tour as we need to start with a bang! It’s a competition that has huge potential and I look forward to seeing it grow in the future.

You’ve gone straight from the event in Tarifa to a shoot in Peru. How does it feel to be that busy?

Yeah, my schedule is pretty jam packed with a lot of events, competitions, photoshoots and demos. I’ve also been travelling a lot these past few months training hard and my schedule ahead is full on until the end of November, after which I hope to go home and work out what’s coming next. 

What’s your focus after the shooting? 

I’ll be channeling my energy into the 2nd stop of the GKA Tour which is in Dakhla and a Wave discipline. It’s not really the right time of year for the waves but fingers crossed that we get lucky and score the conditions needed. I’m pretty excited as I’m a back hand rider so I feel pretty comfortable. I know the spot well an have been there a few times, so i’ll just keep it easy and do what I have to do. 

photocredit: Ydwer van der Heide,