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GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024 - Day 1: Athletes charge waves in season tour opener

by Ian MacKinnon 17 Feb 17:50 GMT 16-25 February 2024
Sebastian Ribeiro - GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024 - Day 1 © Lukas K Stiller

The opening shots of the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour were fired in the legendary waves of Ponta Preta, on Cape Verde's Sal island, which is playing host to the season's first call in the Kite-Surf discipline.

But the first exchanges in the men's contest at the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde immediately put several of the biggest favourites in jeopardy. Cape Verdeans Matchu Lopes (ESP) and Mitu Monteiro, last year's winner and runner-up respectively, had to fight for survival in Round 2, but emerged unscathed.

On day one of the 10-day competition window, the leading men and women showed they meant business right from the off as they got their world title campaigns off to a blistering start with committed riding.

Reigning world champion, Cape Verde-bred Airton Cozzolino (ITA), chalked up the biggest wave score and heat total of the day in a demonstration that he was more fired up than ever to retain his title.

In the fading light and faltering wind of the day's final heat, the current world champion, Moona Whyte (USA), showed her class with the biggest heat total of the women's opening round, even as the set waves became scarce.

'Smack, smack, smack'

The season opener in Cape Verde's world-renowned righthand pointbreak drew 24 men and 12 women from 12 nations around the globe, eager to battle for glory in the scheduled five-stop tour in the Kite-Surf discipline.

In Cape Verde the contest is being fought out in the pure surfing format, and GKA Head Judge Paulino Pereira explained what they would be looking for from the athletes.

"For the judging criteria we are looking for wave selection," he said. "The connection between manoeuvres: speed, power, flow and variety. It's really important to connect well between the tricks. This is a long wave: [we don't want] smack, smack, smack all the way. You can do floaters, vertical turns, round houses. So in the end it's the way to connect, all the way from the beginning to the end."

Of the 24 men, nine hail from Cape Verde and would appear to have an advantage because of their intimate knowledge of Ponta Preta's break. Cape Verdean Hendrick Lopes (SUI) came out firing in the first heat and took the win.

But Mitu Monteiro went down in the first round to an on-fire Airton Cozzolino. Monteiro had to battle back in the second round and did not make the same mistake twice, seeing off South Africa's Matt Maxwell to advance.

Matchu Lopes also suffered an uncharacteristic early defeat when he failed to put a point on the board and also had to fight for his life. Lopes was emphatic in his Round 2 battle, keeping his hopes alive by ending the run of Bulgaria's Nicola Abadjiev.

'Surf style'

Yet it looks as if the Brazilians will be a force to be reckoned with. Gabriel Benetton, Artur Morais and Pedro Matos all advanced with convincing wins. Of the Brazilian contingent, Sebastian Ribeiro scored the biggest with a 7.60 wave from a possible 10 that secured him the heat win. He is not overawed by the Cape Verdeans.

"I prepared a lot for this event," said Ribeiro. "I came early to Cape Verde to train in these waves. For sure the locals know this wave better than anyone. But it's not my first time here. Every time we are here I try to train in the small days and big days to try to understand how the wave works. I think I have an advantage also, and understand how this wave works and try to bring my surf style to this."

The first round of the women's contest was also completed, with France's Capucine Delannoy showing she has been working hard on her wave game. She notched up a heat total that was only a fraction shy of Whyte's.

Brazil's Kesiane Rodrigues also had her game face on when she got several good wave scores under her belt to help her advance, even as the waves were hard to find.

Camille Losserand (SUI), the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion, has also been working hard on her pure wave surfing. That ensured she booked her place in the quarter finals due to be staged on day two, when the aim is to complete the competition in the predicted epic conditions. Be sure to join us.

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