Tuesday 22th June
Report: Sasha Jade / All photos: Samuel Cardenas / Video: Mintautas Grigas
After a long wait, the GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa is back! What better place to hold the first event of 2021 than the OG Mecca of kiteboarding. Sitting on the most southernmost tip of Spain where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet. Because of its unique position, Tarifa is the wind capital of Europe and is constantly buffered by two conflicting winds: the Levante from the east and the Poniente from the west. The energy of Tarifa is electric. Kilometers long white sandy beaches, and through the kite dotted sky, the outlines of Africa lie. The percentage of top riders who’ve grown up here or chosen to make Tarifa their home is high. Over the years it has manufactured many of the biggest names in the sport, giving them the opportunity to train in a wide variety of conditions which we will be seeing over this week!
It looks like it will be a slow start today here at the Tarifa Kite pro, the wind is living up to the local laid-back southern schedule. But don’t you worry, if there’s one thing I know about my hometown, is that when Tarifa shows up, it always comes with full force. The Poniente is politely turning itself over for the Levante to blow our minds. With the forecast in the purple zone, you better strap in, we’re in for a treat!
A total of 40 riders raging across 16 different nationalities registered to take their skills to the electric shores. Aside from the young emerging talents that have claimed the stage over the past couple of years, we have a few unexpected appearances from riders who have earnt their respect from the early stages of the tour.
Steeze maestro Christophe Tack (BEL), power woman Hannah Whitely (GBR), and mischief-maker Oswald Smith (ZAF) have rocked up here and we’re all curious to see what they have for us in their back pocket this time!
Due to the light conditions, the judges decided to not rush into the competition today, and preserve the rider’s energy for the big forecast ahead. By midday, the women were released, keeping the men on hold in case of the wind’s early arrival.
The riders took advantage of this time to get familiar with the judging criteria and arrive on the same page before heading to the battlefield.
Judges have already introduced the Mixed format, where Freestyle and Big Air tricks count towards the final score, the weight given to each category will be announced by the Head Judge (Alvaro Onieva) and in the Official Notice Board at least thirty (30) minutes before the start of the heat. There will definitely be prevailing elements of big air in the judging by the purple forecast.
This format will allow the judges to find the most complete rider, capable of performing in any conditions. They are intending to push all aspects of riding, pushing the athletes out of their comfort zone to open up and express themselves.
This may seem controversial to those pure freestyle fans, but judges ensure they are not trying to overpower the freestyle out of the tour, their intention is to preserve the athletes and keep the innovation progressing to a new level of innovation.
“Our idea is to keep some meaning of freestyle in the criteria unless the conditions simply do not allow it. We’ve seen many injuries and we want to protect the riders.” – Confirms Alvaro Onieva (Head Judge)
Riders have 7 attempts at pulling their best tricks in the given conditions, but only the best 4 will be counted by the judges.
By 14.00 pm the sun came out, and buoys were placed as the wind slowly continued to fill in and the whitecaps made their appearance.
By 15.00 pm The wind was filling in enough to raise the first green flag of the competition, powering up the electric energy here on the stadium shores of Tarifa.
The first appearance back on the freestyle battlefield and Christophe Tack (BEL) is already taking the center stage pulling an impressive slim 7 as his first trick. Robin Goetgebuer (BEL) played it safe, getting his variety in but safe was not enough to take on Steeze Maestro Tack, who continued to spice up his tricks with grabs and power.
He definitely proved he’s still got it taking the first win of the day with a high score of 24.61! “I’m nervous about tomorrow as I haven’t ridden my small kites in a while, but I’m definitely having fun back out on the battlefield, and that’s always a good sign for me, fun is where the magic happens.”– Says Christophe Tack fresh out the water with a smile spread across his face.
The wind continued to blow us through heat 2, where local boys Jerome Cloetens (ESP) and Nico Franco (ESP) turned their training spot into the battlefield thrilling us all. Cloetens continued to claim his local beach with an impressive KGB right on the shore, really amping up the volume in the audience with his Double Hinterberger Frontside 3. You could really tell this is his home spot, as he continued to land his 7 tricks, taking the win with great confidence and variety. His bestie Franco was right there behind him taking second place, unfortunately, Luca Seer (AUT) could not steal the spotlight from the pair of them leaving the stage for this round.
The wind took a quick power nap during the 16.30 pm siesta, keeping us on hold for a while, but the Poniente came back to say its last goodbye for a final blow before completely changing directions, which was enough to get us through the following 2 heats of the Men’s division.
Ewan Jaspan (AUS) clearly had no jet lag from his journey from Australia staying wide awake whilst taking a very smooth lead, really impressing the judges with the technical difficulty of his executed tricks. Lorenzo Calcano (DR) managed to hold his place landing 7 different tricks but unfortunately, it seems Matteo Doronti (ITA) didn’t come on his Italian Stallion to this event and couldn’t quite reach the next round.
In Heat 4 another local legend Manu Depfyffer (CHE) woke up the crowds with a massive KGB and continued making his hometown proud performing consistently throughout the rest of the heat. You can tell the support is strong when the local boys are on the water, as the cheers crank up a couple of notches.
Julian Krikken (FRA) definitely earned some of the noise with his Double Hinterberger FS3, but he struggled to keep his confidence up over the loud cheers of De Pfyffers friends and family on the shores. Looks like Michele Berti (ITA) had a tough one as he struggled with the light wind, not able to make it through.
As the wind continued to change direction, the Poniente continued to fade. The judges released the riders early for the day, sending them home to rest for the big day up ahead of them that followed. We will be resuming where we left off with Men’s heat 5, with an early first possible start at 10.00 am (CET).
Although the wind was teasing us throughout the day, nobody is stressed here at the competition as the next days are looking solid. The energy is cranked up high from the shores to the battlefield and everyone is looking forward to the rest of the event.
Make sure to get your rest to stay tuned for the full day of action tomorrow!
Check out the Highlight video for a visual depiction of today’s action.