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Intense Big Air Twin-Tip world title battles in Tarifa

by Ian MacKinnon 6 Jun 05:08 PDT 26 May - 16 June 2023

Spain's Liam Whaley and Italy's Andrea Principi threw down the gauntlet in the much-anticipated opening clashes in the men's Twin-Tip division of the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships in Tarifa, Spain.

The pair, who head the standings in the race for the title, racked up big scores to win their separate heats and advance. Both went huge, showing control and power, and putting down a marker for their rivals battling on Tarifa's Balneario beach.

The women's field in the Big Air Twin-Tip class also saw some standout performances at the opening of the competition. France's Angely Bouillot's big win in her heat sent a warning to reigning world champion Mikaili Sol (USA) that the 18-year-old star may have her work cut out if she is to retain her crown.

Both the 24-strong field of men and the fleet of 12 women got through the whole of their first round after a long day of waiting for the Levante wind to kick in on day four of the competition.

Dominates heat

With massive Levante winds forecast for day five of the competition, the organisers hope to complete the men's and women's Twin-Tip competition and the men's Surfboard contest to crown the world champions in each division.

But it was only after 6pm on day four that the race director judged that the wind, blowing at about 21 to 23 knots, was sufficiently strong to get the women out on Balneario's flat waters so the breath-taking show could begin.

In the women's three-rider heats, each athlete had seven trick attempts with the best three counting. The winner of each heat advanced to round three, while the losers get to battle for survival in round two.

The Netherlands' Zara Hoogeenraad dominated her heat with a total score of 17.87, while Sweden's Nathalie Lambrecht did slightly better in her heat, notching up 18.20 that included a 6.47 for a kite loop one footer.

Fireworks begin

Mikaili Sol scored a big 6.83 for a kite loop front roll in her heat. But it was Angely Bouillot who really put on a Big Air masterclass to take heat score of 20.23 that included 7.63 for a kite loop back roll board off.

As the wind picked up to 23 to 26 knots, the men finally got their chance to get on the water and the fireworks began. Spain's Jeremy Burlando was impressive, earning the day's biggest trick score with a 7.77 for a contra loop front roll tic-tac. But Josué San (BRA) still gave him a run for his money.

The current Red Bull King of the Air, Lorenzo Casati (ITA), 17, brought his A-game and big scores to take down Beto Gomez (COL). The Dutch contingent of Jamie Overbeek, Giel Vlugt and Cohan van Dijk were rampant, cutting a path through rivals by going big and putting huge scores on the board.

Van Dijk's biggest scalp was that of former King of the Air Marc Jacobs (NZL), though he will get another chance in round two. Another Red Bull KOTA winner, Britain's Aaron Hadlow, fared better and won his heat with some good scores, including a 6.13 for a contra loop front roll tic-tac.

Pole position

But it was the old rivals Principi and Whaley who really showed their intent. In his heat Whaley scored 21.66, including a 7.60 and a 7.53 for smoothly executed kite loop board offs, back rolls and front rolls.

Pincipi defeated Whaley in the final of the Big Air Twin-Tip world championships last year in Tarifa. But Whaley returned the favour by beating the young Italian at the opening round of the BIg Air world championships at Lords of Tram in April and is in pole position to win the title at the conclusion of the event.

But 18-year-old Principi has not intention of going quietly. He charged his own heat racking up 20.44, including a pair of scores of 6.97, one for a kite loop front roll tic-tac. Afterwards he warned there was more to come.

"I start my heats with a strategy, but if I feel a gust or a lift, then I do a loop, or another loop, and maybe a rotation," he said. "I feel I only did 20 percent of my tricks today, and not my biggest tricks. It was just a warm up."

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