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Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships in Tarfia, Spain

by Ian MacKinnon 9 Jun 2023 02:51 PDT 26 May - 16 June 2023

Italy's Andrea Principi came from behind in the thrilling final of the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships in Tarfia, Spain, to take the win by the narrowest of margins and earn back-to-back Twin-Tip titles.

The 18-year-old had identical points to his Dutch rival Cohan van Dijk—25.57 each—after the remarkable climax in pumping 35-knots winds on Tarifa's Balneario beach. But Principi won by virtue of landing the highest trick score at the concluding second stop of the GKA Big Air tour.

Minutes earlier Australia's James Carew had won the final of the Big Air Surfboard contest convincingly with huge strapless jumps, rotations and kite loops. But during his celebrations he jumped and landed in shallow water, breaking his leg and failing to take the podium.

The US's Mikaili Sol, also 18, secured victory in the women's Big Air Tip-Twin division. Her dominant performance echoed her win at the tour's first stop at Lords of Tram in France, in April, and gave her the crown for the second year in a row. It is her seventh world title.

The second Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships saw more than 60 of the best kiteboarders from around the globe come to compete for the coveted crowns and a prize purse totalling €40,000.

The kiteboarding mecca of Tarifa, southern Spain, was again chosen for its reliable and strong Levante winds necessary for the Big Air disciplines. But the Levante has proved elusive lately.

A league apart

It finally showed up, blowing between between 30 knots and 40 knots, allowing the organisers to complete the contests in the middle of the three-week competition holding period to allow for the best conditions.

The second round of the women's Twin-Tip contest was first on the water. The building Levante was hitting 32 knots as the final approached, perfect for the Big Air specialists on their 7m kites.

The top seeds made short work of their rivals on the path to the final. France's Angely Bouillot swept to the final with such ease it appeared Mikaili Sol would have a tough time retaining her crown.

Zara Hoogenraad's journey to the final was tougher, but she posted some good scores in her heats. Nathalie Lambrecht eased aside Alessa Mensch (GER) to secure her place in the four-berth final.

Bouillot never really got going in the final despite her earlier form. That left the field open for her rivals, though Hoogenraad took some time to hit her stride after an early crash. But it was too little, too late and she finished third.

Lambrecht got some good scores on the board, including a 7.0 out of a possible 10 for a kite loop front roll, that helped her total to 18.93 out of 30. But Sol was a league apart, scoring 8.0 for a kite loop front roll and a total 21.07 that gave her the victory.

The heats of the men's Twin-Tip and Surfboard contests alternated as the Levante picked up further as the day went on. In the Surfboard semi-finals James Carew posted two seven-plus scores and was just too strong for France's Camille Delannoy.

Big upsets

The Spanish were well represented in the four-berth final with Kiki Roig and Marc Garriga flying the flag. Garriga, amazingly a wild card, laid down some high scores, like 7.34 for a contra loop front roll that took him to 19.52.

But Carew came out charging, putting ever-bigger numbers on the board which included a massive 8.46 for a contra loop back roll board off that gave him an untouchable heat total of 24.34 and the win that started the unfortunate celebrations.

The path to the men's Twin-Tip final was littered with standout performances and big upsets. Spain's Jeremy Burlando threw down some stunning performances but his run was ended by Red Bull King of the Air Lorenzo Casati in a semi-final. Burlando earned a remarkable 24.67 points, only to find himself topped by Casati's 26.77.

Britain's Aaron Hadlow was pipped by Josué San (BRA) when he came from behind in their quarter final to take the win with 7.50 for a kite loop back roll board on his last move. Just 0.19 separated the pair.

Liam Whaley (ESP), who had won the opening Big Air Twin-Tip round at Lords of Tram, was a big name casualty. In a huge semi-final he was sent packing by Cohan van Dijk who squeezed out the Spaniard by less than one point.

Another former King of the Air, Marc Jacobs (NZL) fared better than Hadlow. But in his semi-final he came up against Principi who was on fire. Jacobs came out of the blocks fast throwing huge double kite loops and racking up a raft of eight-plus scores.

After-burners

It was then that Principi put on the after-burners and racked up three nine-plus scores, including a 9.13 for a double kite loop back roll board off and 9.10 for an S-loop board off. Jacobs netted an incredible 25.10 for his heat, but was trumped by Principi's 27.33 that took him to the final.

After those heroics, the four-man final with Principi, Casati, Vlugt and Van Dijk going head-to-head was a slightly mixed affair. Casati struggled to find his groove and finished third.

Van Dijk came out charging throwing down extreme double kite loops with front rolls, back rolls and board offs that the judges loved. He quickly netted a total of 25.57. Principi, by comparison, crashed twice but kept his composure to finally throw down an S-loop board off for 9.07 and a total of 25.57. Principi took the win courtesy of the 9.07, the heat's highest trick score, that helped him to his second Big Air crown.

"I'm so happy to be two-times world champion," said Principi. "I'm here with my family and they're all here watching me and so proud of me. Super-stoked. It was tricky in the final because the wind was gusty and I was crashing, two or three times. So I told myself to 'stay calm, find the gusts and believe' and I became world champion."

Van Dijk was equally pleased with dispatching Whaley to reach the final and his second place, even though he had matched the winner's score.

"Up against Liam Whaley, the world champion, I knew I had to do my own thing," he said. "Lucky enough I had the gusts, the height and the extremity and got to the final. The final was incredible. Just being there for me was already winning, I couldn't be more happy."

Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships results

Men's Big Air Twin-Tip World Champion

    1. Andrea Principi (ITA)
    2. Liam Whaley (ESP)
    3. Lorenzo Casati (ITA)

Men's Big Air Twin-Tip Tarifa event

    1. Andrea Principi (ITA)
    2. Cohan van Dijk (NED)
    3. Lorenzo Casati (ITA)
    4. Giel Vlugt (NED)

Men's Big Air Surfboard World Champion

    1. James Carew (AUS)
    2. Marc Garriga (ESP)
    3. Kiko Roig (ESP)
    4. Keanu Merten (GER)

Women's Big Air Twin-Tip World Champion

    1. Mikaili Sol (USA)
    2. Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE)
    3. Angely Bouillot (FRA)

Women's Big Air Twin-Tip Tarifa event

    1. Mikaili Sol (USA)
    2. Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE)
    3. Zara Hoogenraad (NED)
    4. Angely Bouillot (FRA)

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