Kiteboard: one of the best finals ever seen
GKA Kite-Surf World Tour: one of the best finals ever seen
Many experienced industry pros are already calling 'Prea Friday' one of the most exciting single event afternoons of action that we've ever seen in kiteboarding.
Revenge was sweet for Airton Cozzolino who beat single elimination winner Camille Delannoy twice to take the win in Prea at round six of the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour. This crucial win puts the 2018 World Title beyond doubt for him as we look towards a terrific final event in Australia next month.
After three years of strapless freestyle competition it feels like this event is going to be a watershed moment in terms of how people perceive kiteboarding competition. In a year that the Air Games twin-tip competition launched, arguably it's the strapless freestyle riders who have come along and truly set a world tour big air benchmark.
The women's contest (8 riders) was equally tight and after surprisingly losing her first heat in the single elimination, tour leader Carla Herrera-Oria had to fight her way up through four heats just to reach the double elimination final against Jalou Langeree.
Herrera-Oria would have to beat Langeree twice to claim the event win. Herrera-Oria was a different rider to the one ejected early from proceedings on Thursday. Having focused on strapless freestyle as a discipline at a time when it's so new and fresh for women, this is a golden opportunity for her to claim a world championship.
Herrera-Oria had been averaging a considerable 14 tricks per heat as she climbed her way back up through the doubles and was equally mechanical against Langeree, taking the win in the final, forcing a re-match. Come the final minute with the scores as tight as you like, Langeree found a big rodeo to sneak the event win and move ahead in the championship thanks to an event discard after five events.
It's now a winner takes all event at the final in Australia between her and Herrera-Oria with Moona being injured and now having missed two events.
PREA WOMEN'S RESULT:
1 Jalou Langeree (NED)
2 Carla Herrera-Oria (SPN)
3 Sabine Beukeleers (BEL)
4 Marcella Wit (BRA)
Mitu Monteiro described the daily 25 - 30 knot winds in Prea as absolutely perfect for strapless freestyle progression, so let's pull out some heroes and key moments, beyond the usual high performers like Matchu Lopes, Keahi de Aboitiz, Jan Marcos Riveras and co.
Canadian Reece Mysercough has been on tour all season and has improved so much, particularly in the last two months. A freshly bagged front roll shovit (which evaded many more successful riders this event) saw him achieve his best position so far in his career, taking down Paulo Aurelio, Pedro Matos and Alan Trancart at this event before finally losing out to American Evan Netsch in round four of the double eliminations.
Leonardo Da Souza entered the event as a wildcard but finished as the highest placed Brazilian; no small achievement. A super slick skate / surfstyle approach getting the business done for him against many a more experienced rider. His biggest scalp: 10th placed world tour rider and regular competitor Ralph Boelen.
Matt Elsasser entered the fray after a year off, as did fellow American and Cabrinha team mate Evan Netsch. Evan just making it one round further in the double elimination than Matt, but great to see these two Americans back on tour and riding without compromise in terms of style and, in the case of Evan, bringing in some of his wakestyle competition experience, too. We hope to see them again on tour soon. Matt eventually lost to Keahi and Evan to Gustavo Arrojo.
Gustavo Arrojo, like many riders, has found consistency in landings as well as height and amplitude. The Spaniard is quickly raising his game and is putting serious claims on a top five finish at the end of the season. He eventually succumbed to Matchu Lopes who had points to prove after losing in the single elimination quarter finals, but unfortunately finished fifth, someway short of his best, but at least we got two heats of magic from Matchu while his form was truly singing for the livestream. Good man.
James Carew is a man on a mission and bringing an explosive big game to the table. He stormed his way to third place in the single elimination and then beat Mitu Monteiro in his first heat of the doubles but crumbled in the second half of the semi-final against Airton. Actually that's not entirely fair. Airton switched into a new gear, achieved an event high of 54.33 that included the first of his two 10 point trick scores of the day for a massive boogie loop (kite loop front roll). James himself admitted that he didn't care; that the riding level he was in the midst of was something very special.
And so to the final. What can we say? Camille Delannoy didn't put a foot wrong all competition, going high with commitment, power and flow he broke the immense 50 point barrier in each of the double elimination finals that he faced Airton.
Sadly for him Airton managed to hold firm and score just a couple of points more come the final tally and for the super final required an adjudication from the judges that saw Airton actually awarded even more points for a back roll kite loop with a tic-tac and then an added board flip that the automatic scoring app hadn't registered. So that explains the misleading final score graphic on the livestream as the heat closed, but moments later Airton was hailed as the winner in a heat that saw his second 10-point score of the competition for his unhooked 313.
There's nothing like seeing a man like Airton on a mission with vengeance on his mind, but Camille Delannoy lit up the event and has added a new name to the list of KSWT potential event winners, which can only be good for the neutral fan.
Having only been beaten three times in the last three years, we were starting to believe that Airton Cozzolino could only leave an opportunity for opponents through his own errors. That's no longer true. There are chinks in his armour. It's going to take at least a 50 point heat to beat him though, but it turns out the alien is actually human. Sadly for Camille, Airton was on fire on Friday and took both his second chances in the double elimination. Camille's super-charged improvement in consistency is good news because it's just not feasible for a tour to progress and grow under the starlight of one hero. Airton needs riders to come up and truly challenge him at strapless freestyle (there are plenty of challengers in waves). Ideally for him he wants riders who will push him to his absolute best, but will narrowly fall just short making for epic final showdowns and much media exposure, as we saw on Friday.
Camille didn't lose, Airton just switched back to alien form but the sport as a whole won.
PREA MEN'S RESULT:
1 Airton Cozzolino (ITA / CV)
2 Camille Delannoy (FRA)
3 James Carew (AUS)
4 Mitu Monteiro (CV)