Athletes charge waves in season tour opener

Published 17th February 2024 by Ian MacKinnon


Big name favourites survive early jeopardy at year’s first stop in Cape Verde

GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Cape Verde 2024
16-25 February, Ponta Preta, Sal

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.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

Spot Info

The idyllic island of Sal is gearing up to host the second GWA Wingfoil World Cup, set to showcase the exhilarating Wave discipline. Against the stunning backdrop of this picturesque paradise, this eagerly-anticipated repeat stop will offer two potential event locations, with both Ponta Preta and Kite Beach in the mix, depending on the conditions.

Ponta Preta
For those seeking the ultimate wave-riding experience, look no further than the legendary Ponta Preta, in Cape Verde. This picturesque spot offers big, powerful, and glassy waves, accompanied by the most favourable cross-offshore winds. Considered a playground for expert-level riders, the waves can soar up to 6m high, making for an adrenaline-pumping experience like no other. While the beach is rocky in places, it’s also dotted with pockets of sand, making it an ideal location for side-offshore kitesurfing when the north-easterly winds kick in.

Kite Beach
As one of Sal’s most versatile kiting spots, Kite Beach welcomes riders of all levels with open arms. The beach’s consistent onshore and cross-onshore winds make it a top choice for kiteboarding enthusiasts, ensuring riders always have a smooth return to the sandy shoreline.

While it may be the busiest kitesurfing location on Sal, the vast 3kms stretch of sandy beach ensures ample space for both seasoned riders and kite schools alike, even during peak months. Those closer to the beach can expect a mild wind-blown chop and the occasional shore break, while further out on the reef, you’ll find waves perfect for shredding.

Cabo Verde offers fantastic wind conditions with consistent north-easterly Trade Winds blowing 15-25kts almost daily from November to June. The wind tends to be strong throughout the day, with the most powerful gusts occurring from 9am to 3pm. Kite Beach is the primary kitesurfing spot on Sal, as it faces east and provides less turbulent, onshore wind compared to other south or west facing locations.

The winter months offer pleasant temperatures of around 22ºC, and the water temperature is only slightly cooler. Most kiteboarders will find a 3/2mm shorty wetsuit suitable for full-day kiting sessions, while board shorts may enough on warmer days later in the season. Regardless of the time of year, it’s essential to apply sunscreen.

Wind directions include NNE, NE, and E, and the windiest months are November, December, January, February, March, April, and June.

Event information

  • Location: Ponta Preta
  • Dates: 16-25 March
  • The official Race Notice and event schedule can be found here.
  • All event information is here.

Here’s how to stay up-to-date with all the event happenings

  • Follow all action on live event page: livestream, liveticker, live scoring.
  • Follow our Instagram and our new TikTok account for behind-the-scenes action and event updates.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter for end of day reporting
  • Check out our youtube channel for daily highlight video.

Liveticker will be updated throughout the day. Event highlight video will be published next morning. Written reports will be posted to the website at the end of each competition day.

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