Big Air world title fights set to kick-off in Tarifa

Published 1st June 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


  • Big Air Twin-Tip on hold but “yellow” warning to be called shortly putting riders on standby

  • Qatar Airways GKA Awards to pay tribute to sport’s biggest names for at Tarifa gala evening

Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships Tarifa
26 May — 16 June, 2023

The much-anticipated Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships are set to shift into overdrive as the Surfboard and Hydrofoil contests take to the water off Tarifa’s Balneario beach, in southern Spain.

The world’s greatest kiteboarders in the breath-taking Big Air disciplines are due to begin battling for glory early on Friday, 2 June. The world tour manager made the call and gave the “green” light on a good wind forecast, signalling the competition was on.

One week into the three-week holding period—necessary to find the strongest Levante winds essential to serve up the best Big Air show possible—the weather forecast has come good. But with just one day of sufficiently-strong Levante wind predicted, only the compact Surfboard and Hydrofoil riders’ fleets were called to Tarifa.

The larger group of 24 men and 12 women who will fight for the most coveted titles—the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Twin-Tip World Championship crowns—remain on standby.

They must await the biggest Levante winds that can blow up to 50 knots, fuelling the athletes’ mind-blowing jumps and kite loops. The forecast looks promising for early next week. The “yellow” light, putting the riders on standby, will be given shortly.

During the competition, the Qatar Airways GKA Awards night will be held for the second successive year at Tarifa’s Teatro Municipal Alameda, on 3 June. The biggest names in kiteboarding will be honoured for their achievements and their contributions to the sport at the gala evening.

Pumping winds and kickers

But on the water the stage is set for a firing first day of the 2023 GKA Big Air Worlds, which return to Balneario beach for a second straight year. It boasts pumping cross-offshore winds, flat waters and kickers that ensure the athletes can send it to the moon.

The 27 men and women from 14 nations in the Surfboard and Hydrofoil fields, selected by their world rankings and wild card video entries, had their inscription on Thursday evening, 1 June, just ahead of their initial riders’ meeting.

The eight men in the Hydrofoil fleet may take to the water earliest on Friday, with 09.30 the first possible start, as they can still go massive in slightly lighter wind than the other disciplines.

Reigning Hydrofoil Big Air title holder, France’s Charles Brodel, is seeded number one and  has been training hard to defend his crown, even throwing down mind-boggling double kite loops on his foil in training.

“My goal is to enjoy this event,” said Brodel. “From last year the level is getting really a lot better. Young guys like Jamie [Overbeek] can land double loops and doobie loops, so the level’s gone up.”

The Netherlands’ teenager, Overbeek, last year’s runner up in Tarifa, definitely his eyes on the prize. The 17-year-old holder of the WOO world record jump, made on his foil kite, may use that formidable weapon in the contest. He is competing in Twin-Tip and Hydrofoil.

Goal to win

“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Overbeek. “In Holland I’ve been training in every little bit of wind I could find. I want to win this time. Last year I got second place, but I trained a lot and I’ve a few more tricks and maybe so more height.”

But the field is wide open with a number of possible surprises as riders like the Dominican pair, Alex Soto and Joselito del Rosario, Joppe van de Poll (NED) and Hunter Becker (USA) are eager press their claims for the title.

In the race for the women’s Big Air Surfboard (formerly Strapless) crown, the French 16-year-old phenomenon, Capucine Delannoy, has been putting in the hours in the hope of landing back-to-back crowns.

But the double world champion—Delannoy also wears the Kite-Surf crown—will no doubt face stiff competition from a clutch of other talent that includes Kesiane Rodrigues (BRA) and Camille Losserand (SUI).

The biggest threat, though, may come in the form of six-times world champion, Mikaili Sol (USA), even though she admitted her focus is on the Big Air Twin-Tip competition and that she had little time to train for the Surfboard discipline.

“But, you know, just having fun, having a good time,” said Sol. “I tried a few [Strapless] kite loops today. I managed to get two done. I haven’t really tried them since Preá [Brazil] in 2019, so I’m pretty proud of myself for that.”


Big opening clashes

The most spectacular of the opening day’s clashes will likely come from the men’s Big Air Surfboard fleet, where some of the biggest names in kiteboarding are set to go head-to-head in their quest for glory.

Two-time Kite-Surf world champion James Carew (AUS) is seeded only fourth, while last year’s winner, Italy’s Airton Cozzolino sits top of the pile, just ahead of reigning Red Bull King of the Air, Lorenzo Casati (ITA).

“I’ve been training a lot before the competition and I’m really ready to go for the Strapless competition,” said Casati. “I feel a bit more pressure competing in both [Surfboard and Twin-Tip] but it’s going to fun. I think both disciplines help each other. From one, or the other, you get control of the board.”

But the likes of France’s Camille Delannoy, Kiko Roig (ESP), Hendrick Lopes (CPV), and Nicola Abadjiev (BUL) will undoubtedly be doing their bit to upset the established order with spectacular tricks.

It promises to be a mouth-watering contest. Join us for all the action.

Event information

  • Location: Balneario beach, Tarifa, Spain
  • Dates: 26 May — 16 June
  • The official Race Notice and event schedule can be found here
  • All event information here

Here is the riders’ list

Men’s Hydrofoil

Charles Brodel (FRA)
Jamie Overbeek (NED)
Alex Soto (DOM)
Finn Flügel (GER)
Joselito del Rosario (DOM)
Maxime-Luan Desjardins (FRA)
Joppe van de Poll (NED)
Hunter Becker (USA)

Women’s Surfboard

Capucine Delannoy (FRA)
Camille Losserand (SUI)
Mikaili Sol (USA)
Kesiane Rodrigues (BRA)
Sofia Monti (ITA)
Zoe Bazile (FRA)
Barbara Sgardello (ITA)

Men’s Surfboard

Airton Cozzolino (ITA)
Lorenzo Casati (ITA)
Camille Delannoy (FRA)
James Carew (AUS)
Keanu Merten (GER)
Kiko Roig (ESP)
Noah Nicolas (FRA)
Javier Lopez (ESP)
Nicola Abadjiev (BUL)
Leonardo Casati (ITA)
Marc Garriga (ESP)
Hendrick Lopes (CPV)

Spot Information

Tarifa, the kitesurfing capital of Europe, has grown immensely in popularity after it became a windsurfing hub in the 1980s. The Andalusian town in southern Spain still retains its old-world charm.

It is blessed with strong Levante and Poniente breezes that make it a magnet for windsports’ devotees. The Levante blows from the land, cross-offshore from the left. It can be strong, from 30 knots to 50 knots, often blowing for five days straight. The Poniente is more mellow, blowing cross-onshore from the right. It is cooler and more frequent in summer, and can blow from 15 knots to 25 knots for two or three days in a row. Tarifa often sees both winds during competitions, creating intense conditions.

Although Tarifa can get good wave conditions in the winter months, in summer expect wind chop that provides superb ramps for Twin-Tip freestylers to boost off. Landings can be tricky in the gustier, stronger Levante winds and choppy waters. But that’s all part of the game—separating the best from the rest.

words: Ian MacKinnon
pictures: Samuel Cárdenas

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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 the competition day.

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