Big hitters begin kite-surf duels at epic Rio break

Published 2nd August 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


Top seeds open bids for crown in first clashes at Saquarema as GKA wave tour debuts in Rio de Janeiro

Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Brazil 2023
Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro
Itaúna Beach 31 July—11 August

The leading men opened their accounts at the Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Brazil as the contest at Rio de Janeiro’s renowned Saquarema surf break shifted up a gear and the action started to get serious.

Some of kite-surfing’s biggest hitters took to the water as the Qatar Airways GKA World Tour made its maiden stop at Saquarema’s Praia de Itaúna, host for a World Surf League call last year.

But day three of the competition, the second stop of a scheduled five for the GKA Kite-Surf tour, proved tricky for the 28 men from 10 nations around the world as they had to wait for the breeze to fill.

With the women’s crown already decided on day one, when the US’s Moona Whyte won convincingly, the men will get their opportunity over the coming days as the competition has been given a 12-day holding period to score the best conditions.

The swell, at just under a metre, was smaller than the opening days, but it still delivered shoulder-high surf. But the breeze remained flukey and only built enough in the early afternoon to get the men into the break, overlooked by Saquarema’s iconic church on the headland above.

Lost no flair

The day’s clashes opened with the concluding three heats of round two, with the Brazilian athletes Alemao Roehe and Breno Barbosa progressing, along with Germany’s Alex Middeler.

Round three of the “dingle” format saw the top seeds on the water for the first time. Brazil’s Felippe Ferreira was returning to the tour after an absence, but showed he had lost none of his flair in the meantime.

Up against the young Cape Verdean Hendrick Lopes (SUI), Ferreira came out charging and before long put one of the biggest wave score of the day to that point on the board and took the win. Lopes gets to fight again in round four.

Another Brazilian big hitter, Sebastian Ribeiro, was equally fired up and cruised to comfortable win over countryman Victor Ribas and the multi-talented Frenchman, Clément Roseyro, who will also battle in the Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Tour wave competition that is being run in tandem.

By heat three it was time for the big guns. Italy’s Airton Cozzolino, who took a third at the tour’s first wave stop in his native Cape Verde in March, was up against the young Brazilian charger, Gabriel Benetton, with countryman Igor Pestana caught in the middle.

Point to prove

Cozzolino came out strong, charging the waves with his characteristic powerful style, though the sets were becoming increasingly hard to find. Benetton answered almost immediately, but Cozzolino put down the biggest wave score of the day, a 7.03.

Again Benetton came back with another big wave that netted 6.27 from the judges that took his heat total to 11.70 out of a possible 20 for his two best waves. Cozzolino’s 12.46 total was too strong and sees him go to round five, while Benetton and Pestana fight for survival in round four.

Brazil’s Pedro Matos, fourth in Cape Verde after a defeat by a firing Cozzolino, seemed like he had a point to prove. Riding with immense vertically and linking his turns seamlessly, he matched Cozzolino’s highest wave 7.03 score.

It gave Matos the win and progress on home waters, with Kelton Lopes (CPV) and Alemao Roehe going again in round four.  The day’s final heat with Camille Delannoy (FRA) and Matt Maxwell (RSA) was cancelled as the breeze fizzled out.

We have a lay day now as the forecast conditions do not look promising. But join us again here where the action resumes.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Svetlana Romantsova

Spot Info: Saquarema, Rio de Janiero
Saquarema is a town to the east of Rio de Janeiro. It is renowned for having some of the best surf in Brazil and hosted a World Surf League tour stop in 2022. But it is often neglected by locals from Rio who travel further afield to explore other breaks. It may owe its frothy reputation as a surf spot to the 60’s and 70’s, when it was one of the first places that surfers from Rio explored outside of the city.

Praia de Itaúna
Itaúna is stretch of beach to the east of the old church. A channel runs runs out from the natural lagoon. The east end has a rock shelf. Uncharacteristically for Rio surf, the sandy bottom can maintain big swells that keep their shape. The wave is generally a long left with hollow sections. But it can break right on occasions, depending on the conditions. The waves can be chest to head-high and above.

August is winter in Brazil, with dry weather throughout most of the country. On the coastline around Rio de Janeiro, and in the city centre, the weather is pleasant with daytime temperatures around 21-27C and 18-21C in the evenings.

During August the main wind directions in Saquarema are from north-east, side-offshore, or south-west, side-onshore, with 15-20 knots, depending on winter weather systems passing by.

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