The wind filled in early here at the GKA Freestyle-Kite World Cup Colombia 2023. It’s the second year here at this location in the beautiful country of Colombia. The spot features a semi-protected point break with small, choppy waves giving way to a flat inner lagoon as the waves round the point. The GKA is stoked to be back here for the second World Cup event of the 2023 season at this beautiful South American location.
We started the day with men’s heat one–the seeding round–where hungry competitors seek to make a name for themselves. The tension started to build as competitors were eager to hit the water. “I just want to kite” said current World Tour leader Gianmaria Coccoluto.
The Men’s first round consists of riders with a lower seed and also new riders to the tour. A collection of these riders enter the contest via event wildcard entry. Many athletes are eager to prove themselves in this new competition format (read more about that here). The judges are looking for variety and rewarding athletes who perform interesting combos, powered toeside tricks, kite loops and more!
We progressed quickly through the first round. With only 30 seconds allotted for each trick attempt, timing in the heats is crucial. Each rider has a total of seven trick attempts with four scores counting towards an overall maximum score of 40. The Colombians showed up in full force, eager to represent their home country.
The vibes were high and the stress was minimal as no competitors get eliminated in the first round. Yet you can see the determination in their eyes. The closer the riders jumped to the beach, the more the energy of the crowd built.
As we moved further into the competition, and riders began to be eliminated, it became clear that it was all about managing the challenging conditions. The strong, slight off-shore wind combined with choppier waters that we had in Qatar, it was the competitors that took advantage of the small wave kickers and used them to their advantage for the variety points, who really shone today.
Strong breezes began early and built throughout each day of last year’s competition. They were accompanied by kickers inside the point at Salinas del Rey and proved perfect to fuel the breathtaking freestyle drama that unfolded in this Colombian backwater.
Jack Rieder (CAN) and Posito Martinez (DOM) were the two standouts of the Second Round and were among the riders that utilized the wave kickers the most. They also executed handle passes in both directions demonstrating excellent skill and a wide array of maneuvers.
Jack Rieder, who is making a rare appearance on tour demonstrated a ton of variety. He started the heat with a huge Slim Chance to Blind for a score of 8.0! He then followed that up with a Toeside Back 5. In addition to these two bangers, he was also the first competitor to do three tricks in a row, resulting in a 5.77 and getting a variety score on the board. Reider proved that he’s one to watch this competition.
As we moved into the Third Round, a few athletes put on notable performances. Among them was Dominican Luis Alberto Cruz (DOM) blew everyone away with extremely massive back-to-back tricks, demonstrating control and height! He scored the highest single trick score of the day, managing a 9 for his Front Side 900 off of a wave kicker on the outside.
Carlos Mario (BRA) who took second place in Qatar has been in Colombia training for one month and is gunning for first place here in Salinas del Rey. He landed a Dum Dum 5 that was one of the highest scoring tricks of the day.
Judges Are Rewarding Variety
The competition is getting serious! We’re now into round four. The wind is strong and competitors are working hard to make it work in these challenging conditions. Those that are able to take advantage of the perfect wave kickers are able to lay down big scores.
Head freestyle judge Álvaro Onieva explained that rule tweaks in Qatar had unlocked new possibilities for the competition, which makes toeside tricks and kicker usage key for competitors to score maximum points. This is to encourage much greater creativity, with half the men’s heats made up of creative manoeuvres, such as combos, kite loops or rewinds.
“By changing the format we’re going in a way that’s more inclusive,” said Onieva. “We predict more riders will be going massive, especially when we have conditions that aren’t 100 percent perfect; like gusty conditions, or choppy waters. So riders can adapt tricks in a much more safe way. It’s more creative now and riders can actually apply new stuff. That actually helps all styles.”
Both Jack Rieder and Louka Pitot can attest to the benefit of the new format. “I decided to come compete because I was interested in the new format and the ability to do different tricks.” said Jack.
- Location: Playa Salinas del Rey, Santa Veronica, Colombia
- Dates: 1-5 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.
- Check the Liveticker which will show heat by heat action and live scoring (unfortunately we don’t have livestream video at this event).
- 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. End-of-day recap videos will be published every next morning. Written reports will be posted to the website at the end of each competition day.
Words: Sensi Graves
Pictures: Andre Magarao