GKA Big Air world champions revel in success

Published 8th June 2023 by Ian MacKinnon



  • Stellar event in Tarifa capped by thrilling crowning of five world champions in three Big Air disciplines

  • GKA Big Air Worlds a huge success against the odds after concerns over difficult Levante forecast

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

The winners of the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships enjoyed the spoils of their success when they were presented with their prizes at the conclusion of the second, epic edition of the event in Tarifa, Spain.

The 2023 GKA Big Air Worlds crowned three repeat winners—two of them still teenagers—while two new names will be etched on the trophies after a stellar event fought out over three days, confounding difficult weather predictions.

Back-to-back winners in Twin-Tip, the US’s Mikaili Sol and Italy’s Andrea Principi, both 18, and France’s Charles Brodel, who again took the Hydrofoil title, were overjoyed to take the top podium step again.

But perhaps even more stoked with their wins were first timers, both in the Surfboard Big Air discipline, Switzerland’s Camille Losserand and Australia’s James Carew, though he is already reigning and two-times Kite-Surf world champion.

The prize giving ceremony at Tarifa’s Balneario Beach Bar was graced by local politicians and authorities, from Junta del Campo de Gibraltar, Ayuntamiento Cadiz, Cadiz Turismo, Diputacion de Cadiz, and Andalucia Junta, whose support was a vital part of the event.

Each of the victors was among the 60 athletes from 14 nations worldwide who began the journey with dreams of wearing the crowns. The Big Air competition in Hydroil, Twin-Tip and Surfboard disciplines is given a three-week holding period as organisers wait for the right winds to fuel the spectacular sporting show.

But the famous, strong Levante wind that makes Tarifa such a draw for kitesurfers has been uncharacteristically elusive for more than a month and organisers were concerned that most-anticipated kiteboarding event of the season could have been a bust.

Sweeps aside all-comers

A week into the competition window, though, the wind turned and a “light” Levante of 20 knots, building to 26 knots, allowed the first athletes to take to the water. That honour fell to the Hydrofoil riders whose efficiency allows them to compete in lighter winds, yet still send it to the moon.

France’s Charles Brodel showed his complete mastery of the breath-taking Hydrofoil discipline. He landed his second consecutive world championship crown and his fourth Hydrofoil title. Brodel won last year’s maiden Qatar Airways GKA Hydrofoil Big Air Kite World Championships. This year swept aside all-comers with his mindblowing kite loops, boards offs and rotations to take the crown.

Only the Netherlands’ teenager Jamie Overbeek came close to troubling the Frenchman. Seventeen-year-old Overbeek lost out in the thrilling four-man final by little more than one point, taking the second podium step for the second successive year.

The women’s Surfboard action also took to the water on the opening day. Camille Losserand, last year’s runner-up, rode out of her skin in the final. She carefully built her heat by putting some solid scores on the board before cutting loose. The Tarfia local was in a class of her own and easily did enough to take the win before her adoring supporters and family.

Reigning world champion, the French 17-year-old Capucine Delannoy,  put some good scores on the board. But in the face of Losserand’s onslaught she didn’t seem to have any answers. Under pressure to come up with something she crashed some tricks and handed the win to Losserand.

During a break of several days when the Levante remained light and uncontestable, the Qatar Airways GKA Awards night was held for the second straight year at the Tarifa Theatre. The biggest names in kiteboarding were honoured for their achievements and contributions to the sport in an emotional and memorable evening.

Shifts up a gear

But the Levante came back with a vengeance, with the women’s Twin-Tip up first in the winds of more than 30 knots that offered big potential for a massive show. The women delivered with huge commitment, to the point where Polish rider Martyna Konkel was injured in a gnarly crash, though she is recovering well in hospital.

Big Air Twin-Tip world champion, Mikaili Sol, had a quiet procession to the final. But when she got there, the multiple world champion shifted up a gear in a way that left her three rivals trailing. Her lead was so big she even tried a double kite loop, but paid the price and crashed hard. She already had the win in the bag.

Swede Nathalie Lambrecht got some good scores on the board, including a 7.0 for a kite loop front roll, that helped her total to 18.93. It was good enough to take the second podium place with Zara Hoogenraad just behind in third.

Angely Bouillot (FRA) struggled to find her feet after a strong early show in her heats that made her look like a real contender for the win and the world title. Her fourth place finish in Tarifa was enough to give her the third podium step in the world title race.

The men’s strapless Surfboard contest enjoyed banging winds. Australia’s James Carew came out charging in the final. He put ever-bigger numbers on the board, including a massive 8.46 for a contra loop back roll board off that gave him an untouchable heat total of 24.34 and the win. In his celebrations, extraordinarily, he crashed a massive kite loop and broke his leg in the shallow water.

Spain was well represented in the four-man final with Kiki Roig and Marc Garriga flying the flag. Garriga, amazingly a local wild card, laid down some high scores, like 7.34 for a contra loop front roll that took him to 19.52 and second podium step. Roig had to be content with third.

Storms to final

Unfortunately, the Surfboard competition was missing the reigning world champion and one of the biggest names in the business. After the opening round, Italy’s Airton Cozzolino had returned to his Cape Verde home spot and aggravated an old rib injury, ruling him out of the title fight.

The men’s Big Air Twin-Tip was a mouth-watering match-up of the young guns who have revolutionised the discipline. Even the loss of number one seed, Liam Whaley, in the semi-final failed dampen the prospect for fireworks.

Reigning champion Andrea Principi stormed to the final. But when when he got there, he had a faltering start, crashing twice and giving rivals the upper hand. The Italian kept his composure and began throwing down breath-taking tricks that were enough to take the win in Tarifa and back-to-back crowns.

The Netherlands’ Cohan van Dijk was the sensation of the competition. He had taken down Whaley in the semis and came out firing in the final, throwing extreme double kite loops with front rolls, back rolls and board offs that the judges loved.

Van Dijk quickly netted a total of 25.57 that exactly equalled to Principi’s score. Under pressure, the Dutchman failed to stick any more tricks and Principi took the win courtesy of his higher trick score—a 9.07 for a remarkable S-loop board off.

Current Red Bull King of the Air, Italy’s Lorenzo Casati, 17, looked dangerous on his path to the final, as he racked up big totals for extreme tricks. But in the final he could not quite find his groove and finished third, just slightly adrift of his rivals on the scoreboard.

That’s a wrap for the 2023 GKA Big Air Worlds in Tarifa. Next up are the GKA Kite-Surf battles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August. Join us then.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas

Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships results

Men’s Big Air Twin-Tip World Champion

1 Andrea Principi (ITA)
2 Liam Whaley (ESP)
3 Lorenzo Casati (ITA)

Men’s Big Air Twin-Tip Tarifa event

1 Andrea Principi (ITA)
2 Cohan van Dijk (NED)
3 Lorenzo Casati (ITA)
4 Giel Vlugt (NED)

Men’s Big Air Surfboard World Champion

1 James Carew (AUS)
2 Marc Garriga (ESP)
3 Kiko Roig (ESP)
4 Keanu Merten (GER)

Big Air Hydrofoil

1 Charles Brodel (FRA)
2 Jamie Overbeek (NED)
3 Joselito del Rosario (DOM)

Women’s Big Air Surfboard

1 Camille Losserand (SUI)
2 Capucine Delannoy (FRA)
3 Mikaili Sol (USA)

Women’s Big Air Twin-Tip World Champion

1 Mikaili Sol (USA)
2 Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE)
3 Angely Bouillot (FRA)

Women’s Big Air Twin-Tip Tarifa event

1 Mikaili Sol (USA)
2 Nathalie Lambrecht (SWE)
3 Zara Hoogenraad (NED)
4 Angely Bouillot (FRA)

Image for Free agent Overbeek reflects on first major win

Free agent Overbeek reflects on first major win

Dutch rider believes his dedication to training in all conditions gave him vital leg-up in Big Air season opener at Barcarès

Read this article
Image for Focused Van Iersel in pole position for crown

Focused Van Iersel in pole position for crown

Unique team helped Dutch Big Air rider restore her mental focus to win first GKA Big Air tour stop after comeback from injury

Read this article
Image for GKA unveils ambitious new plan for kiting

GKA unveils ambitious new plan for kiting

Ground-breaking ProAm Race and Test Event seeks to return Dunkerque to its roots as a European kiteboarding hub

Read this article
Image for Double Dutch at Lords of Tram in France

Double Dutch at Lords of Tram in France

Van Iersel returns from two-year injury break to take third Lords of Tram title while Overbeek lands first Big Air world cup

Read this article