GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa 2021 | THE AFTERMATH

Published 27th June 2021 by Rasa


Sunday 27th June

Report: Sasha Jade / All photos: Samuel Cardenas / Video: Mintautas Grigas

The GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa 2021 was the first competition where the GKA Judges announced the Mixed Format due to extreme weather conditions (40+ knots wind). The Mixed Format was already introduced in 2019, where Freestyle and Big Air tricks count towards the final score. Depending on the given conditions, the weight given to each category shall be modified.

Light wind: Strong focus on Freestyle. 

Good wind: Mix of Freestyle with Big Air

Strong wind: Strong focus on Big Air. 

This was the first competition that the conditions that allowed this format to be run since it was introduced. The Judges are looking at: 

  1. Height and Amplitude: How much you project yourself – airtime traveled.
  2. Technical difficulty of maneuvers.
  3. Innovation
  4. Flow and Style: Inversions, tweaks, etc. 
  5. Kiteloops: Sent on the critical moment + wow factor (If not it’s considered a regular jump) 

This format allows judges to find the most complete rider, capable of performing in any conditions. It intends primarily to protect the athletes from injuries and push them out of their comfort zone to open up and express themselves and keep their audience engaged. 

“I remember we had Tarifa 2008, where the conditions were nuking, and everybody was struggling hard with their freestyle tricks. We saw an unavoidable downgrade in the quality of maneuvers, so I’m very happy that we can adapt to the current conditions adding this given reward finally to big air that it deserves.”- confirms the GKA Head Judge Alvaro Onieva.

This may seem controversial to those pure freestyle fans, however, the judges ensure they are not trying to overpower the freestyle out of the tour. They intend to preserve the athletes and keep the innovation of the sport progressing to a new level of innovation.

‘It’s super important we have something we can adapt to all kinds of conditions. We experienced this in the past with strapless, and it was a tremendous success. It helped the tour to grow and athletes to innovate.” – explains the GKA Head Judge Alvaro Onieva.

By day three we were down to the final heats, ready to take on the final battle and claim the first crown of the year. As we went through the heat and the competition rhythm, we saw that although hesitant at first, riders were adapting incredibly well to the new format.  

“They were even scoring higher than we all expected, not only from the technical side but from all aspects” – confirms Alvaro Onieva.

As you have all probably experienced at some stage, there is no guarantee of smooth sailing with any introduction. The unfamiliar often feel’s uncomfortable until it’s not. 

“It’s more mentally challenging, but once you do it you’re like; oh that was easy.” – affirms the GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa champion Mikaili Sol (BRA).

By the finals, the brave ladies had been watching the men struggle to hold on to their smallest kites all morning, building their nerves heat at a time. 

“It was more stressful being out of the water and seeing the guys go in with that wind… But once you go out there you realize that you can hold it as long as you’re confident of yourself.”- confirms Rita Arnaus (ESP).

Young Mikaili Sol (BRA) showed her dominance in the sport once again, totalling 20+ point averages back to back. Without looking back, Mika fearlessly claimed her way to the first place on the podium!

Pippa Van Iersel (NLD) looped back strong, giving the Brazilian a run for her money. She managed to gain enough height to take her up to second place.

Hannah Whiteley (GBR) held her ground throughout the competition, consistently pulling powerful executions that gave her what she needed to progress to third place. 

Rita Arnaus (ESP) coming in with Spanish fire from the semi-finals, but couldn’t quite maintain the heat that Sol was emitting this time, leaving her in fourth place. 

These ladies proved to us the only limits are those you set in your mind as they took on the battlefield throughout the event. Mad respect for all of these incredible women. 

The Levante may have driven us crazy on the nuking shores of Tarifa, but what we just saw in the following was downright INSANE. By the men’s final, the riders took the scores stratospherical.

Arthur Guillebert (FRA) had been in flames since the beginning of the event, showing that he can handle any conditions thrown at him. The flipping Frenchman hasn’t messed a beat since the first green flag that rose, and proceeded to claim the first World Cup title of his career! 

Jeremy Burlando (ITA) taking an early lead, a new rookie on tour pulling a move from move-in his dance with the big names in the final. Italian Stallion had got glimpses of the glistening crown as he boosted his way up the ladder to second place.

Ewan Jaspan (AUS) clearly had no jet lag from his journey from Australia staying wide awake whilst taking a very smooth lead, really impressing the judges with the technical difficulty of his executed tricks throughout the competition claiming his way to a solid third place. 

The Dominican Adeuri Corniel (DOM) throwing kite loop after kite loop, taking him up above the skylines of Morrocco all the way to fourth place. 

The wind was nuking beyond the pro’s anticipation and the spectators were in between excited and nervous, as they attempt to keep their eyes open through the blasting sand storm. The primary battle was between the Riders and the wind but they adapted and performed to the new format above and beyond our expectations taking the level of riding to whole new heights.

Ewan Jaspan (AUS) originally coming from a freestyle background began venturing to the Park riding scene seeking variety was extremely stoked with the implementation of the Mixed format. 

“It was kind of narrowing into one category of freestyle where all you could do was focus on going huge and spinning lots. The guys who were at the top were getting younger and younger cause that’s the only age you can cop that kind of stuff. I’m not old but I’m 27 and I can’t do that kind of stuff anymore…

It’s nice to see the judges rewarding not just the spin to win stuff, but being able to go out and focus on different things. And hopefully, they keep that up!” – says Ewan Jaspan.

Although it may not seem it, the risk of riding Freestyle in strong conditions is higher than Big Air. 

“Every landing is like grinding you don’t in freestyle, whereas Big Air is mellow unless you have a really bad crash.” – explains Ewan.

“If they wanted us to do Freestyle in that wind, I would have been like; no, let’s do big air. Freestyle would have been an even bigger risk.” – confirms Mikaili. 

These riders have been persevering to climb up the ladder for 2 solid days hanging on strongly through the gnarly Levante. Up and above their comfort zone from the first day with the pure Big Air format the conditions required.  Each and every one of them showed up with courage, bringing everything they had to the roaring shores of this event and invited us to be entertained.

Meet The GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa 2021 | BIG AIR podium! 

1. A. Guillebert (FRA)
2. J. Burlando (ITA)
3. E. Jaspan (AUS)

1. M. Sol (BRA)
2. P. Van Iersel (NLD)
3. H. Whiteley (GBR)

Thanks to all of the sponsors, organizers, and crew for hosting the GKA Freestyle World Cup Tarifa event. Despite the challenging wind conditions, it was amazing to have all the riders coming together at this iconic spot. See you next year Tarifa!

The next stop is the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Sylt, in Germany, 17-22 August. 

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