Kite battles get serious in renowned Rio break

Published 6th August 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


Elimination round sees athletes’ runs ended as big guns thrive and advance at debut wave contest in Saquarema

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

The Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, moved up a gear as the contest got serious with the losing athletes sent packing after tough duels in the iconic Saquarema break.

But the top seeds doing battle in the pure surfing world cup showed their class in the epic conditions of double head-high faces and 15 to 18 knots of cross offshore breezes.

Cape Verdean Hendrick Lopes (SUI), Canada’s Reece Myerscough and France’s Clément Roseyro went to town on the wave faces in their heats and booked places in the final sixteen.

Day seven of the competition in Rio, where the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour is making it debut at the spectacular Saquarema break, looked promising with a good swell and a building cross offshore breeze.

Yet in the end the wind proved fickle, despite the waves being smaller than the “bombs” that had been so tricky on Saturday. Just five heats of round four were ticked off, though some were packed with spell-binding action.

The Frenchman Roseyro was one of the first athletes on the water. His heat had been cancelled the previous day when the wind faded. He was fortunate, as he had lost his kite in the pounding beach break on his first wave.

“Quite lucky”

“I arrived late at the spot [on Saturday],” said Roseyro. “When I arrived to take my gear I didn’t realise it was already dropping. I made a mistake on the first wave that I took. The wind had dropped, so my kite didn’t drift as well [as it should] and my nose got caught in the back lines, so I crashed my kite in the wave.

“I went to the shore and Matchu [Lopes] and the Cape Verde crew gave me a 12m kite and I went back out on the water. I was quite lucky that they had prepared me a kite. The wind was so light, it was cancelled after that. But today the conditions look better.”

Roseyro capitalised on his good fortune when he came up against South Africa’s Matt Maxwell in the first heat of round four. During their 16-minute heat, with the two best wave scores to count, Roseyro racked up 13.54 out of a possible 20 that was enough to send Maxwell home.

Canada’s Reece Myerscough had a tougher time against Leo Grangeiro (BRA). Like most of the athletes, the Canadian was riding a 12m2 kite. But riding backside in the cross offshore breeze proved tricky, though in the end he did enough to take the win and send Grangiero out.

In the battle of the Brazilians, Alemao Roehe ended the run of his young protégé Artur Morais  by just one point in one heat, while Igor Pestana just edged it over Breno Barbosa in another heat.

Slayed the wave

The young Cape Verdean charger, Lopes, is an athlete who has his eyes on the main prize and relished the chance to get out on the water to battle.

“[Saturday] was a bit of a fun day,” said Lopes. “Today looks better. The wind looks like it’s coming through and the waves are pretty good. My goal is to make it through round five and make it to the final, because that’s what I’m here for and hopefully it’s going to be good.”

In his heat against Germany’s Alex Middeler, Lopes wasted no time. Riding an 11m2 kite, the Cape Verdean who competes under a Swiss flag, racked up the days’s biggest wave score—8.23—for a wave that he slayed with three big vertical hacks.

Lopes worked the other waves effectively too, looping his kite to keep it powered in the challenging breezes. It gave him the day’s highest heat score of 13.86, that Middeler could not answer.

But that was the highpoint of a day which fizzled out in the faltering winds when several of the final heats had to be cancelled as the breeze dropped. Tomorrow the forecast is again difficult and a lay day has been called. Join us here when the action resumes on Tuesday.

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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