Kite-Surf athletes poised for showdown in Sylt

Published 22nd August 2023 by Ian MacKinnon



World’s best riders stoked to battle at idyllic German North Sea resort to push for coveted titles

Defender GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Sylt, Germany 2023
Brandenburger Strand, 22—27 August

The planet’s best kite-surf athletes are primed and ready for action as the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour returns to the idyllic German resort of Sylt on the North Sea. They are eager to press their claims for coveted world titles.

At the opening ceremony on Westerland’s Brandenburger Strand, the 24 men and 10 women from nine nations around the world, were stoked fly their countries’ flags before a beach packed with fans.

The Defender GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Sylt is the mid-point of the five-stop wave discipline’s tour and the outcome is crucial for the athletes if they are to have a chance of landing a crown.

Spain’s Matchu Lopes leads the men’s tour with two wins from two events, the latest coming earlier this month when he triumphed in Saquarema, Brazil, taking down his friend and rival, Italy’s Airton Cozzolino, in an epic final.

But the five-day Kite-Surf event in Sylt has the potential to shake up the order. It looks as if it will be staged in the strapless freestyle format, rather than pure wave surfing like Brazil, because of the prevailing conditions in Sylt, where the wind failed to pick up sufficiently on day one for competition.

Favoured strapless format

That may suit some riders more than others, particularly those who have dominated so far after the season opened in Cape Verde, in March, in the renowned Ponta Preta break on the island of Sal.

For Germany’s Keanu Merten, 18, who finished fourth in the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships in the Surfboard discipline in Tarifa, competing before home crowds in his favoured strapless freestyle format is a dream come true.

“I really don’t think I could ask for more,” said Merten. “The crowd is amazing and everything’s super-cool. I prefer strapless freestyle because my home spot doesn’t have waves, so I don’t get to train in them. For me freestyle’s better.”

Spain’s Kiko Roig finished just one spot above the German teenager in Tarifa and relished the chance to return to Sylt, a venue that he believes plays to his strengths in strapless freestyle.

“I’ve been here in Sylt two times and I really like the place,” said Roig. “It’s a place where I got my best result, so I’m really happy competing here. I’m not so good at pure wave [surfing], because where I’m from in Valencia, we don’t really have waves.”

Learning experience

By contrast Brazil’s Serena Luz is more at home kite-surfing the waves and strapless freestyle is bit of a learning experience. But after landing a fourth place in Saquarema recently, she is delighted to be in Sylt.

“It’s my first time in Sylt and it’s beautiful,” she said. “Everything works so well. I’m hoping to use this event for training. I never tried to do strapless freestyle. I like waves, but I need to learn and evolve my strapless freestyle riding.”

Switzerland’s Camille Losserand, the current Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion in the Surfboard division, feels she will be right at home in a strapless freestyle contest.

“It’s my first time coming here in Sylt,” said Losserand. “I’m more into freestyle than waves. I train in Tarifa, so I don’t really get waves there. So we’ll see how it goes. But I’m really looking forward to the event. I’ve had one good day training here. The organisation looks really good.”

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

Spot Info: Sylt
Sylt is Germany’s fourth largest and northern-most island. It is famed for its nature reserve, untamed beauty and 40kms of sandy beaches. Brandenburger Strand is the main beach in front of Westerland. Sylt’s tourism service has organised an event there since 1983. The event’s 450 metres promenade will feature partner stands with everything from kitesurfing gear to great food and drinks.

Sylt has a northern European climate, so weather conditions are mild in August. The air temperature during day can be between 25°C at the highest temperatures, with a low of 12°C. The water temperature of the North Sea is around 16°C, so bringing a wetsuit, and a jacket is recommended. Sunrise is 05.00 and sunset is 22.00.

The wind can vary, depending on the weather pattern. Westerly winds blow 15-35 knots, onshore at Westerland. Easterly winds blow around 12-25 knots, offshore at Westerland.

Event Information

  • Event: Defender GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Sylt
  • Spot: Brandenburger Strand, Sylt
  • Dates: 22—27 August, 2023
  • Download the event Race Notice here
  • Follow the whole event here

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Liveticker will be updated throughout the day. Event highlight video will be published next morning. Written reports will be posted to the website at the end of the competition day.

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