QATAR AIRWAYS GKA KITE-SURF WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPION 2022:
CAPUCINE DELANNOY (FRA)
Thanks to a dominant wave display at round one in Morocco, 17-year-old Capucine Delannoy was tour leader and only needed to reach the semi-finals to claim the title in Brazil. She got the job done by winning her crucial quarter final against number two ranked rider, Frances Kelly.
This is Delannoy’s second world title in six months, having won the GKA’s Big Air World Championship in June. Although she lost to eventual event winner, Rodrigues in the semis, Capucine has been the most stylish female combined wave and strapless freestyler in the last 18 months.
QATAR AIRWAYS GKA KITE-SURF MEN’S WORLD CHAMPION 2022:
JAMES CAREW (AUS)
The 23-year-old Australian came into the finals in Brazil as reigning World Champion and current tour leader after winning at round one in Morocco. He put on another highly driven, fully focused performance to claim back-to-back world titles by winning his quarter-final heat, which guaranteed him enough points for the title, before powering through to complete the event win.
Coming from behind in the semi-final against Gabriel Benetton (after losing his kite during an early crash), and again in the final with Pedro Matos, illustrates just how much of a competitive beast this man is.
ROUND ONE: GKA KITE-SURF WORLD CUP DAKHLA
Westpoint, Dakhla, Morocco
27 September – 02 October 2022
The World Cup in Dakhla was the first round of the Kite-Surf discipline and anticipation levels were high amongst elite athletes who specialise in riding waves.
Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour manager, Tom Hartmann, explains more about the spot.
“The competition where we run the event is at West Point, Dakhla; one of the most famous point breaks down in that area with a good combination of wind and waves. The wave itself is not very big, but it’s very consistent and smooth. It’s a very surfing orientated wave, allowing lots of turns. It really favors those guys who are good surfers, rather than the aerial guys and doing tricks on the waves.”
Head judge, Mallory de la Villemarque, was looking forward to seeing more pure surfing influence.
“Today, luckily, we have riders that come from a surfing background. Some of them were even ex-professional surfers. They started kiting and now you look at them and sometimes you forget they have a kite. I definitely think that style of riding makes kite-surfing look so much better in waves.”
41 competitors from 15 nations came to compete at this first event of the season; all hoping to gather points towards the overall Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Championship.
Sebastian Ribeiro, who started surfing at age six, was soon through to the quarter finals, making the most of conditions that clearly suited him. Coming off the water he was frothing at the experience.
“My legs are burning. The wave is so long. I’ve been the whole day just watching all the heats. Super excited to go on the water. Finally, I had my chance to grab some of these awesome waves and I’m super stoked. I think I did two good scores, so yeah, ready for the next one.”
After putting on a great performance to reach the semi-finals, Westpoint’s hometown hero, Mohamed-Ali Beqqali, seemed to lose his customary deep connection with this wave against Ribeiro, who continued to be the most impressive surf-style rider so far. Having already beaten Airton Cozzolino in the quarter finals, the Brazilian’s destiny to make the final was still looking as if written in the stars.
A match-up between world champions, past and present, is always going to deliver fireworks. Current world Champion James Carew came through against 2016 GKA Kite-Surf World Champion, Matchu Lopes, in the other semi final.
The reigning champion said,
“Yeah it was good. Got a couple of good waves. It was a nice heat. I’m not here to talk to people, I’m here to win. So I’m just trying to keep that extra level of focus, be in my zone and get the job done.”
Although the women’s fleet was smaller than the men’s, the battles were no more forgiving.
Making it to the first final of the season were French rider, Capucine Delannoy (winner of the GKA Big Air Kite-Surf World Championship earlier in the season), and Canadian Frances Kelly, who made her first ever final.
Five minutes into the heat and things were tight, but Capucine was narrowly ahead. The wind continued to build and Capucine’s decision to drop a kite size looked to be paying off as her turns appeared far more comfortable.
Both riders had plenty of wave choices in the heat, but it was Capucine who put the hammer down and started to stretch her lead further.
Focusing her attention on the cleaner and steeper inside section, the French 17 year-old artfully combined turn after turn to steadily wear the Canadian down.
Straight off the water, elated with confirmation of her win, Delannoy said,
“Winning this event means a lot. I had some unfinished business here in Dakhla. I didn’t take the win last year; well, I had to share the first place. So winning it this year means a lot to me and it was the first event of the year, so it’s great starting the season well.”
GKA KITE-SURF WORLD CUP MOROCCO RESULTS
1 Capucine Delannoy (FRA)
2 Frances Kelly (CAN)
3 Johanna-Catharina Edin (SWE)
4 Zoe Bazile (FRA)
MEN’S FINAL: JAMES CAREW (AUS) V SEBASTIAN RIBEIRO (BRA)
Mid sized waves dominated the heat and Carew snuck into an early lead after two waves each, thanks to a stalled air on the inside. Pressure firmly on, the Brazilian needed to somehow improve both his two counting wave scores.
With 90 seconds to go, the riders could only turn back and forth on the outside in search of something workable.
Nothing came and that was it. James Carew, current world champion, had timed his peak in performance to perfection, exactly how the ultimate competitors do it!
“Yeah, I mean this event was insane.” he said, just before climbing the podium. “The conditions were just crazy. I never saw this place like this. I’ve just been focusing on the goal, trying to trying to keep that extreme focus and just get the win. It all paid off. So, here we are.”
GKA KITE-SURF WORLD CUP MOROCCO RESULTS
1 James Carew (AUS)
2 Sebastian Ribeiro (BRA)
3 Matchu Lopes (ESP)
4 Med Ali Beqqali (MOR)
ROUND TWO: COPA KITLEY QATAR AIRWAYS GKA FREESTYLE-KITE WORLD CUP BRAZIL 2022
23-27 November 2022
The season finale of the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour took place in Taiba, Brazil. For the men a strapless freestyle trick had been added to their heat format and their best trick from four attempts would be added to their best two wave scores.
The wind and wave situation picked up early in round five.
Fast forward to the quarter finals and Gabriel Benetton (finalist at the GKA Big Air World Championships) took out one of the leading championship contenders in a thrilling all-Brazilian frontside versus backside encounter. Number two in the rankings, Sebastien Ribeiro was suddenly out of the competition.
Gabriel was amped!
“Yeah, I just beat Sebastian. He’s an inspiration to me since I started kiting. I’m a big fan of his. So yeah, I’m stoked to make this heat. The plan now is to get to the finals and win!”
The overall championship would come down to Matchu Lopes chasing James Carew, but in order for Matchu to have any chance of claiming the title, he needed the Australian to be ejected from the competition in the semis.
Matchu would ride in the first semi final against Brazilian, Pedro Matos. If Matchu lost that heat, James would be world champion.
Regardless of what Matchu achieved in his semi-final though, if James could beat the highest performer of the event so far, Brazilian Gabriel Benetton in the second semi final, then the Australian would be assured of claiming back-to-back world championships.
In the first semi-final, Matos made it work best on home soil in rolling high tide swells, staying better connected on the wave on his front side than Matchu was able to backside.
With Matchu losing his semi-final, James was already assured of the world championship by the time he faced Gabriel Benetton in the next semi-final, but there was no break to celebrate. James had previously said that the world championship wasn’t his main focus; his primary aim was to win this event.
That ambition was really put to test against Benetton when a rare leash malfunction on a three-one-three attempt left Carew paddling to shore for a new kite early in the heat. A broken board on a big back roll kite loop forced the final gear change for James.
In the dying moments, the reigning champion’s belief came true when he landed the powerful three-one-three that had caused him such drama early in the heat.
“Oh, I feel like a two-time world champ baby!” James shouted when enveloped by the Australian flag on the beach.
“This heat was insane. My leash came off, first time in my life. Never happened before. I thought I landed the first one, it felt so clean, but I didn’t. I swapped boards three or four times. Kites, leashes, and meanwhile Gabriel’s ripping, you know. Two-time world champ; it’s a dream coming true. I worked my arse off for this. Job’s not done yet. I want to win this comp. I have one heat left.”
JAMES CAREW (AUS) 22.23 V PEDRO MATOS (BRA) 19.00
James’s last wave of the final was just a perfect example of ultimate power surfing and showed how much of a competitive beast he is, in terms of both pure wave attack and freestyle. The most all-round and highly charged of riders, Carew was well deserving of this event win and world title.
As he did in the semi-final, Carew came from behind in this final, proving you just cannot rest against this man until the buzzer sounds.
Pedro was rightly in the final of an event that rewarded pure surf-style attack and power and this was a closely matched heat right up to the end. Both riders claimed waves in the final moments that could have forced the win.
Carew’s extra fire power, hunger, total focus and hard freestyle training (he landed another frontside 3 in the final) brought him the win here. For the second year in a row, the Australian is World Champion in a discipline that rewards the most complete rider.
James: “That was insane. I came here for the win and the world title and I got them both. Smoked them; it’s over. Going home happy, bags full, that’s it! Got to get another one now. Three from three?”
Pedro: “Competing against James is always difficult. The high tide was much harder. I won the Brazilian championship a few weeks ago and now made the final. It’s going good.”
Day number four at the Copa Kitley GKA Kite World Cup Brazil was all about the women with the world title race still up for grabs.
Judging criteria for the women was simple; to only ride the best possible waves with the need for a freestyle trick abandoned in the lighter winds.
If tour leader Capucine Delannoy made it into the semi-finals it would mean she would be the new world champion. Standing in her way was her closest rival, Canadian Frances Kelly.
WOMEN’S QUARTER FINAL:
CAPUCINE DELANNOY (FRA) V FRANCES KELLY (CAN)
The French teen focused on the task and quickly had two wave scores on the board. Compact in the legs, centred over the board, fully at one with the kite, she repeatedly repositioned it in the sky to stay in as close connection with the wave as possible, knowing a surf-style approach reaped rewards from the judges.
“I’ve been training so hard for that and now I’m getting my second world title.” Capucine said on the livestream directly after the heat. “I couldn’t dream about anything better. I’m just so happy.”
World Championship in the bag, in the semi-finals Capucine then went on to face the new Brazilian rising star with a seemingly unbreakable spirit, Kesiane Rodrigues.
Capucine, however, couldn’t match the Brazilian’s pounding wave attacks as Kesiane moved into the first World Championship final of her career.
KESIANE RODRIGUEZ (BRA) 7.70 V BRUNA KAJIYA (BRA) 7.64
Fittingly so, given the incredible performances that local riders had put on here as a group, the women’s final came down to an all-Brazilian battle.
The final brought a big effort from two Brazilian athletes in tricky, light wind and small wave conditions. Kesiane’s more experienced opponent, Bruna Kajiya, is a three-time Freestyle World Champion and found the best wave mid-heat.
Kesiane’s fightback was relentless though, and she retook the lead in the final moments, claiming victory by just 0.06 points. Rodrigues showed the most fluid, connected and vertical wave riding approach at this event. Winning in Taiba also saw Kesiane hop ahead of Frances Kelly to claim the Vice World Championship.
Right after the heat, in Portuguese, Kesiane said, “I’m very happy for my result, for my performance. From beginning to the end, I’ve been training in each step of the way, focusing and understanding what I really needed to get to this point. And that’s it; when you have focus, faith and determination, things happen.”
QATAR AIRWAYS GKA KITE-SURF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2022 FINAL STANDINGS
1 Capucine Delannoy (FRA) (World Champion)
2 Kesiane Rodrigues (BRA)
3 Frances Kelly (CAN)
1 James Carew (AUS) (World Champion)
2 Matchu Lopes (ESP)
3 Pedro Matos (BRA)
Click here to see the full 2022 season rankings.
Click here to see the 2023 event calendar.
Words: Jim Gaunt
Photos: Svetlana Romantsova
Video footage: Julien Leleu & Diogo Cardoso
Video edits: Carlos Ortola