Mid-season tour stops crucial for title hopefuls

Published 29th July 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


  • Freestyle athletes pumped to get back to competition in France after training hard for glory in break

  • Kite-Surf riders to swap Rio in winter for North Sea in summer for world tour’s third stop at Sylt

GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup Dunkerque, France 2023
Place du Centenaire, 16—20 August

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

The world’s best freestyle kiteboarders are set to jump back into action when the GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup lands in the northern French coastal town of Dunkerque for the first time.

Just a few days later, it will be the turn of the strapless surfboard athletes to take to the water in the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup, when it to returns to Sylt, Germany, for the tour’s third tour stop.

The tour leaders in freestyle and kite-surf disciplines are set to fight for glory as  they seek to advance their claims to coveted world titles as both disciplines on the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour reach the half-way point of the 2023 season.

Reigning freestyle kite world champion, Italy’s Gianmaria Coccoluto, will be eager to get his title defence back on track in Dunkerque. He currently lies second in the rankings after two events. Coccoluto opened the season with a win in Fuwairit, Qatar, but could only manage a third in Salinas del Rey, Colombia.

Brazil’s Carlos Mario, a four-time freestyle world champion, tops the overall standings courtesy of a win in Colombia back in early March. He was re-energised by the victory and will be hoping it puts him on course for a fifth world title.

Still hungry

But there are a handful for former world champions in the mix who will have other ideas for the tour third freestyle stop in France. Former champions, Colombia’s Valentin Rodriguez and France’s Arthur Guillebert, will no doubt press the leaders.

Other French athletes, Val Garat and Mauritius-based Louka Pitot, who currently lies third in the rankings, will battle among the 28 men as they look to put on a show for home fans.

On the women’s side, eighteen-year-old current  freestyle world champion, Mikaili Sol, looks imperious and motivated to fight off challengers in the 10-strong women’s fleet. She tops the pile after winning in Colombia, righting a defeat at the opener in Qatar.

Brazil’s Bruna Kajiya, at 36 the oldest women on the tour, sits second in the rankings. The three-times former world champion demonstrated she is still hungry for success when she won in Qatar.

The freestyle tour will take another break after Dunkerque, with the fourth stop set for Ceara, Brazil, in early November, before concluding where the season began, at Fuwairit, Qatar.

Unspoilt coastline

The kite-surf tour season’s mid-point stop in Sylt follows shortly after the call at Rio de Janeiro’s Saquarema break. The unspoilt North Sea coastline of Sylt will offer a very different stage with different challenges to those of tropical Rio.

The Sylt competition, like Rio, will be fought out in one of two formats, pure surfing or strapless freestyle, depending on the conditions. The tour opened in Cape Verde’s iconic Ponta Preta, a right-hand point break that served up a pure surfing contest.

But at Sylt, the North Sea beach break may lead the competition director to choose to run a strapless freestyle contest, which would play to the strengths of some riders more than others.

The US’s Moona Whyte won in Ponta Preta with her powerful, flowing surfing style. Cape Verde’s right-hander mirrored the conditions of her native North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and she felt right at home.

Tricks in locker

But among the 14 women up for the fight, lies reigning Qatar Airways GKA Kite-Surf World Champion, 17-year-old Capucine Delannoy. She lost out to Whyte in Cape Verde, but has strapless freestyle tricks in her locker that she can pull out in Sylt if the conditions dictate.

Most of the men topping the tour’s rankings, though, have the ability to switch between pure surfing and strapless freestyle, depending on the conditions. Airton Cozzolino (ITA) came third in Cape Verde with mind-blowing surfing, but he is a former GKA Big Air Surfboard world champion too.

Going into Rio, Cape Verdean Matchu Lopes (ESP), leads the kite-surf discipline rankings thanks to a win in Ponta Preta. But the field of 32 men slated to battle in Sylt is a minefield stacked with talent lying in wait, ready to upset the established order.

Brazilians Pedro Matos and Gabriel Benetton, Bulgaria’s Nicola Abadjiev, Camille Delannoy (FRA) and Reece Myerscough (CAN) are just a few of the names who could challenge for the podium in Sylt.

Join us for all the action in Dunkerque here, and Sylt here. The excitement is real.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller / Andre Magarao

Spot Info: Dunkerque
Dunkerque boasts almost 15kms of wide, sandy beaches that are a kiteboarding paradise on the North Sea. It is suitable for all levels of kiteboarders, who can find spots to launch and land easily, depending on their skill level.

The average maximum daytime temperature in Dunkerque in August is around 22.9°C (73.22°F). Usually, it is the warmest month of the year. The average minimum temperature goes down to around 13.6°C.

North-east or south-west winds are the most prevalent in Dunkerque. At the event site, those equate to a cross-onshore for the north-easterlies, and cross-shore in the south-westerlies. You can expect some kickers. The average winds range from 13-18 knots, with some days pushing to more than 25 knots.

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.

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