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Moona Whyte lands back-to-back wave crowns

Published 1st August 2023 by Ian MacKinnon

 

US athlete triumphs with stellar riding in difficult final on opening day of GKA wave tour’s debut in Rio de Janeiro

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

The US’s Moona Whyte grabbed her second successive wave title as the Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup opened with a bang in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Whyte dominated the final and charged through her heats with her powerful flowing style, even as she rode backside on the left-handers at Rio’s Saquarema break, where the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup was making its debut.

Hawaii-based Whyte again defeated the reigning Qatar Airways GKA Kite-Surf World Champion, 17-year-old Capucine Delannoy (FRA), in the final. It was a repeat of the tour’s first stop in Cape Verde in March, and with two wins from the five scheduled tour stops, Whyte is well on track to take the world title.

“After these two victories it really makes me want to continue the tour,” said Whyte. “I’m already half way there. So, I’m really super-stoked with the result. I guess I’m going to have to keep on training for the next event.”

Day one of the competition saw the first of the 28-strong men’s field take to the water in the opening heats as the wind built to around 15-17 knots, with a 1.3 metre swell generating head-high surf.

Semi-final showdown

But the compact fleet of seven women got their chance to battle for glory and powered through their heats in the spectacular setting of Saquarema, which served as a stop for the World Surf League last year.

Whyte was fast out of the gate in the first women’s heat of the day. She earned some big numbers from the judges that took her heat score to 12.50, the day’s highest, serving as an early warning to rivals that she meant business.

But Australia’s Milla Ferreira, also riding backside, showed she was up for the fight too. Ferreira defeated Brazilian Kesiane Rodriguez, who had won a stop on the Kite-Surf tour in Taiba last year.

For Ferreira, it set up a semi-final showdown with Whyte. Both women struggled to find good set waves and the wind dropped as the afternoon moved towards the early winter sunset.

Got her revenge

The Australian pushed Whyte all the the way. But in the end the American found a couple of decent waves and did just enough to edge out Ferreira by less than one point.

The other semi-final was a rematch of the GKA Big Air Surfboard world championship final between Capucine Delannoy and Switzerland’s Camille Losserand in Tarifa in June. But this time, in the waves, Delannoy got her revenge and took the win to advance to the final.

The race for the third podium step found Losserand on the wrong end of the fight again. In the increasingly flukey breezes that switched to cross-offshore, Losserand put up some solid scores, but Ferreira was just stronger and took the win and third place.

The conditions for the women’s final were just as tricky. Delannoy switched up to a 12m2 kite in the faltering breeze, while Whyte stuck with the 10m2 kite that had served her well up to that point.

Frustration showed

Whyte opened with a big wave score for her fluid and linked turns in the critical section of the wave that the judges loved. After that, both women struggled as the set waves became more and more elusive.

Delannoy never managed to find her grove and her frustration began to show. But ultimately Whyte’s wave selection and committed style were the telling factor that gave her the win over Delannoy, though she was relaxed about the result.

“During all the competition we had good conditions,” said Delannoy. “We arrived at the final and it was again a final with Moona. My goal was to make it to the final and have fun. I made it to the final and didn’t put too much pressure on myself.

“When we got on the water the wind dropped and there were not many waves. I really struggled. But Moona did super-well. You could see her experience, she knows when the waves were going to be good or not. She won and she deserved it.”

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Svetlana Romantsova

Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Brazil 2023 results

Women
1 Moona Whyte (USA)
2 Capucine Delannoy (FRA)
3 Milla Ferreira (AUS/BRA)
4 Camille Losserand (SUI)

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