2021 Competition Formats Explained

Published 11th February 2021 by Sensi Graves


A little background:

Three years ago the GKA tested out a new freestyle format. One that involved maximizing the conditions, maintaining audience involvement, and which showcased the true elements of kiteboarding. The 2018 Air Games turned out to be the perfect proving ground for what would ultimately become the Global Kitesports Association World Tour format.

The GKA had already been using this format for the Kite-Surf discipline and so after testing it within the Air Games, our judging team, led by the head judge for the Global Kitesports Association, Mallory de la Villemarque, decided to incorporate it throughout all the disciplines on the GKA world tour. Mallory has a wealth of knowledge in judging, having started on the PKRA, then transitioning to the WKC and finally to the GKA, where he’s been head-judge for four years. His goal with the format is to do what we’re always trying to do in kitesurfing–maximize the conditions.


We are all intimately familiar with running competitions in a wind-dependent sport; sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t. After one too many competitions in which we’ve tried to make it work, the GKA decided to let Mother Nature decide exactly what type of competition we will run. 

This is a refresher on the 2021 Competition Format for the GKA world tour:

The format is simple and three-fold.

1) Maximize the conditions and adjust competition disciplines according to the conditions we’re given.

2) Put on an excellent show for both the live and at-home spectators.

3) Demonstrate all that you can do with a kite.

We have three disciplines running for 2021: the Kite-Surf tour which involves wave kitesurfing and strapless freestyle, the Freestyle tour which involves twintip freestyle kiteboarding and big air and the Hydrofoil-Freestyle Tour. 

Each tour will run as follows:


Our intention is to showcase all that kitesurfing with a surfboard has to offer by taking advantage of the conditions we are given. On the kitesurf world tour, when there are perfect waves, we’ll run a pure wave competition with points awarded for ultimate kitesurfing Wave riding. flow and style. If there are not great waves, we’ll do a mix of Strapless freestyle and surfing with the winner showcasing skill in both areas. If it’s entirely flat surf, we’ll run a pure strapless freestyle competition. 

This format remains the same as it has since 2015 and focuses on taking advantage of the conditions.


On the twin tip freestyle discipline tour, the format will be dictated by the wind speed. We’ll maximize the conditions by incorporating Big Air into the competition when wind speeds are greater than 30 knots (as a general guideline). For example, we expect strong wind in Tarifa. If on the day of the competition, we have 50 knots, we’ll run a pure big air format. This allows us to get back to the roots of kiteboarding and demonstrate the hugely impressive skill sets of the riders. But if conditions give us around 20 knots of wind, we’ll do just pure freestyle with handle-passes and stylish grabs. If, for example, wind conditions deliver 28-30 knots, we might run a mix of both big air and freestyle in order to crown an event champion.  

As a general rule, whenever the conditions give us strong wind, we’ll add big air.  This format allows the GKA to adapt to the conditions to put on the best possible contest. Riders must be versatile and multi-disciplined. Over the years, we’ve seen riders training hard in Big Air and we’re expecting good results in 2021!


Hydrofoil-Freestyle is the most recent discipline added to the tour. The GKA tested the format in Brazil in 2020 with the Superfoil event and it proved to be very successful. Hydrofoils allow riders to put on an amazing show even in the lightest conditions when it would be impossible to compete in other disciplines. The hydrofoil allows competitors to jump 10-15m high even at winds as low as 10-12 knots. This allows the GKA to hold competitions in new destinations that would otherwise be impossible to compete at.

The competition format for the hydrofoil tour consists of showcasing all types of freestyle that can be done on a hydrofoil with a kite. From strapless hydrofoil riding to handle passes, loops or the biggest board-offs. It’s all about freestyle and the competition format will evolve over the years. This is just the beginning of a discipline with lots of potential!

This structure enables the GKA to provide the best competition for both the riders and fans alike. We feel as though it lets the true nature of kiteboarding shine while showcasing all that our sport has to offer. This structure does require our competitors to be more adaptable and more versed in a variety of disciplines.



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