Contenders for the GKA Male Rider of the Year Award 2022

Published 27th May 2022 by Andrea Susanne Opielka


We’re excited to be able to announce the following individuals were voted as the leading contenders for the GKA Rider of the Year Award by a panel of industry professionals, representatives, brand managers, media creators and journalists. 

Please watch the video below and then scroll down to read the bio info about the contenders – winners announced 25th June at a ceremony in Tarifa. 


(The public vote counts as 33% of the overall vote alongside a specialist legends & pioneers committee and GKA Kite World Tour judges, crew and event partners)

WORDS: Holly Keenan

Airton Cozzolino GKA Awards


Airton Cozzolino is a true pioneer behind strapless kitesurfing. The 4x World Champion made history when he was the first ever person to compete in the RedBull King Of The Air in 2020 on a strapless board.

Airton discovered kitesurfing when he was just 12 years old. He lived in Ilha Do Sal, a small island off of the Cabo Verde archipelago, in North West Africa, where there are optimal conditions for kite-surfing. His breakout year was in 2011 when he won his first Kite-Surf world championship title. He then proceeded to win another three world titles in 2016, 2017 and 2019 in the Kite-surf discipline. 

 Alongside his many competition wins Airton was also the first rider to land a frontside 315 on a strapless board. This is an extremely technical trick that many twintip riders struggle to land themselves.

Marc Jacobs GKA Awards


Marc Jacobs began his kitesurfing in 2005 when he was just 13 years old. He started his kitesurfing career in twintip freestyle and is 12 x New Zealand Kiteboarding Champion.

Jacobs competed on the World Freestyle Tour for over 10 years and in 2013, he was crowned PKRA Vice World Champion. Nevertheless, Marc’s biggest achievement in his kitesurfing career was when he won the 2021 Red Bull King of the Air. After the 2019 Redbull KOTA event Jacobs made it his goal to win the KOTA and his hardwork and devotion to the discipline clearly paid off, managing to be crowned King after having learned all the latest moves bigger and better on his weaker switch tack. A massive achievement. 

Giel Vlugt GKA Awards


Giel Vlugt began his kitesurfing career just two years ago when he received his first sponsorship deal. This marked the moment when he decided to dedicate his life to kiteboarding. In just his first year as a professional kitesurfer Giel achieved 1st place at the Big Air Kitefest event in Egypt and 2nd in the BAKL Full Power Tarifa Big Air contest. At the end of 2021 Giel competed in the RedBull KOTA for the first time and placed 4th overall.

Nevertheless, Giel’s most memorable moment so far in his kitesurfing career was when he won the Full Power Tarifa Big Air Contest in 2022, defeating established legends like Liam Whaley. His signature moves of 2022, that he suddenly seems able to do on command, are the breathtaking S-loop and the boogie double loop late frontroll – huge steps forward in the next level consistency of big air kiteboarding. It seems that every time Giel takes to the water  at the moment he’s able to continue evolving more and more. 

Charles Brodel GKA


Charles Brodel is one rider at the forefront of this new, evolving discipline, hydrofoil freestyle. His competitive journey in kitesurfing commenced in Landkite racing and freestyle where he found kite flying to be most exhilarating.

He is 2x landkite Junior French Champion and is the Landkite Race Champion 2017. In 2019 Brodel also won the Champion du monde Speed Crossing on a twintip. Nevertheless, Brodel’s highlight moment was when he was crowned the  KiteFoil Freestyle World Championships in 2021. During this event Brodel posted several world firsts in competition such as the Brodel Flip  and the one foot fuselage grab. He has more or less owned the extreme big air foiling space and will aim to claim the GKA Big Air World Championship title in Tarifa in June. 

James Carew GKA Awards


One rider who took 2021 by storm is the Australian kitesurfer, James Carew. James started competing on the GKA World Tour in 2018 and quickly moved up the rankings to great acclaim; easily rookie of the year. By 2019 Carew was ranked 3rd overall on the immensely competitive GKA Kite-Surf World Tour and from then on James only had one goal on his mind, world champion.

Carew’s explosive style of wave riding and fierce determination saw his strapless freestyle skills match his prowess in the surf and in 2021 he was crowned the GKA Kite-Surf World Champion, beating some of the most prestigious riders on the tour, including friend and rival, Airton Cozzolino. Besides competition James also enjoys surfing/ kite-surfing in big waves and recently released a video of his kite-surfing at the big wave spot, Nazare in Portugal.

Maxime Chaboloz GKA awards


Maxime Chabloz is arguably the most versatile athlete on the GKA Freestyle World Tour. Maxime grew up in the Swiss Alps with the mountains and the lakes on his doorstep. These idyllic conditions provided him with the perfect playground to work on freestyle kitesurfing and freestyle skiing.

2021/2022 has been Maxime’s most successful years as an athlete as he placed second overall on the GKA Freestyle World Tour. Remarkably he also won an immensely impressive Ski Freeride World Championship earlier this year. Compounding his unique all-round riding skills and competitive ability, he won the GKA Freestyle Distance Battle in 2020 and placed 3rd on GWA Wingfoil World Tour in Tarifa 2020.

Janek Grzegorzewski


Janek Grzegorzewski has been described by many as the future of kitesurfing. He has elevated Big Air Kitesurfing with his endless innovation on his megaloops.

At the age of 18 Janek won the Junior World Kitesurfing Championships and received an invitation to the prestigious Red Bull King of the Air competition in 2020 and 2021.  Although he didn’t make it to the podium, Janek did receive the highest trick score in competition history with a whopping 9.4 point score. 

In 2021 Janek won both the Big Air Kite League in Tarifa And the BAKL in Brazil, beating prestigious riders such as Liam Whaley.  Unfortunately Janek had a brutal fall before the BAKL event 2022 in Tarifa and is now on the road to recovery, ready to come back stronger than ever for the end of the 2022 season.

GKA Men's rider of the year contender Jesse Richman


Jesse Richman is a renowned big air kitesurfer and a big wave kiteboarder. He is arguably one of the most decorated kitesurfers in the world as he holds 7 world titles, 2 KOTA titles and has been crowned kiteboarder of the year 4 times.

Jesse began competing on the GKA World Tour when he was just 14 and spent nearly 8 years on the tour. However, after winning a few world titles Jesse decided to turn his attention to big wave surfing.  He has surfed and kite-surfed Jaws countless times and currently holds the world record for Kite-surfing the biggest wave ever in Nazare Portugal 2017. 

Jesse’s razor sharp focus and unwavering perseverance has helped him come back from many injuries. He continues to ride Jaws and compete in the Red Bull KOTA.

Men’s Best Move of the Year – CLICK HERE

Women’s Best Move of the Year – CLICK HERE

Female Rider of the Year – CLICK HERE

Social Contribution of the Year – CLICK HERE

The GKA Awards will be given out during a special invitational ceremony in Tarifa on Saturday night, 25th June, during the GKA Big Air World Championships event window, which also sees the GKA Kite Expo take place in the first week. Hold on tight! 

Image for GKA unveils ambitious new plan for kiting

GKA unveils ambitious new plan for kiting

Ground-breaking ProAm Race and Test Event seeks to return Dunkerque to its roots as a European kiteboarding hub

Read this article
Image for Double Dutch at Lords of Tram in France

Double Dutch at Lords of Tram in France

Van Iersel returns from two-year injury break to take third Lords of Tram title while Overbeek lands first Big Air world cup

Read this article
Image for Big Air battle poised for epic showdown

Big Air battle poised for epic showdown

Lords of Tram GKA men set to vie for crown after opening day saw favourites advance smoothly in tricky conditions

Read this article
Image for Big Air riders under starters orders

Big Air riders under starters orders

Eagerly-awaited world championship title race opener gets 'green' light at Lords of Tram GKA World Cup in Barcarès

Read this article