Women battle elements at Lords of Tram

Published 1st April 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


  • GKA Big Air world champion Sol comes out firing at the opening of the GKA world cup in France

  • France’s Bouillot poses the biggest threat with a series of stunning tricks that netted big scores

Lords of Tram GKA Big Air Kite World Cup France 2023-Day One
1-30 April, Barcarès

Reigning world champion Mikaili Sol (USA) came out firing at the opening of the Lords of Tram GKA Big Air World Cup, putting on an assured performance that saw her advance to the semi-finals in nuking conditions in the south of France.

The 18-year-old multiple world title holder took no prisoners,  throwing down massive mega-loops with back rolls as the wind headed towards 50 knots approaching the end of the day in Barcarès.

But in a sign that the teenage prodigy may not get things all her own way, France’s Angely Bouillot also advanced up the order to reach the semi-finals, landing some of the best scores of the day.

Several times the veteran Big Air rider—the only woman to compete in the Red Bull King of the Air—landed monster kite-loop board offs. One netted her a 9.0, the highest trick score of a day filled with breath-taking action.

Sweden’s Nathalie Lambrecht and new-comer Francesca Maini (GBR) also progressed the semi-finals with strong performances that sent home rivals. Maini was slightly fortunate to get the better of Hawaii-based Karlie Thoma when her kite released in the huge gusts and she was disqualified for receiving unauthorised assistance.

First semi-final aborted

In the end, though, the first semi-final of the day between Bouillot and Lambrecht had to be aborted after several minutes because the wind hit 50 knots and the race director judged it was too strong and abandoned competition for the day.

The action is set to resume early on Sunday, with another day of even bigger Tramontana winds forecast, and the likelihood that the 24 men will get out on the water for the first time.

Lords of Tram has already staged four successful editions since the first in 2019. But this is the first year the event has teamed up with the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour. It is the first stop of the GKA Big Air World Championships.

A second round will be held at the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships in Tarifa, Spain, from 26 May to 16 June, featuring twin-tip, strapless and freestyle. A third stop will hopefully added to the tour later in the year, after which the world champion will be crowned.

The first one-off Qatar Airways Big Air Kite World Championships was staged in Tarifa, Spain, last year, where Sol triumphed. Italy’s Andrea Principi, 18, won the men’s crown and will be on the water at Lords of Tram when the male riders begin their battles.

Spectacular opening heats

Day one of the Lords of Tram GKA Big Air World Cup got off to a faltering start with the women’s duels. After several heats, the promising wind shifted and dropped and the competition was put on hold for a time.

But the strong Tramontana winds that Barcarès is famed for came back with a vengeance, picking up as the north-westerly blew over the flat water of the lagoon. It was a perfect stage for the globe’s best women Big Air riders.

In the opening rounds in about 20 to 25 knots, the women ventured out with 7m2 and 8m2 kites. But even in the opening heats there were some spectacular performances and big scores for the high-flying manoeuvres.

Nathalie Lambrecht came out of the blocks fast, scoring a big 7.33 for a kite-loop front roll that saw her win her heat. The Netherlands’ Zara Hoogenraad and Francesca Maini opened their accounts with big moves that saw them advance.

But there was also the first mouth-watering match-up of the day when Mikaili Sol, Angely Bouillot and Lana Hermann (SLO) found themselves facing off against one another. Sol opened her account with a big kite-loop back roll that earned her 8.03 and forced Bouillot to battle again in round two.

Bigger scalp for Bouillot

“My heat was definitely the strongest wind of the day,” said Sol, just after the heat. “Once I got the first two tricks out of the way, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I really wanted a 5m2 kite, but I don’t have one.”

Bouillot seemed unfazed by the defeat by Sol and piled on the pressure in her following heats, going bigger and more extreme as she advanced. The US’s Jasmine Cho was the first of her victims, falling to a huge heat total of 22.0.

Zara Hoogenraad was an even bigger scalp for Bouillot. Both women went toe-to-toe, trading blows and upping their scores with each of their six trick attempts, from which the best three counted.

Hoogenraad landed a huge kite-loop back roll for 8.43, that took her heat total to 18.40. But Bouillot’s 21.26—with that 9.0 for a kite-loop board off—ended the Dutchwoman’s run.

“Made my heat”

“It was really quite nice,” said Bouillot, after her win. “We have strong winds and I’m definitely happy to be back in Leucate.”

Nathalie Lambrecht earned the right to face-off against Bouillot in the semi-final. Lambrecht dispatched Johanna Disdier (FRA) partly thanks to a kite-loop front roll that drew one the day’s highest scores—8.37.

“That ‘boogie loop’ made my heat,” said Lambrecht afterwards. “Otherwise I would have been struggling. I was a bit overpowered on my 7m2. I don’t know how I managed to land it with so much speed, but it made my heat.”

On Sunday, April 2, we will likely continue with the action. The riders’ meeting is set for 7.30am (GMT+2) with a first possible start at 8am. Join us for updates and all the action.

words: Ian MacKinnon
pictures: Samuel Cárdenas

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