Young guns crowned after stellar world title battles

Published 25th June 2023 by Ian MacKinnon


  • GKA Youth World Championships in Tarifa crown clutch of Twin-Tip Freestyle and Kite-Surf winners

  • Kiteboarding heroes inspire new generation of young athletes during skills seminars

GKA Youth Kite World Championships Tarifa, Spain
Valdevaqueros Beach, June 20—25

The GKA Youth Kite World Championships have crowned a raft of new young stars in the Twin-Tip Freestyle and Kite-Surf disciplines after almost a week of incredible action in southern Spain’s Tarifa.

Forty-five young athletes from 19 nations around the globe battled for glory in the male and female U14, U16 and U19 categories in both disciplines over three epic days of competition in perfect Poniete and punchy Levante winds.

In a break from the contest, the up-and-coming young kiteboarders got to meet and interact with their heroes—Liam Whaley, Polly Crathorne, Alex Pastor and Giel Vlugt—who took part in a pioneering seminar programme by CasaExplora.

With so many standout performances during the competition, it seems unfair to pick out any particular young athletes. But on day one, with an ideal easterly Poniente, Italy’s Pierfrancesco Rizzello opened his account with a win in the U14 Boys’ Twin-Tip Freestyle. He doubled up with victory in the U14 Boys’ Kite-Surf contest.

Monti too strong

The Girls’ U16 Twin-Tip Freestyle title was also decided on the opening day, with Bulgaria’s Aya Kasabova topping the podium. At the close of the contest she also took a third in the U19 Women’s Kite-Surf discipline.

But in the U19 Kite-Surf contest the experienced Italian Sofia Monti, who battled in the senior Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Championships recently, was too strong for the rest of the field and lifted the title in the Levante gusting to 35 knots.

“I’m really happy,” said Monti, after her win. “Today was really gusty, but really fun. It’s great to be here. Last year I was vice world champion. This year I’m world champion. Next I plan to go to all the competitions for the GKA.”

Monti had just eased aside the Danish rider, Kaya Lehmann, who took the second podium place in U19 Kite-Surf. But she had already taken the world title in the U19 Women’s Twin-Tip Freestyle earlier, on day two of the competition.

Flügel makes it three

“It feels amazing,” said Lehmann. “I’ve been working for this for a while, so I’m really happy to finally have won. Awesome. It was my goal [to win] but I’m really happy that I made it.”

Day two of the action also saw Germany’s rising young star, Finn Flügel, take his junior world title haul to three when he won the Boys’ U16 Twin-Tip Freestyle, even though he is still just 13 years old.

“It feels amazing,” said the teenager. “I’ve been working on this for the whole year, just fighting and going on the water every day. A lot of fun, but also a lot of effort to get world champion, and I’m just so proud.”

“Riders’ levels high”

In the Poniente breezes, France’s Antoine Ollivier, also topped the podium in the Men’s U19 Twin-Tip Freestyle, getting the better of Rafael Montero (ESP) and Martinique’s Eliott Panet, to land the crown.

“I’ve been expecting this result because I’ve been training really hard,” said Ollivier. “I saw on social media the level of the riders and so I was focused. So I’m really stoked. Yes, very happy.”

On the last day in the strong, easterly Levante, Spain’s Javier Lopez took the U16 Boys’ Kite-Surf title, while France’s Noah Nicolas took the U19 Men’s Kite-Surf crown to close out the GKA Youth World Championships for another successful year.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas

GKA Youth Kite World Championships Tarifa results

U14 Boys’ Twin-Tip Freestyle

1 Pierfrancesco Rizzello (ITA)
2 Leo Schlichter (FRA/MQ)
3 Henry Gerhardt (AUS)

U14 Boys’ Kite-Surf

1 Pierfrancesco Rizzello (ITA)
2 Santiago Montero (ESP)

U16 Girls’ Twin-Tip Freestyle

1 Aya Kasabova (BUL)
2 Zara Jones (BVI)
3 Eva Lima (POR)

U16 Boys’ Twin-Tip Freestyle

1 Finn Flügel (GER)
2 Davi Ribeiro (BRA)
3 Archie Luxton (GBR)

U16 Boys’ Kite-Surf

1 Javier Lopez (ESP)
2 Leonardo Casati (ITA)
3 Santiago Lima (POR)

U19 Men’s Twin-Tip Freestyle

1 Antoine Ollivier (FRA)
2 Rafael Montero (ESP)
3 Eliott Panet (FRA)

U19 Women’s Twin-Tip Freestyle

1 Kaya Lehmann (DEN)
2 Naïs Balbinot (ITA)
3 Phoebe Rocher (FRA)

U19 Men’s Kite-Surf

1 Noah Nicolas (FRA)
2 Keanu Merten (GER)
3 Domingo Moreno (ESP)

U19 Women’s Kite-Surf

1 Sofia Monti (ITA)
2 Kaya Lehmann (DEN)
3 Aya Kasabova (BUL)

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