Strapless Freestyle Action Gets GKA Tarifa Running on Day 3
Hot house hustle - the six man judging crew split so two heats could run at once - these guys know how to grind out a result for crucial the World Championship points
Just when we were starting to think that the Tarifa thermal effect had gone on holiday, third day lucky blossomed with a building breeze from 11am and by 2pm the women's Kite-Surf division were on the water for strapless freestyle action.
Cross-onshore from the right, the Poniente thermal was still light, hovering around 14 knots, but the women's strapless freestyle division are particularly light in weight themselves, and made it work on 12 metre kites.
It's proved a tough week so far for race director Juan Antonio Aragon as we're now at the end of day three in a six day contest window. Adding to the stress, this is a double event featuring Kite-Surf and twin-tip Freestyle disciplines, with a massive 84 riders registered. So, the quickest way to a podium and get things rolling was via the women's Kite-Surf strapless freestyle with a field of just 11.
This is still a relatively new discipline for the women and with leading wave specialists Moona Whyte and Ines Correia missing this event as well as the Germany round at Sylt last week, this was another chance for Vice World Champion Carla Herrera-Oria to move ahead in the rankings after her victory last week.
In truth it was a difficult session for the women with light conditions. Indeed the men have been developing this discipline as a bigger competitive group for several years, but Carla was worthy of her win here, once again managing to keep improving the consistency of her performance all the way to the final where she outshone the 51 year-old Belgian amateur rider, Sabine Beukeleers.
WOMEN'S SINGLE ELIMINATION RESULT:
1st Carla Herrera-Oria (ESP)
2nd Sabine Beukeleers (BEL)
3rd Barbara Sgardello (ITA)
4th Johanna Catarina-Edin (SWE)
MEN'S KITE-SURF SINGLE ELIMINATION HEATS
In a change to the expected proceedings, race director Juan went ahead and put the men's Kite-Surf riders out as, again, it is the quickest division to reach a result given the format of being able to have more than one rider on the water at once.
If you watched the livestream or kept up with the GKA website's new live ticker feed, you'll have seen that the crew hustled, splitting the six man judging team in two so they could run 2 x two-man heats on the water at once.
Round two switched to more traditional man-on-man heats with just two men on the water. Heat 11a between Italians Toni Cilliberto and Francesco Cappuzzo was eventually abandoned when the wind dropped below an acceptable level.
Highlights picked out from the men's action were Barbadian Simon Joosten's dramatically improving performance levels each event. Hands-down he dropped the most stylish trick today – a kite loop back roll in which he maintained the grab all the way round, came out of the rotation early and the landing was so guaranteed while still so far off the water that he was able to stylishly tweak out his back foot with the grab. It was super clean and he dumped top contender James Carew out of the singles.
Kiko Roig Torres is a 17 year old from Valencia and has also found his way into the top ten at several events in the last 12 months. He showed some serious flow in his tricks, also touching into the handle-pass category with an unhooked frontside three and surface pass on exit. His round two heat score of 34.1 against Canadian Reece Myerscough was the highest of the day.
Grom alert! We had a 12 year-old come close to knocking out the Australian powerhouse James Carew in round one! Keanu Mertens is clearly a natural. Event organiser Jaime Herraiz explained that he's from Estepona, 50 kilometres from Tarifa, is part of a kitesurfing family, but notably also part of a new young crew in the region who are getting into strapless freestyle.
“They really feel the new and positive atmosphere that the strapless riders have brought to Tarifa in the last five years that the tour has been coming here, and we're just seeing the results in the next generation like Keanu now.” said Jaime.
We continue to look forward to building conditions in the next few days. Tarifa has delivered memorable weekend events in the last seasons and we've got fingers crossed for another huge few days in the pipeline.
Remember, there are also 43 Freestyle competitors waiting in the wings to be let loose!