AIRton Clinches The Championship While KEAHI is King at One Eye

The GKA Mauritius finalists GKA Kite-Surf

GKA Mauritius event poster

 

HIGH DRAMA AS AIRTON TAKES THE TITLE AFTER A SIX-YEAR WAIT WHILE KEAHI RULES THE EYE

GKA Kite-Surf World Tour 2017 | 12th September 2017: Le Morne, Mauritius

 

Report: Matt Pearce / Photos: Ydwer van der Heide

 

The GKA Mauritius finalists GKA Kite-Surf

The GKA Mauritius finalists / Photo: @Ydwer

 

So, where to begin after a dramatic end to the men’s division at the GKA Mauritius finals and the crowning of a new world champion today in Le Morne? 

Today began with the first heat of the quarter-finals and the stakes were high. The race for the championship title was down only to Matchu Lopes and Airton Cozzolino but Paulino Pereira would have to beat Brazilian charger Sebastian Ribeiro and then contend with Keahi de Aboitiz to still be holding his third place ranking by the end of the day.

First up, Keahi took on Mauritian young gun Willow-River Tonkin-Shakes in heat 25. Willow has impressed everyone at this event having earned the Best Rookie award due to his string of strong performances and serial barrel-hunting but Keahi is about as tough an opponent as you can get and Willow couldn’t deal with his sheer mastery of One Eye.

 

Willow-River Tonkin GKA Kite-Surf

Willow-River Tonkin wins Best Rookie award / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Ever the stoke-merchant, Willow wasn’t phased in the slightest and why should he be? For an 18 year-old guy to be competing among the best waveriders in the world and representing at his home spot is an epic achievement and it’s clear that Willow is going to be a rider to watch next year on the tour!

 

Matchu Lopes gouging turns GKA Kite-Surf

Matchu Lopes gouging turns / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Matchu Lopes then beat Sandro Pisu in heat 26 and, while waves were a little thin on the ground in their heat, Matchu cleaned up on what was on offer. Sandro’s had a good event here, riding consistently in his heats and always positioning himself well on the incoming swell, but it was Matchu who would go on to the semis and thoughts of yet another Airton v Matchu final began to enter the minds of those watching from the beach.

 

Paulino Pereira takes on Sebastian Ribeiro GKA Kite-Surf

Paulino Pereira takes on Sebastian Ribeiro / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Sebastian Ribeiro and Paulino Pereira then had what had looked like one of the tightest heats of the day with both riders charging and displaying their, at times quite similar, powerful backside riding styles. However, the judges’ scores put a clear margin between Paulino and Sebastian and so it was Sebastian through to the semi-finals.

 

Sebastian Ribeiro takes on Paulino GKA Kite-Surf

Sebastian Ribeiro takes on Paulino in the quarter finals / Photo: @Ydwer

 

This put Paulino’s third place ranking in jeopardy as, if Keahi placed higher than him and finished in second or first, he would be knocking Paulino out of the top three. With Keahi already through to the semis you can see where this was going…

Airton and Kevin Langeree then met in the final heat of the quarter-finals and this could have been the moment Airton’s title-race against Matchu ended. Kevin has taken all comers at this event and if he’d beaten Airton and Matchu had won the event then Matchu would have been crowned champion so this heat was pivotal.

 

Kevin Langeree brought his competitive ability GKA Kite-Surf

Kevin Langeree brought his competitive ability to bear at this event but Airton prevailed / Photo: @Ydwer

 

When Kevin almost pulled into a barrel towards the end of the heat it looked as though he might be about to knock Airton out of the competition but Airton came back with the highest scoring combo of the event which earned him a cool 18.82 and he was through to the semis where he would face Sebastian Ribeiro. Whatever happened in his next heat though was almost immaterial, the title was now his.

 

Jalou, the other half of the Langeree duo GKA Kite-Surf

Jalou, the other half of the Langeree duo, back with a bang in women’s double-elims / Photo: @Ydwer

 

There was a break in the proceedings at this point during which women’s heat 12A was run. This was when Jalou Langeree began her comeback by beating Johanna Catherina decisively after a loss to Milla Ferreira in the women’s single eliminations two days ago.

After that it was back into the men’s division with Matchu Lopes going up against Keahi de Aboitiz in an absolutely crucial heat! Matchu Lopes’ mission today had been to stay in the contest and hope Airton Cozzolino lost before the final if he was to retain his World Championship but Keahi has been known to scupper a rider’s title hopes before and that’s exactly what was about to happen.

 

And that is how you hit the lip on your backhand GKA Kite-Surf

And that is how you hit the lip on your backhand.. / Photo: @Ydwer

 

This was a turning point. If Matchu had won this heat and Airton had lost his next heat then the title would have been Matchu’s for the second year running if he could go on to win the event himself. It was not to be though as Keahi delivered a devastating display of top-to-bottom waveriding. Keahi had the best waves of the heat and things might have gone the other way if Matchu had had better luck on that front but wave selection is a crucial part of competition and Keahi took the win.

The spectators (and Matchu) were still reeling after his defeat when another drama unfolded as Airton went down to Sebastian in the second semi-final heat.

 

Positive-vibes all round GKA Kite-Surf

Positive-vibes all round / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Some of the those watching the action unfold on the big screen felt that Airton had deserved the win and the Cape Verdean contingent were up in arms but the judges felt otherwise and perhaps rightfully so. Sebastian has had an outstanding event here at this last stop on the tour having stormed through the trials, just as he did in Dakhla, and he fought hard to take the win riding well and commanding some of the bigger sets comfortably.

 

Ribeiro charging GKA Kite-Surf

Ribeiro charging / Photo: @Ydwer

Then it was down to the final and mini-final. The title race was already decided and there was no way Matchu could unseat Airton, even if he beat him in the mini-final, but they’re both true competitors and neither one was going be happy if they finished their final act on this year’s tour without a fight.

The final round was even more important for Keahi as nothing less than a win was going to be enough for him to snatch third overall from Paulino and he would have to draw on all of his formidable experience in competition and at One Eye to make it happen.

 

The relentless assault from Keahi continues GKA Kite-Surf

The relentless assault from Keahi continues / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Sebastian had taken down some big names already today and was gunning for the win but Keahi put together what may well have been the best performance of any rider at the event. He was ultra-consistent and picked the standout waves every time nailing huge arcing turns, driving his fins free at the top of the wave before charging back down the face and launching himself back into yet another assault on the lip.

It was a masterclass in how to shred One Eye and, although the winner of the heat wasn’t to be announced until after the mini-final, it seemed clear that Keahi had clinched it.

 

Airton congratulates Keahi GKA Kite-Surf

Airton congratulates Keahi on his way out for the mini-final / Photo: @Ydwer

 

In the mini-final, Airton and Matchu met in yet another showdown between the two old friends. It may not have been the heat they’d expected to end up in but that took nothing away from their desire to win and Matchu made the most of the heat, picking out the best waves and leaving nothing to chance against Airton.

 

As Airton floundered Matchu steadily racked up the points GKA Kite-Surf

As Airton floundered Matchu steadily racked up the points / Photo: @Ydwer

 

It may well have been Matchu’s best heat of the event but Airton, perhaps disheartened at not being able to take a totally clean win here in Mauritius, floundered and crashed his kite three times. On the waves that he did catch he struggled to regain his form from earlier in the day and Matchu capitalised on that and he was the clear winner.

 

Event podium GKA Kite-Surf

Event podium / Photo: @Ydwer

 

There was little surprise on the beach when the results came in with the competitors back on the beach but applause were not in short supply! Keahi had taken the event and with it third place overall on this year’s tour and Matchu had secured third behind Sebastian in second.

Airton was fourth and, from his response, it appears that was what he’d expected. Speaking after, he conceded that he’d been a little demotivated not to be in the final but that he was still happy with his result and his new title that he’s been fighting for for six years!

Matchu was equally upbeat, commenting that he felt he’d had a good event and was happy with his performance after a tough competitive season but, above all, happy for his friend to have finally secured his own world title. At least they both have one now!

 

The tour top three GKA Kite-Surf

The tour top three / Photo: @Ydwer

 

Keahi was the most stoked of all and for obvious reasons. Speaking after he said, “I’m really happy with my results. I’ve never actually won an event here and I felt like last year I took the title away from Airton and gave it to Matchu so this year I’ve done the opposite and helped Airton take it so it balances out”.

Talking about his second place finish it was clear to see that Sebastian was happy with his performance. To have come that far from the first round of qualifiers had been a real challenge he said but he’d done it and, although he’s known as a waverider, he admitted that he’s been working on his strapless freestyle level in secret and has plans to become a regular presence on next year’s tour.

 

MEN’S TOP 10 RANKINGS OVERALL 2017

1 – Airton Cozzolino

2 – Matchu Lopes

3 – Keahi de Aboitiz

4 – Paulino Pereira

5 – Mitu Monteiro

6 – Sandro Pisu

7 – Camille Delannoy

8 – Ralph Boelen

9 – Jan Marcos Riveras

10 – Ismail Adarzane

 

The men’s division is over now, and Airton’s championship secure, but the event isn’t over yet. The women continued with their double-eliminations today and the conditions are looking solid tomorrow for the final rounds in their division.

There’ll be some stiff competition tomorrow among the top six riders in particular!

Keep an eye on GKA socials tomorrow for regular updates and look out for the upcoming highlights video on the GKA Facebook page.

 

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Find the full GKA Kite-Surf World Tour 2017 event schedule here:

www.global-kitesports.org

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