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Airton Cozzolino finally wins at his Ponta Preta.

36 of the top wave riders in the world — 24 men and 12 women from 12 countries —flocked to Sal, Cape Verde, last week for the highly anticipated season opener of the 2024 Qatar Airways GKA World Tour in the Kite-Surf discipline.

GKA Sal Wave Event

Run in the pure surfing format at this location, the action kicked off on day one of the 10-day event window. And Ponta Preta, the world-renowned righthand point break, delivered what everyone had hoped for: firing waves.

The fierce intensity in the heats right from the get-go, set the stage for the leading riders to get their world title campaigns for this year off to a promising start.

Current World Champion, Airton Cozzolino (ITA), made a strong statement in his first heat, clearly confirming he was highly motivated to retain his crown by logging the highest wave score with an 8.23 bomb that secured him the highest combined heat total of Round 1 with a 15.33.

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Cape Verde-Sebastian Ribeiro-Day 01

Also, Brazilians Pedro Matos and Sebastian Ribeiro, smashed out solid performances, catapulting themselves straight into Round 3. French watermen Clément Roseyro (FRA) and Matchu Lopes (ESP) had a slightly slower start to Round 1, yet, both made their comeback in Round 2, booking themselves their ticket into Round 3.

Day one, also saw the completion of the first round of the women’s contest with Camille Losserand (SUI), the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion, securing her spot in the quarterfinals.

With an epic forecast, hopes were high to finish the competition on day two. However, as so often during comps, the conditions sometimes don’t live up to the expectations. The forecast failed to materialize and after a long day of waiting for the waves to build, only one heat was completed in very marginal conditions.

Day three made up for it and Ponta Preta was on fire with double to triple head-high waves grinding down the line. Stomping out a sick 8.0 wave, backed up by some solid riding, secured Matchu a spot in the quarterfinals. Sebastian Ribeiro was the standout of Round 3. His insane performance secured him not only the highest wave score of the competition — 9.80 from a possible 10 — but he managed to smash out another 9.53, raking in the highest heat total of the competition.

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In the quarterfinals, Matchu Lopes was up against his mentor, childhood idol and one of his best friends, fellow Cape Verdean Mitu Monteiro in a heat for the ages that reminded everyone of last year’s final here in which Matchu took the win as the first backside rider ever to stand on top of the podium at Ponta Preta. Although trailing for the majority of the heat, Mitu got on a bomb in the final seconds of the heat, which earned him the win. Getting barrelled on one of the following waves was Matchu, though too late as the buzzer already had called in the end of this heat.

With a 9.28 ride on a screamer of a wave, Pedro Matos (BRA) also went big in his quarter final heat to take the win. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s winning streak was ended by Mitu Monteiro (CPV) in the semi final.

Still, triumphing over Gabriel Benetton (BRA) in the mini final, and coming third overall here in Sal, Pedro had a great start to 2024 and is raking in valuable points for his world title campaign.

Airton Cozzolino (ITA) was untouchable in both his quarter and semi final heats, with a crazy barrel and massive scores in the 9’s.

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GKA24-Cape Verde-Airton Cozzolino, Gabriel Benetton, Mitu Monteiro, Pedro Matos-Day 03-_G3A0883-Lukas_K_Stiller-14

The thirty-minute final was a display of power, wave knowledge and skills of two of the biggest legends in wave riding at their home break. Knowing Ponta Pretty like the back of their hands, watching this intense, fierce battle, showcasing what’s possible in this discipline today, was a privilege for everyone. Absolutely on fire, attacking every wave like there was no tomorrow, and dominating the heat with numerous big scores, Airton emerged as the winner with a total heat score of 17.63. Congratulations Airton, we’re in awe! Congratulations also to all the other riders who put up such an incredible show at Ponta Preta. 

For the women the competition continued on day four, when the last remaining eight had pumping Ponta Preta to themselves. The super offshore wind angle made things really tricky, but Camille Losserand’s (SUI) focused training on pure wave riding over the last few months paid off, with the young Swiss power woman claiming the third spot on the podium

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GKA24-Cape Verde-Camille Losserand, Capucine Delannoy, Charlotte Carpentier, Moona Whyte-Day 04-_G3A1289-Lukas_K_Stiller-9

“It was the first event of the year, we were lucky because we had good conditions. Not easy, for sure, with big waves and gusty wind; a lot of variables to manage, so it was complicated.  But I’m very happy to finish third. The girls’ level was super, they were riding the best they could. Being up on the podium in the first event of the year is really nice, so I’m happy.” Camille Losserand

Congratulations also to Capucine Delannoy (FRA) in second and Moona Whyte, who sealed the deal in the final with two perfect 10-point rides for her closing waves.

What a start to the year! We can’t wait for the next of the remaining four stops of the tour in the Kite-Surf discipline this year, which will be in Dakhla, Morocco, from the 24th to the 29th of April.