Fickle breezes and joint first places in Dunkerque
GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup Dunkerque, France 2023
After a five-month break since the previous stop of the GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup, the 24 male and 10 female registered riders for the third event of the season in Dunkerque, Northern France, were pumped to finally get back into the competition arena.
Staged on the long and wide strand in front of Place du Centenaire and marking the season’s mid-point, it was the first time for the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour to come to this corner of the world.
With not enough wind to start the heats on Day One of the event window, things kicked off with a bang on Day Two. Over ten tense hours of kiteboarding action went down with both men and women competing.
In the women’s, after the reigning World Champion, Mikaili Sol (USA) unfortunately had to withdraw due to a knee injury, the reduced field of nine female shredders battled out the entire heat bracket. The final was decided late in the day as the breeze started to drop. It was a tight and difficult heat, with the girls wrestling the dying wind on their big kites.
In the end, Brazil’s veteran Bruna Kajiya secured the victory, with Duotone’s Claudia León only 2.43 points behind in second and teammate Francesca Bagnoli in third. It was only Francesca’s second competition after a three-and-a-half-year injury break and we’re truly stoked with her strong comeback. Congratulations everyone and all the best to Mika for a swift recovery, we can’t wait to see you at the next event!
After another lay day due to a lack of conditions, the competition resumed on Day Four in highly unstable winds. The semi-finals were a tough grind for the riders on their 11m2 to 13m2 kites, with the current World Champion Gianmaria Coccoluto (ITA), past champions Arthur Guillebert (FRA) and Carlos Mario (BRA), as well as Maxime Chablos (SUI), advancing as the four last men standing.
The final heat was a long time coming. With everyone on stand-by for several hours and a number of failed attempts to start the deciding matchup, at last, in the early evening, the wind fluffed in strong enough to get the action underway. Stomping out a sick KGB5 with his trademark style, power and fluency gained Gianmaria Coccoluto an 8.27, backed up with an 8.17 for a Backside 313 to Wrapped, and dominated the final. Yet, the Wind Gods decided to take off mid-way through the heat resulting in the suspension of the final to be resumed the next day.
Unfortunately, the wind never showed up on the fifth and last day of the event. A real bummer for the riders and especially Gianmaria, who had to settle for joint first places and equal ranking points for the world title. Well done everyone, this event was an extreme test of skills and patience!
With Gianmaria Coccoluto’s world title bid very much on track, we already look forward to the next Freestyle event in Brazil in November.