Men’s Kite-Surf Finals | Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Rio 2023
Matchu Lopes makes it two-for-two titles in Rio
Stellar final was one for the ages as Cape Verdean duo went head-to-head in Brazil’s epic Saquarema break
Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Brazil 2023
Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro
Itaúna Beach 31 July—11 August
Spain’s Matchu Lopes seized back-to-back crowns when he won the Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in spectacular style, closing out the heat with a barrel that he joyously claimed.
The Cape Verdean had won the first Kite-Surf stop of the Qatar Airways GKA Kite World Tour on home waters at Ponta Preta, Sal, in March, with a stellar performance and now has one hand on the world title.
Lopes overhauled his Cape Verdean compatriot, Airton Cozzolino (ITA), in an epic duel. It was a battle for the ages as the duo traded blows in the monster waves that Saquarema served up as a stage for the drama.
“It feels amazing to take the win,” said Lopes. “It makes me start to think about titles, which is amazing. There’s still a long way to go. A lot of things can happen. But I’m absolutely happy. I can’t describe it.
“These are my favourite conditions. The conditions are insane. It’s bigger than it looks for the outside. It’s perfect. Very hard. But you know what, I’m super-happy . . . to be in the final with my home-mate, Airton. We grew up together, we were surfing all the time together. I’m stoked. It can’t be any better.”
On the beach when the two came ashore after their 16-minute heat, Lopes immediately rushed over to embrace his friend, and former world champion, Cozzolino.
“Today was a really special day,” said Cozzolino. “It’s like a dream come true. Just to be here in Rio, Saquarema, is a big dream. I always watched the World Surf League and the guys in videos, and to be here and perform is like a dream. It’s even more special to be here with Matchu.”
Day 10 of the Kite-Surf world cup, which is being staged in tandem with Copa Kitley Wingfoil World Cup Rio, finally delivered the conditions that Saquarema had hinted at. The opening day saw the crowning of the women’s champion, Moona Whyte (USA). But progress through the men’s ladder was fitful due to the lack of wind.
Yet on the tenth day of the 12-day competition window the cross-shore wind blowing at 15 to 20 knots combined with some of the biggest swells to hit Saquarema in years, delivering double and triple head-high faces that were challenging, even for the world’s best kite-surf athletes.
The big conditions delivered some huge performances and some shock exits as the competition moved through round five. Canada’s Reece Myerscough had no answers to the power of Sebastian Ribeiro (BRA). Yet the biggest upset was the downing of one of the favourites, Pedro Matos (BRA), by his countryman Igor Pestana.
Another up-and-coming Brazilian, Gabriel Benetton, easily took down the Bulgarian Nicola Abadjiev. Charly Martin, from Reunion Island, put down a marker that showed he was a man on the move when he advanced in the competition.
The quarter finals generated controversy when Ribeiro went head-to-head with compatriot Felippe Ferreira, making a return appearance on the tour after several years’ absence. In the super-tight heat the livescore system initially gave the win to Ferreira by 0.06, though it was not validated.
It was so close that the judges wanted to review the video of the heat before validating the result, to ensure that they had not missed anything. In the end they decided to give the heat and a semi-final place to Ribeiro, who got the win by less-than half a point.
But in the semi-final Ribeiro came up against a charging Cozzolino. They were both riding 10m2 kites, but Cozzolino almost immediately netted one of the day’s bigger wave scores of 7.53 and built his heat to take the win.
In the other semi-final, Reunion’s Martin finally came unstuck again Matchu Lopes. Lopes threw down a steady if unspectacular heat in the “one-hit-wonder” waves that exploded on the sandbar as they closed out. Still, it was enough to earn him a finals’ berth and a showdown with Cozzolino.
Cozzolino, who represents Italy, was fully-focused on winning but also keen to avenge a defeat by Lopes in their last encounter in Cape Verde. Lopes was having none of it though, and came out firing, scoring 7.20 for his first wave.
Cozzolino responded with a few good waves, on a day when wave selection was critical as there were many difficult close-outs. But Lopes, who represents Spain, was just finding his stride and scored 8.07 for a wave, with two huge, vertical hacks when he broke his board’s fins out of the lip.
Again Cozzolino responded, first with a 7.10 wave and then 7.83 for big open-faced carves. But Lopes had saved the best for last and scored the biggest wave of the competition—8.66— that took his heat total to 16.74 and gave him the win.
Next up will be the GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup Dunkerque, France, in a few days’ time, with the next wave event the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Sylt, in Germany, later in August. Join us then for more thrilling action.
words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Svetlana Romantsova
Copa Kitley GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Rio 2023 results
1 Matchu Lopes (ESP)
2 Airton Cozzolino (ITA)
3 Sebastian Ribeiro (BRA)
4 Charly Martin (FRA)