Lord of the Levante, Arthur Guillebert!
When there have been no events for ages and only a couple on the 2021 horizon, how does it feel to go and steal the limelight by winning for your first world tour event? We asked French rider and King of the Air qualifier, Arthur Guillebert, who did just that in June at the GKA Kite World Tour event, the Tarifa Kite Pro, at which the Levante blew 40 knots and the format changed to big air!
WORDS: Jim Gaunt PHOTOS: Samuel Cardenas / GKA Kite World Tour
Congratulations on your first GKA Kite World Tour win at the first international event in so many months. How did it feel? Thank you very much. It was an honour. Now that the pressure of the competition is subsiding, the more aware I am it wasn’t just a dream. It’s been very hard since all the competitions stopped to keep a regular training focus, but the freedom allowed me to do a lot of big air riding this winter. I’ve had the chance to train more for KOTA and a little less in freestyle, but what the GKA judges were looking for during this competition was the versatility and diversity of the riders, which paid off for me. It’s been so long since real competition that I had no idea of the level of the other riders or where I stood in relation to them, which added a lot of additional stress.
We’ve seen a lot of huge big air clips of you ripping the Eleveight XS V2 over the winter (see our feature on that here!). When the judging started to focus towards big air, when did you start to think you had a good chance of winning? As the wind conditions changed quickly the competition moved to a more big air oriented format, and yes I felt more comfortable than a lot of riders because of all my recent training in France.
“I watched all the heats to analyse the technical level of the other riders and realised I had the chance to make a good result, but I knew that with the very hard conditions I wasn’t safe from a big crash and hurting myself. I knew that in these conditions anything could happen.”
What was the atmosphere like between the riders as the format started to change? Obviously some of the top freestylers are no longer the favourites. It created a lot of anxiety among riders, especially for the competition format to go from freestyle to a mixed format (2 freestyle tricks and 2 big air tricks) then to 100% big air, but the atmosphere between the riders remained the same. We’ve always known that if we get conditions like this the GKA Freestyle format would change. It is the riders who wanted the competitions to evolve with the conditions. It’s much more intelligent to modify the criteria according to the wind conditions, avoiding freestyle competitions in 40 knots where we cannot send big technical tricks. It also avoids trying to run big air competitions in just 15 knots. The first factor of kitesurfing is the wind and we have to adapt to it and this current format works very well.
Talk us through your emotions during the final heat. The final took place at the end of the day and the wind became more and more gusty. After spending two whole days on the beach dealing with 30 to 45 knots of wind we were very tired. My stress levels were also at their highest level, but I managed to calm down and keep landing my tricks. I knew the other riders had to do really good moves to pass me, so I waited and watched as they took their tricks and when I saw Jeremy crash his last trick I knew that I had won. I was in the middle of the spot at that moment, I raised both arms in the air and yelled, “Yesss!”. When I came back to the beach, I put my kite down and all my friends were waiting for me at the water’s edge. It was the most moving moment of the competition for me. All the stress suddenly fell away in place of so much joy, it was extraordinary. Of all the competition spots in the world, Tarifa probably has the best crowds in a normal year. How was it this year and how special was it to win there? It was amazing to see the public on the beach again, supporting and encouraging all the riders. There was a lot of shouting and applause as soon as a rider jumped, and after the final for the podium on the beach it was a really exceptional atmosphere. I will remember it all my life.
MEN Winner: Arthur Guillebert (FRA), 2nd Jeremy Burlando (ESP), 3rd Ewan Jaspan (AUS)
WOMEN Winner: Mikaili Sol (BRA), 2nd Pippa van Iersel (Ned), 3rd Hannah Whiteley (UK)
THE GKA FREESTYLE WORLD CUP TARIFA 2021 BIG AIR RESULTS
MEN: 1. A. Guillebert (FRA) 2. J. Burlando (ITA) 3. E. Jaspan (AUS) 4. A. Corniel (DOM)
WOMEN: 1. M. Sol (BRA) 2. P. Van Iersel (NLD) 3. H. Whiteley (GBR) 4. R. Arnaus (ESP)
The GKA have one more Freestyle event scheduled for the year in Brazil, 10 - 14th November. Meanwhile they have three ‘Kite-Surf’ (wave and strapless freestyle) events planned for Germany, Denmark and Morocco. Find out more about the GKA Kite World Tour: www.gkakiteworldtour.com