Hey Reece. Firstly, congratulations on that performance in Dakhla. That was some run! Feeling good?
Thanks! It was a very long week but I’m super stoked with how it all turned out! I’m feeling healthy and the gear’s feeling dialled, can’t really ask for much more!
So to kick off, let’s hear about the build-up to meeting Airton in the quarters…
There wasn’t much of a build up to be honest. I just treated it like any other heat and stayed relaxed leading up to the horn. You can only do what you know how to do so there’s really no point in expecting yourself to do a bunch of crazy stuff.
So were there some tactics employed? Can you tell us about them if so…
The wind was light, and the waves were slow with only about 2-3 shoulder/head high sets holding up all the way down the point over the span of a 20-minute heat. I felt like my riding was just as good as anyone in those conditions. With limited waves rolling through, I assumed that the winner would be the guy who got themselves on the set waves. So basically, my plan for every heat was to get myself on 2-3 set waves, shred them, and spend the rest of the heat giving my competitors a hard time. While waiting for sets, I tried to work myself into a priority position upwind of Airton and then take any decent looking waves that he was going for… Essentially attempting to prevent him from riding any set waves.
And tell us about the protest that was raised following that heat?
According to the priority rules, whoever turns around on a wave first has priority on that wave. If two people turn at the same time on the same wave, the person upwind gets priority. In the dying minutes of the heat I had upwind position on Airton and was just shadowing him making sure he didn’t get a buzzer beater wave. Every time he turned on a wave, I would turn at the same time and use priority. When he kicked out to go look for another, I would also kick out and follow him. While maintaining upwind position I could then use priority on the next wave he wanted, and so on. Airton obviously caught on to my manoeuvre and it became a race to see who could turn around faster on every wave. On the very last wave of the heat, Airton and I turned at the same time again and so Airton had no other option but to keep riding the wave and push for an interference call (smart move on his part because there was a chance I could get thrown out). Looking back, I probably should have just let him have the wave as it didn’t have very much scoring opportunity.
Once there was two people riding one wave, it was up to the judges to decide if there was an interference. This was possibly first time that the kiting priority rules have been used to repetitively block another competitor from riding waves. So, it led to an over two-hour long interference/priority investigation to try and figure out what happened.
And how about the kite – you’re riding the 2020 Crave – what benefits did this provide?
Funnily enough, the Crave was developed after competing in Morocco last year in light wind wave conditions. It became obvious that, in competition, going upwind quickly to get back to the peak is just as important as drift. You can have the kite with the best drift in the world but if you can’t go back upwind it’s useless.
The Crave is developed specifically for the Kite-Surf World Tour, and each size is specifically tuned for their respective conditions. Dakhla was light wind 12m conditions this year and the 12m Crave is designed to be a super lightweight wave/freestyle weapon. The 12m Crave has super snappy turning and slightly more lift than the smaller sizes. It sacrifices drift in order to drive upwind faster which can be the difference between winning and losing when you’re racing a competitor upwind for priority. Also, little known fact but most of the Craves lightwind tech is derived from the Aluula Project…
So then you were up against Pedro Matos in the Semis, how did that play out?
My heat against Pedro was interesting because I got two keeper waves within the first quarter of the heat. After that the waves went flat for most of the heat. I knew I wasn’t going to improve my scores on the smaller waves which left me out the back waiting for the sets to return. Pedro tried to rack up some backup scores on the inside. One last set came through with about three minutes left and Pedro managed to drop a pretty high score but didn’t get the opportunity to back it up.
And finally, your heat against Mitu. There were only a few points in it and you really made him work for it. Mixed emotions on that?
Mitu is always tough, he’s a solid rider and smart competitor. I didn’t have the best heat in the finals, and I messed up my two best scoring opportunities. Once again, the sets were slow and I stuffed the nose early on my first set wave, then my front foot slipped off halfway through my second set wave and the board hit me in the face. After that there were no proper sets and I was left scratching scores together on the inside.
The opportunities were there for me to win it, but Mitu was able to capitalize on his waves more and he took the win.
So did you feel things had just aligned this day?
I think yes, the conditions were very similar to what I ride at home. I think that was the little extra push I needed to break through the quarterfinals for the first time. Also, it was nice to see a little pay off from all the work that the team and I have been putting into tuning up the gear for competing in specific conditions!
And Brazil next. Got a game plan up your sleeve?
Brazil will be 100% freestyle so there is no priority and not really any point hassling with your competitors. You’ve usually got around eight minutes to show the judges what you’ve got, so there really isn’t much of a plan other than land lots!