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2022 MKB Masters

12 Apr , 2022  

Words: Gael Espeche
Photos: @Arnold1956newman

Last Sunday, Miami Kiteboarding hosted the event of the Masters 2022 on the beautiful beach of Crandon Park, Key Biscayne (Miami Dade County).

It was a beautiful, slightly chilly day for Florida, but this did not affect the well-attended and renowned competition to take place!

In the morning, we had butter flat water with very light wind (around 5 knots or less) which was perfect to warm up on the wingfoil before the event kicked in. We tested the new 1200cm2 Seven Seas foil paired with a 5’4” Rocket Wing (75 L), 85cm HM carbon mast and the light wind machine, 8m Strike CWC. It was quite impressive how this higher aspect foil could plane up and ride in such light wind; its ability to pump is effortless and its speed for the size is unmatched. It’s the perfect foil and wing for South Florida low wind days!

The competition started with a slalom format for kitesurfing and we kept the buoys set up for the wingfoil race. The F-One America team participated in the wingfoil race in 2 heats, then the finalist round: the top three racers in each heat would make it to the next round. F-One’s Andrew Crane was the emcee for this face paced, action-packed event.

In the first wingfoil race heat, Gael Espeche (150lbs) represented the team and decided to set up a 4’8” Rocket Wing paired with the 85cm HM carbon mast and the new 990cm2 Eagle foil. The decision of the wing size was not obvious as the wind was up and down. It was barely 12 knots thus the 8m Strike CWC seemed the best option to make sure Gael would be a top contender in the race.

Gael started in 2nd position at the start line and finished in that same position at the finish line. The Eagle 990 was able to get a good speed but he felt that the Strike CWC 8m was causing a bit of a drag and did not push the Eagle to its full speed potential. But in the end, it was enough to get to the finals!

Also, he found out that due to the very high aspect of this foil and its fast gain in speed, the mast felt better if moved back to relieve the front foot pressure. Gael usually rides his mast at #4 in the board’s tracks for the Phantom foils but felt more comfortable at a #2 setting while on the Eagle. Setting the mast at #3 still felt to be too much front foot pressure due to the incredible lift when the Eagle’s speed kicks in. The position #1 on the track rails system made the 4’8” Rocket Wing nosedive a bit too much for Gael’s liking. These adjustments and recommended settings were all done throughout the day in fairly low wind.

For the 2nd qualifier race, Nathan Scheu (165 lbs) was up to represent team F-One. His setup for this race included a 5’4” Rocket Wing (75L), 85cm HM carbon mast, the new 1200cm2 Seven Seas foil and the 5.5m Strike V2. He is a taller athlete than Gael thus the Seven Seas foil was perfect for him to get an instantaneous lift and get riding in low wind. Nate started in 4th position and held this position through to the final buoy when the then 3rd place rider fumbled his turn. Nate made up ground to catch him and it was a nail-biter to the finish. This was the closest racing we had seen all day and the crowd was on their feet cheering both on. The announcer, Andrew, had to wait for the final call. After several suspenseful minutes of waiting, the final call was made. Unfortunately, Nate just missed qualifying by a board length, landing him in the 4th place knockout spot. 

Also in this 2nd race, we saw our first female competitor, Miami Kiteboarding’s own Florie Pivert! The always smiling Florie went out and put down an impressive effort on the 5m Strike V2, 5’0” Rocket Wing and her 1480cm2 Phantom. The crowd favorite crossed the line shortly behind the male competitors with a huge smile in 6th place. The amount of ladies cheering Florie on clearly shows that the future of wing foil racing for female competitors will be huge!

In the final race, Gael represented the F-One team against a stacked heat. For this race, lots of strategy and consultation went into what gear to use. In the end, Gael made the decision to make some gear changes. He decided on a 5’4” Rocket Wing (75L) paired with the 85cm HM carbon mast, the 990 Eagle and 6m Strike CWC. The choice was clear to lower the wing size as the volume of the board would compensate for easy take-off. 

Gael started the final round a little behind in the 4th position but nothing was going to stop him. The 990cm2 Eagle and the smaller wing helped him gain some greater speed from the reduced drag of the smaller wing. He passed the 3rd contestant at the first buoy of the slalom and then the game of catching the 2nd place started. With perseverance and the ease of pumping the Eagle, Gael caught up to the 2nd place racer. His strategy here was to pass him upwind, which would block his wind. The race for the finish was on and even more of a nail-biter than the previous qualifying round. This race took even longer to call than the last. After 5 minutes, the course marshal called it — Gael in 2nd position by half a board length — A very intense finish!

The F-One America team was stoked with the results!

With the wind being challenging all day, many of the events had to be juggled around. Next we saw the start of the freestyle round in kite which was finally followed with the wingfoil freestyle which the team participated in. The wingfoil freestyle was a best trick format, so all the competitors had to lay down the best trick they had. 

For the wingfoil freestyle discipline, Gael chose to go with a 4’8” Rocket Wing (44 L), 85cm HM carbon mast, 1080cm2 Phantom and 5.5m Strike V2 which was perfect for the start of the event but he then had to switch to a Strike CWC 8m in the middle of the heat as he was not getting enough height for his arial rotations. This was a great decision as he snatched 1st place with a lofty 360 handle pass.

Nathan was also quite ready to throw his bag of tricks! Equipped with a 5’4” Rocket Wing (75 L), 85cm HM mast, the 1280cm2 Phantom and a Strike V2 5m, shortly after Gael made his switch to the 8m, Nate made the decision to go up in wing size as well. There was a lot of good energy from all the participants as the wind was very light! Nathan pushed hard and landed a Flacka 360 for a close 3rd position. 

The team was stoked again with the results in freestyle!

We had a great venue at the Masters with some high level participants showing up, as well as many new competitors ready to have fun. With a sea of spectators cheering everyone on, this might have been the best Masters event organized yet!

We give great thanks to Miami Kiteboarding for organizing the event and feel very proud that F-One and Manera were part of the sponsors.

We are looking forward for more future events in Florida and thank you again MKB for hosting and always raising the bar!

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