Super fly: Kitesurfers in world's first strapless contest

Super fly: Kitesurfers in world's first strapless contest
Inflating the special kite on the first day of the competition.

No matter how extreme a sport is, there will always be someone who wants to push its boundaries.

Take 20-year-old Airton Cozzolino.

He became the Kitesurf Wave World Champion in 2011.

Kitesurfing grew out of windsurfing in the early 1980s. The surfer uses a parachute-like kite to propel him on the water. With a board strapped to the feet, the kite provides enough pull to allow flips and stunts on the crashing waves.

That is not enough for Cozzolino, who is pioneering a new variation of the sport - strapless kitesurfing. This means the surfer is not attached to his board.

Having to hold on to the kite and board sets a new level of difficulty, but also gives the freedom to add a more gymnastic element to the shapes that can be created in the air.

Earlier this month Cozzolino invited eight of the world's best kitesurfers for Red Bull Unfastened - the first purely strapless kitesurfing contest - on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

The location was an advantage to Cozzolino. He was born on the Atlantic isle of Cape Verde, but Sardinia has been his home for close to a decade.

They battled it out on the waves over five days, competing in seven-minute rounds. The judges were looking for tricks, style, height and creativity.

Though Cozzolino lost out to Hawaiian Patri McLaughlin in the trick event, the event's creator dominated the rest of the competition and was crowned the overall winner.

With the success of the first official contest, Cozzolino is looking to take the sport to an even bigger stage.

"Strapless kitesurfing is a brand new discipline," he says. "I would love to see more people practising it, and maybe for it to be included in the Olympics. Why not?"

This article was published on April 27 in The New Paper.

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