A steady wind and a growing swell greeted the GKA crew at Foum La Bouir on Wednesday morning as the riders met in the Dakhla Westpoint sports centre to be briefed by Race Director Juan Antonio Aragon. With eight places still available in the main event, the plan for Wednesday was to complete all of the qualifying heats with a single elimination round, followed by a double elimination in which the 16 riders yet to qualify would compete in four and then two man heats.
Rather than split the judging criteria between strapless freestyle and waveriding, the decision was made to keep today’s heats 100% wave-focused and the first riders were on the water at 11.30 am.
Australian James Carew, who competed here in Dakhla last year, attacked the shore break with his customary muscular riding style while Brazilian riders Filippe Ferreira and Sebastian Ribeiro looked perfectly at home in the side-shore beach break conditions, both of them stylishly executing wave-360s and driving their fins free of the lip at every opportunity. Theo Demanez, from St Martin in the Caribbean, also impressed riding with the poise and precision of someone well beyond his years (he’s only 17)!
Sebastian Ribeiro won the trials single elimination, so he will qualify as one of the top two trials riders into the main event.
The single eliminations also saw four female riders competing alongside the men and Sasha Gabriel and Kirsty Jones in particular held their own against a fiercely competitive field. Unfortunately, with such a high level on this year’s tour, none of the women were able to progress beyond the qualifiers, so won’t be joining us in the main event.
The real showdown of the single eliminations in the trials was a Brazilian battle between Filippe and Sebastian. When Sebastian won their heat, the feeling among many onlookers was that it could have gone either way, but it was down to Filippe to dust himself off and fight for his place in the competition and he rode like a man possessed in five closely spaced heats in the double elimination to secure his place in round one Thursday.
Filippe and Mitu
Mohammed Ali Beqqali
Local rider Mohammed Ali Beqqali was also out to stake his claim on the main event and he put his local knowledge to the test as the wind built and the waves held up just that little bit longer, allowing the riders to really throw some fans off the lip.
D’jo Silva making his way through in front of Westpoint Hotel
Unfortunately, just before 6pm the wind dropped and, with the promise of stronger wind and a slightly bigger swell forecasted for Thursday, the decision was made to hold the competition there for today with three heats still to go that will finish off the trials.
Those remaining heats will dictate where the last four of these eight freshly qualified riders will be ranked and therefore where they’ll fit into round one of the main event, which will follow the end of the trials.
The trials riders advancing to the main event are:
Sebastian Ribeiro (BRA)
James Carew (AUS)
Pedro Matos (BRA)
Felipe Ferreira (BRA)
Djo Silva (CV)
Mohamed Ali Beqqali (MOR)
Jon Modica (USA)
Theo Demanez (St. Martin)