Compiled by Axel Reece
No one has shaped strapless freestyle like Airton Cozzolino has in recent years. The professional from Cape Verde with an Italian passport influences all riders in the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup. Nobody else invents so many new strapless tricks and his rivals are marching behind, or rather, leaving the World Cup events inspired by him to train. The three-time World Champion loves to offer kitesurfers a show on his home island of Sal. He likes to jump one or two floors higher than his direct competitors. When asked why he would n’t incorporate a stylish Double Shove-it into his show, we only reap a seconds-long uncomprehending expression and the subsequent sentence, “I wanna go hard!” Airton loves the power and risk factor of strapless riding.
At the spots on his home island, when the conditions are good, he’s often the last one off the water. “It was just so much fun!”
He is well known on the island. In Santa Maria, we sit in a café, where he is repeatedly approached, asked for a ‘selfie’ or just asked, “give me five.”
The kitesurf professional was only known to a small number of kitesurfers just five years ago. What is behind Airton Cozzolino? The 24-year-old faces the questions of other riders from the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup.
Kiko Roig Torres: What were you thinking when you have made the 19 second jump in Fuerteventura?
Airton: It was like in a dream. During that long time I tried to focus on what I was doing but not focused on landing. During the 19 seconds I made ten kiteloops with nine rotations, combined with three gusts, and it was the most crazy thing of my life.
Kiko Roig: What is your process to create new tricks?
Airton: Believe it or not, all the new tricks I have invented were mistakes. For example the Backroll Tic-Tac; at the Big Air Session, Kite-Surf World Cup on Fehmarn in August 2017, I lost the board during a high Backroll and grabbed it moments later. This was the birth of the Backroll Tic-Tac.
On the other hand the most important thing in strapless freestyle is kite control and for sure the landings, which are the most difficult part. Furthermore, when I was young I was playing with a 2 meter kite on the land five hours a day. This is probably the secret to my kite control!
Kiko Roig: What is the new trick you are trying/thinking about?
The Flat 5. It´s a Double Handlepass on the strapless board and one day it will happen.
Sandro Pisu: What’s your physical training?
Airton: Sometimes, if there is no wind and no waves, I use the ‘day off’ to go to the gym. I use the ‘Bulgarian bag’ a lot. And I don’t look for the girls there.
Sandro Pisu: What are you doing to be the best rider every day?
Airton: I´m going on the water only to have fun. That’s the truth. Not to train on a new move but do what I love most. Otherwise I would lose motivation. Philipp Becker (marketing manager from Duotone) had the idea that I could coach strapless riding, make clinics, but I´d like to have only fun on the water and then everything comes together. I´m ‘only’ a rider.
Sandro Pisu: How many times have you been injured?
Airton: Only one time so far. It happened on a twintip board.
Sandro Pisu: What is your best support you get from your sponsors? And how important was this help over the last years?
Airton: Duotone is like a family for me and they push me with the travels and to follow my dreams. And if I damage something I get a new one three days later. Furthermore Duotone has developed their leading wave, freestyle board range with a perfect flatwater freestyle board, the Pro Voke. Another example? With the Curv harness from ION I have the lightest, hardshell harness on the market. It’s all perfect for me.
James Carew: How does it feel to be one of the top strapless riders on one of the biggest brands in kitesurfing?
Airton: It feels amazing and now, James, you are one of my inspirations too!
James Carew: Why do you always disappear at parties?
Airton: All the riders of the GKA Kite-Surf World Cups have got smiley faces, are going together to the parties. But you James, you’d like to get me drunk, so I have to disappear!
James Carew: If you could live anywhere for free where would you live?
Airton: In Santa Maria, Sal, Capo Verde. Because here is where everything started.
Tony Cili: The conditions at the contest in Ponta Preta were really hard for me. How were the conditions for you?
Airton: It´s true. Sometimes it can be really hard; it’s gusty, offshore, big waves, but at the same time it makes it so much fun. So it’s hard and fun at the same moment or let’s say, it’s fun and not easy.
Tony Cili: You always go big, perfect cutbacks and airs and beside this some freestyle on the wave. How can you do it?
Airton: To be honest, I like to have fun and create some fun for the crowds/spectators and to show them big air.
Mitu Monteiro: When you were starting 12 years ago, could you imagine your life could change like this?
Airton: No, I thought I would never, never be here having the life which I have now. Also the fact of who I am now.
Mitu Monteiro: What do you think about your future?
Airton: A good question. Hmm, having a healthy life and giving my passion to my family. To give them a great passion for sure and to do simple Kiteloops.
Mitu Monteiro: What is kitesurfing for you?
Airton: My life!
Mitu Monteiro: I gave you the first steps in kitesurfing and then it was a dream for you to be on the World Tour. Could you imagine beating me? And how does it feel?
Airton: You have given me a lot of tips! I remember when you were teaching me in 2008. The first twintip Handlepasses and then in 2011 at the KSP wave event in Mauritius, I was competing against you in the final and I was beating you. I’ll never forget this and never expected that. And before you ask me, three days ago in the final against you I lost. I was happy to lose against you.
Sabine Beukeleers: What other job you would you do if you couldn’t be a kitesurf professional?
Airton: Probably I would be a fisherman. Why? When I was young I was very often in Santa Maria on the pier and I was fascinated with selling fish.
Sabine Beukeleers: What kind of gym/physical training do you recommend for high jumps?
Airton: You don’t need physical training to make higher jumps. For strapless high jumps you need a big kite and just the right technique. For the pop you have to push the backfoot hard and to control the nose of the board. The front foot has to go in the direction of your chest to get the nose of the board into the sky. I try always to fly to the moon! That’s it.
Sebastian Ribeiro: I know Airton really likes and does a lot of sports, but I have just seen water sports. Is there a different sport out of the water you like to do?
Airton: As I’ve said I go to the gym. And yes, I go sometimes with friends snowboarding in Italy. And I go skateboarding and fishing with friends.
Sebastian Ribeiro: Airton, we just spent three weeks in Australia shooting for Duotone. We drove a lot and were looking for new spots or the best conditions. Do you like this kind of trip, looking for the best, even knowing we can get no conditions?
Airton: Yes, for sure. I liked this trip with you and Matchu and Pedro Matos, even without the conditions we were looking for. It was a really fun trip with a lot of good memories.
Sebastian Ribeiro: When are you gonna learn how to drive and come to Rio?
Airton: It’s a dream to come to Rio one day and ride the beach break you guys have there. And I’ll bring my Ferrari, too. (Airton is laughing.)