The future of Spanish kitesurfing is more than assured, as was made clear at the end of the Youth World Cup in Tarifa last September. This city in the province of Cadiz has had five victories for Spanish competitors in the nine possible categories, highlighting the excellent work done with young kitesurfers. Among the new champions were 16-year-old Keanu Merten and 14-year-old Rafa Montero, both from Estepona and having won the Under-17 and Under-16 categories respectively.
For some time now, both have made a name for themselves among the best riders in the country but also at European level. Indeed Keanu Merten, who was born in Germany and has lived on the Costa del Sol since his childhood, has just been proclaimed champion of the Spanish Kitesurf League in the 2021 junior and senior category. He did so in June, when he was 15 years old, during a competition which took place in video format and not face-to-face, the first of this type to have been organized since confinement.
“It has been a brilliant year,” Keanu says. He currently competes in Strapless, one of the different forms of kitesurfing in which a surfboard without foot straps is used. Waves are used for jumping and performing tricks in the air, no matter how difficult they may seem. These are the things this young man showed during the last world championship in Tarifa.
Keanu Merten, Under-17 World Champion: “It was a brilliant year. I wasn’t sure I could win because a lot of good people were competing”
“I wasn’t sure I could win because a lot of good people were competing. I was nervous, but in the end we were very happy,” he said. In the final, he beat Noah Nicolas, also Spanish, to become world champion.
Ambition is another mark of identity for this young athlete who is already dreaming of making a name for himself among the older competitors.
“My goal is to do the full international circuit and be in the top three. I think that will be possible, over time,” he said.
The Youth World Championship also crowned another athlete from Estepona, Rafa Montero, in a category in which he had to compete with rivals up to two years older than himself.
Rafa Montero, Under-16 World Champion: “I would like to win the junior championship every year and do the same in the senior category”
“We had to go to another country for one of the tests, where the conditions were different, and I found it difficult. I did not expect to win, the level was very high and I did not know the Most runners so that put pressure on me, ”says Montero, who remembers not knowing how to react when he realized he had won.“ You don’t know what To do. I felt really strange and very nervous, but very happy at the same time, “he explains.
Rafa competes in Freestyle, a very technical format in which the main objective is to perform jumps while being free of the harness that connects the rider to the kitesurf board, allowing him to perform as many tricks as possible. His display in the final, in which spectators stood to watch in amazement, was more than enough to win him the world title. It was a trophy that put the perfect finishing touch to a momentous year, in which he also won the Spanish junior championship.
Nor is he immune to the ambition that characterizes other young competitors. “I would like to win the world championship every year and then do the same in the senior category,” he said.
Family and school
Despite their vocation to be the best in their sport in the future, these two riders from the province of Malaga have their feet on the ground, at least during the time they are not kitesurfing. Both keep abreast of their studies, although they admit that sometimes their schoolwork does not allow them to get as much education as they want. They usually spend four or five hours a day after school, as long as there is sufficient wind.
Behind their success, as well as their training, hides the support of their sponsors, the Kitesurfing CD of Estepona, which has seen them grow, and the efforts of their families. Their fathers, Eric Merten and Rafael Montero, not only passed on their love for the sport to their children, but also became their main advisers.
Both families have many reasons to dream of flying high now, and not just on the water.