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Champions revel in first surf world titles

  • Cape Verdean Wesley Brito narrowly lands crown in Morocco

  • Moona Whyte grabs back-to-back wins in Dakhla to take title

  • Cash Berzolla gets event win in the desert to end third overall

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Dakhla Presented by Armstrong Foils
Oum Lamboiur, Westpoint
22 September—01 October, 2023

The winners of the pioneering Wave discipline of the GWA Wingfoil World Tour were crowned in a sunset ceremony to cap a remarkable finale to the globe-trotting thee-stop season.

The US’s Moona Whyte closed out a remarkable season with a victory at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Dakhla, presented by Armstrong, that gave her the Wave world title with two event wins. Hawaii-based Whyte made it back-to-back wins when she took the GKA Kite-Surf World Cup Dakhla, staged simultaneously, a few days later.

Fellow-Hawaiian Cash Berzolla stormed on to the wingfoil circuit this year. With electrifying Wave riding, the 17-year-old won the world cup in Dakhla. His runner-up place at the second stop in Rio de Janeiro, Berzolla earned a third place overall in the Wave discipline.

Cape Verde’s Welsey Brito was crowned Wave world champion after he did enough by reaching the quarter-final in Dakhla, backing up his event win at the first ground-breaking stop in home waters on Sal island’s Ponta Preta.

The third and final stop of the Wave discipline opened the double-header in the Oum Lamboiur break at Dakhla’s Westpoint. Twenty-four men and five women—from nine nations worldwide—travelled to the remote Sahara desert location to compete.

Fitting challenge

Over three days of intense action, the best men and women wingfoil surfers in the world battled in the long, peeling right-handers that built as the competition progressed. The shoulder-high waves offered a fitting challenge for the season’s climax.

Moona Whyte uncharacteristically was beaten by Bowien van der Linden (NED) in the first heat, which was not an elimination round. It meant that Whyte faced the 16-year-old wingfoil sensation, Nia Suardiaz (ESP), in the semi-final.

The two athletes were neck-and-neck in the standings after two events. But the young Spaniard had beaten Whyte in the final of the previous round in Brazil and was looking for a third successive world title in Dakhla.

Whyte’s experience in the waves was just too strong for Suardiaz in the end. The semi-final victory earned Whyte the title, leaving Suardiaz third in Dakhla and second overall.

“This year has been a really nice journey,” said Suardiaz. “We started Cape Verde—an amazing spot and an amazing experience riding the big waves. Then in Brazil it was really nice and I managed to win. Super happy. Coming to Dakhla was the chance for me to become three-times world champion. I didn’t get it, but I’m extremely happy.”

Dramatic twist

Whyte went on to face Van der Linden a second time in the final and this time made no mistakes to take the event win in Dakhla, putting the icing on her world title cake. Van der Linden took a second in Dakhla and third overall for the season.

“I’m really happy to win this first wingfoil title in the waves,” said Whyte. “I really only signed up because I was doing the Kite-Surf event in Cape Verde. I didn’t expect this result, so I’m really happy. It’s super-special to me because I love wingfoiling.”

The men’s competition showed how fast this young sport is developing. At the outset in Dakhla, the three main contenders for the title were France’s Hugo Marin and Benoît Carpentier, and Wesley Brito.

But an early defeat for Carpentier and then a quarter-final defeat for Marin saw them out of the running. Brito almost came to grief in his quarter-final against the young Corsican, Noé Cuyala.

Sixteen-year-old Cuyala beat Brito in their first match-up. But in a dramatic twist after the heat, Brito reluctantly protested a move by Cuyala, a Backflip that had won the heat. A review by the judges showed Cuyala had held the front power handle during the move, which is prohibited, and it was rerun. Brito won, and with it took the title.

Short-lived joy

“It’s an amazing feeling to to be the first wave world champion,” said Brito, 23. “It’s a dream come true. It wasn’t easy. When I came off the water, I’d lost against Noé [Cuyala]. But my friends told me I had to protest. I said no. ‘If I lose, I lose properly. If I win, I win properly.’ But my friends showed me the video. The judges agreed. We had a rerun and I won.”

Brito’s joy was short-lived. He came up against Cash Berzolla in the semi-final and was defeated, finishing fourth after losing again to France’s Axel Gerard. Gerard is another remarkable 16-year-old, who finished third in Dakhla.

That set up a final between Berzolla and France’s Malo Guénolé, 18, a repeat of their match-up in the deciding heat in Brazil, in August, when the Frenchman got the win. Both had done only two events and were not in with a shout for the title. In the tightest of finals, Berzolla turned the tables on his rival and avenged his earlier defeat to win in Dakhla.

“With only two events my goal was just to have fun in Dakhla, and I accomplished that,” said Berzolla. “I didn’t even realise I’d got third in the world championships as I thought I was out of the running. Wingfoiling is so new it’ll be interesting to see where it goes. There’s so much potential with the Wave category.”

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil Wave Men’s World Champion 2023
1 Wesley Brito (CPV)
2 Hugo Marin (FRA)
3 Cash Berzolla (USA)

GWA Wingfoil Wave Women’s World Champion 2023
1 Moona Whyte (USA)
2 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
3 Bowien van der Linden (NED)

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Dakhla 2023 results
1 Cash Berzolla (USA)
2 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
3 Axel Gerard (FRA)
4 Wesley Brito (CPV)

1 Moona Whyte (USA)
2 Bowien van der Linden (NED)
3 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
4 Orane Ceris (FRA)

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