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Epic Gran Canaria World Cup raises wingfoil bar

  • Teenager Chris MacDonald sets new levels to land Surf-Freestyle title with stellar finals’ performance

  • Dominant Nia Suardiaz grabs two crowns and is just pipped for third title in big battles in Pozo Izquierdo

  • Maiden Big Air world titles clinched by new faces in exciting new departure for wingfoiling

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Gran Canaria
Pozo Izquierdo, 11–16 July, 2023

When the GWA Wingfoil World Tour was welcomed to debut at the windsurfing “bunker” of Pozo Izquierdo on Gran Canaria, few would have predicted it would herald an era-defining step change for the fast-evolving new sport.

But in nuking winds rarely less than 35 knots over six days of epic wingfoil competition, the bar was raised dramatically in Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom, and the huge success of the first wingfoil Big Air world championships silenced the sceptics.

New prizes for the Red Bull Rockets Awards for the highest jumps across the whole competition, measured with the help of The Surfr. App linked to mobile phones, proved another innovative big hit.

Four world cup crowns and two world championship titles were settled after the most intense wingfoil competition ever witnessed. But the defining image of the searing battles on the water was the young teenage athletes fighting for glory and driving wingfoiling forward at whiplash pace.

Spain’s Nia Suardiaz, still just 16, dominated the women’s side of the event. In the FreeFly-Slalom discipline, Suardiaz was a class apart, winning 12 of the 15 elimination rounds comfortably even in the tricky 35 knots’ breezes.

Too little, too late

Only Orane Ceris (FRA) seemed to have any answer for Suardiaz’s blistering pace and eventually took a few elimination rounds. But it was too little, too late. New Caledonian-based Ceris also came closest to Suardiaz in the Surf-Freestyle contest, pushing the Spanish teenager in the final.

Suardiaz faltered when she opened her final with a crash. Ceris seized the opportunity to respond with a high-scoring Back Flip. But Suardiaz kept her nerve and while her own Back Flip failed to match Ceris’s, the Spaniard used her wealth of competition experience to build her heat score and ease away to victory.

The final of the Big Air contest was Suardiaz’s only slip-up. In the three-way contest judged 80 percent on height and 20 on technical difficulty, Spain’s Mar de Arce Sánchez , in her first competition, just outpointed Suardiaz to take the first Big Air world title.

“Yes it was so hard because we had a lot of wind an a lot of waves,” said De Arce Sánchez. “We were on 2.0m2 wings. It was super-strong. It was more about survival and jump as high as possible and enjoy it.”

Suardiaz had the consolation of picking up the prize for the Red Bull Rockets Award for the highest jump in the women’s competition of 6.6 metres.

Down to the wire

Another fresh face, France’s Julien Rattotti, took the Rockets Award in the men’s competition with a jump of 11.2 metres. That was enough to take the win and the Big Air world title ahead of Germany’s Benjamin May, 19, who had been the breakout star of the heats with his huge, powered Front Loops.

“To manage to get to this final, it’s just a dream to win this event,” said Rattotti, thrilled with his victory. “So, it’s just so nice to be in Pozo. We can prove to the guys what’s possible with a wing in all these condition. It’s just so nice.”

France’s Titouan Galea could not repeat the form he had shown to reach the Big Air finals, where he had held the highest jump until that point with 10.2 metres. But veteran racer Galea already had already landed the crown for the FreeFly-Slalom contest with a dominant display.

The race for the second and third podium steps went down to the wire. Renowned waterman Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA) just edged it from key rival Alan Fedit (FRA) in the competition’s last race to take the honours.

Monster performance

Fedit also came off second best in his Surf-Freestyle semi-final against the phenom, Chris MacDonald (USA). The 17-year-old American was on fire and romped to a comfortable win despite Fedit’s high-scoring and innovative tricks.

That set up a showdown between MacDonald and 15-year-old Axel Gerard (FRA). Gerard had been clinical and ruthless in his semi-final to dispatch Benjamin May. But perhaps nerves got the better of Gerard in the final and he could not repeat his form.

No matter. MacDonald was on another planet and threw down probably biggest wingfoil freestyle heat ever seen. It was a monster performance and he barely put a foot out of place.

MacDonald opened with 8.70 from a possible 10 for a Combo, then a little later landed 9.17 for a Front Flip Frontside 3, 9.87 for Frontside 10, 8.83 for a Back Flip Frontside 3. A “world first” triple Combo—a Back Flip into double Frontside 3s earned a near-perfect 9.97.

For good measure MacDonald threw in another Frontside 10, though that did not better his earlier score. Still, he had a total of 29.01 out of a possible 30, in what was the closing heat of a competition in Gran Canaria that was one for the ages.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Gran Canaria results

Surf-Freestyle Men
1 Christopher MacDonald (USA)
2 Axel Gerard (FRA)
3 Alan Fedit (FRA)
4 Benjamin May (GER)

Surf-Freestyle Women
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Orane Ceris (FRA)
3 Bowien van der Linden (NED)
4 Agata Blach (POL)

FreeFly-Slalom Men
1 Titouan Galea (FRA)
2 Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA)
3 Alan Fedit (FRA)

FreeFly-Slalom Women
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Flora Artzner (FRA)
3 Orane Ceris (FRA)

Big Air Men
1 Julien Rattotti (FRA)
2 Benjamin May (GER)
3 Titouan Galea (FRA)
4 Malo Guénolé (FRA)

Big Air Women
1 Mar de Arce Sánchez (ESP)
2 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
3 Agata Blach (POL)
4 Orane Ceris (FRA)

Red Bull Rockets Award

Julien Rattotti 11.2m

Nia Suardiaz 6.3m

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