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Final event kicks off with men’s Surf-Freestyle

Mixed format of wave and freestyle could upset the form book as Malo Guénolé seeks to avenge title loss

Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Brazil 2023
Cauipe, 21–24 November

We are coming into this final event on the GWA calendar, having already crowned our Surf-Freestyle champions last month in Tarifa. Christopher MacDonald (USA) and Nia Suardiaz (ESP) come into this event looking to end the year on a higher high, however, the men’s FreeFly-Slalom world champion is yet to be decided and over the next four days we’ll be finding out who takes the title and also, who can take the event wins here in Cauipe, Brazil. 

Ceará, northern Brazil, is known worldwide among watersports’ enthusiasts. Thirty-two men and 12 women-the world’s best wingfoilers-arrived early to confirm their places in the competition. With the options to running the disciplines out at sea or in the lagoon, this spot can present challenges. But it also offers flexibility, depending on what conditions. 

Judging criteria

The game for day one aimed to focus on the men’s Surf-Freestyle on the sea side. With a nice swell, the judging team combined both freestyle tricks and wave scores which would together create a combined total score for each athletes. Six trick attempts were allowed, followed by 10 wave attempts with two from each counting, with potentially 40 points up for grabs. 

“On the freestyle side we’re looking for height and amplitude with plenty of commitment,” said Álvaro Onieva, Head Judge, explaining what the GWA judges are looking for. “With that said, it must be well executed. When it comes to the waves, wave selection will play a key part in how each wave has the potential of being scored”. 

Bringing their A-game

Malo Guénolé (FRA) earned the highest heat score of the day during his Round 3 showdown. The 2022 GWA Surf-Freestyle World Champion thrives off a mixed format, as conditions presented here are similar to his home spot in northern France. A rider who shines in the waves, his two wave scores came in at 7.10 and 7.80, while his freestyle tricks also scored high. A huge 8.83 for a Radiculo 7 was then backed up with the newest trick seen on tour, the Backmobe, which scored 7.67. 

Guénolé, disappointed not to retain his world title, will want to avenge his loss to his rival and close friend, Christopher MacDonald, in this competition. 

Pushing boundaries

Teammate, Bastien Escofet (FRA) and watersports’ legend, Balz Müller (SUI), also had positive performances. The pair who were in different heats both scored 25-plus points in their respective heats.

Müller, who hasn’t competed at every tour stop this year, was his classic self. He showed innovation and playfulness in the waves. Always one to try new moves and push the boundaries when it comes to wing foiling, Müller advanced to Round 5. 

Escofet, who is still in the running to become men’s FreeFly-Slalom world champion, was one of the first riders to land the new Backmobe manoeuvre recently in Tarifa. During his heat, however, the Frenchman mixed it up with a textbook Front-flip, followed by an 8.17 Back Loop Spin. 

Champion back to business 

MacDonald was back doing what he does best after his recent victory in Tarifa. Having secured the 2023 GKA Surf-Freestyle World Championship title a few weeks back, there was less pressure on the American to fight for the win against the likes of Malo Guénolé. 

But he still wants the win in Brazil, and MacDonald proved why he’s won so many events this season. Having stomped an early Combo, he then threw down an 1080 for 8.33 points to wrap up the freestyle part of his heat. With a lower tide and fewer waves to choose from, MacDonald’s wave scores didn’t match his rival Guénolé, so he’ll be looking to better those in Round 5.

Youngsters in the mix

It’s been great to see the younger generation eager to compete on the world tour. Every year the GWA has its Youth World Championship, which this year took place in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. With an opportunity to compete in Brazil, Leo Suardiaz (ESP), Aleksander and Thomas Acherer (AUT) all competed against idols during today’s competition. 

Tomorrow will see the continuation of Surf-Freestyle as we look to push on and further the competition within this discipline. The women have yet to hit the water, but it has not been decided whether they will be competing on the sea side, or in the lagoon. With an challenging shore break to pass through, the decision will be made at tomorrow’s riders’ briefing.

words: Liam Dredge
images: Svetlana Romantsova

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