Cape Verde’s Wesley Brito won his first world title when he took the 2023 GWA Wingfoil World Tour crown in the pure surfing Wave discipline. For Brito, who just turned 24, the victory in the three-stop tour transformed his life. Between winging sessions on his native Boa Vista island, Brito told Ian MacKinnon how wingfoiling had saved him and about his big plans for retaining the crown in the fast-changing sporting landscape.
Question: You won the first wingfoil Wave world title. Looking back on that time, how do you feel about it now?
Wesley Brito: It feels amazing. It was a dream come true. That was something that I was really looking forward to one day. Since I started wingfoiling, I’ve been practising a lot. So for me it was a dream come true and I’m still enjoying it and looking forward for next one Cape Verde in a few weeks. I’m registered already and ready to go.
Q: How did the year go for you? It wasn’t straightforward. You won the first event in Cape Verde. How did it go from then on?
WB: So it was a really good start for me. In the waves I had a good start, then I had go to the competition in France, for Leucate, [for freestyle] and that was good. Then I went for Brazil for the next competition. I was expecting really good conditions. But at the end, I didn’t get lucky with the wind. I got a really bad result in Brazil. That left me third place in the ranking on the tour. Then I went Morocco, the last stop of the tour. I got lucky, the wind came and we had some nice waves, but it wasn’t easy at the end. It started good. But during the season, it was tough for me.
Q: You’re a big guy, is that something that your dependant on, having good conditions, good wind and good waves, to do your best?
WB: I weigh a lot, but it’s not something that’s stopping me from doing really good stuff. But it depends, for example, if I have my bad performance, I need a lot of wind and a lot of waves—big waves. But even in small waves and wind, I can still ride. It’s just I’m gonna be using a big board and a big wing and those things stop you from going fast. But you can still ride. So, being heavy and being big hasn’t been a problem for me. Actually, it was a solution for because all the other sports I used to do, like kitesurfing, it was a disadvantage. Wingfoiling saved me, because now I can ride in really light conditions.
Q: As the season went on, did you feel pressure?
WB: I was really looking forward to a good result in Rio de Janeiro. That was my goal. Because if I did a really good result, it would have been easier for me to get the title. So when I went to Rio, I made a big mistake. I didn’t have a big board there. I only had my small board. Just not the right equipment. I ended up swimming and couldn’t get up on the foil to ride the waves. I ended up losing [the crucial heat] by one point. So, it was pretty tough for me.
Q: How do you deal with it? How do you cope with the pressure of competition?
WB: Normally I try to practise as much as I can. I put all the pressure on myself, so I train as much as I can to get better. So next time I won’t have an excuse. I said, okay, if I’m feeling pressure, it means I need to practise more and then the pressure starts to go away. You get more confident.
Q: The Wave discipline changed very quickly during the year. Was it challenging for you?
WB: Yeah. I wasn’t ready for that. That’s what got me in a bad situation in the competitions. Everything changed. Cash [Berzola] came with a super-styiish way of riding. The judges liked it. And then Malo [Guénolé], I’ve been following him since the beginning, and I know he’s a really good rider. Both of them have surfing backgrounds. Malo is really good at everything. I was expecting him to change the game.
‘Love the most’
Q: So is there anything that you’ve being working on that you can do differently for this year to keep up with the changing landscape?
WB: I trained some new stuff. I’ve been training a new type of carving that I will only show in the first competition in Ponte Preta [Cape Verde]. I haven’t posted anything on-line. I’ve been training some other stuff, too. Sometimes you put everything out there and then everybody knows how to do it the next day. So I like to keep it as a card that can help me. New equipment, new tricks, new carving style. I really switched the way of riding. It’s gonna be completely different this year. So like, it’s an upgrade. I have to try to find another solution so I don’t go with the same thing. It’s got harder. Last year I saw that the level went really way up in the last competition. So I had to come home and try to find new stuff.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
WB: I have a couple of goals. I’m gonna start shooting a project soon. A little bit of freestyling, but mostly ‘wave’ in my hometown. This place has been drawing a lot more wingfoilers than before. Now, we’re getting a lot of people coming from Europe, from other places, coming to foil here. I want to make a video talking about this place and about the evolution. It changed in my life in so many ways. I’m also training for the first event here in Cape Verde in February. I keep practising so I can defend the world title. It’s not going to be easy this year.
Q: You mentioned that winning the world title changed your life. How so?
WB: For example, I used to be a kiter before; a windsurfer. I worked giving windsurfing lessons, kite lessons, surfing lessons—at club in front of the beach. Wingfoiling changed my life because I went for the world title. I got it and got a sponsor, with Duotone. It changed my life and the way I was working every day. Now I can be full-time out on the water. Because I won the world title and because of the media, so many people know me now, and they know that this place is good. Now we can make more money. We used to give lessons but we didn’t have really a lot of clients. So foiling was really big, because now we have a lot of people coming here.
You can do clinics, you can do lessons, way more lessons. A lot of people are interested in coming here, for the wave spot, to learn. All those things, they change your life because now I can live doing what I love. I can also do some other things. I switched from working with what I love, to working with what I love the most.
images: Lukas K Stiller