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Freestylers turn up heat with tight duels in Fuerte

  • Unstoppable Chris MacDonald picks up where he left off at second of back-to-back world cup stops in Canaries

  • GWA makes wingfoil debut at historic 35th edition of Fuerteventura world cup event at Playa Sotavento

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Fuerteventura
Playa Sotavento, 21–26 July, 2023

In the opening clashes of the GWA Wingfoil World Cup in Fuerteventura, Spain, Chris MacDonald picked up where he left off less than a week ago when he obliterated the field to claim the Surf-Freestyle crown at the first of back-to-back stops in the Canaries.

The remarkable 17-year-old American was again untouchable in his heat, sending out a warning to rivals that the slightly mellower conditions of Playa Sotavento would have little bearing on his performance.

The winner of the women’s Surf-Freestyle contest in the first Canaries stop in Pozo Izquierdo, Spain’s Nia Suardiaz, 16, also showed she had lost none of her edge when she opened her account in Sotavento with a clinical performance.

Day two of the competition saw the opening of the Surf-Freestyle action in the GWA Wingfoil Tour which is making its first appearance at the historic 35th edition of the Fuerteventura World Cup.

Twenty-eight men and 12 women from 14 nations battled in the opening rounds Surf-Freestyle contest in gusty breezes that varied from 24 to 35 knots.Most of the athletes were out on their smaller wings of about 3m2.

High-octane tricks

The Surf-Freestyle contest is likely to be concluded on day three of the world cup with the remaining three days given over to the FreeFly-Slalom competition which will be fought out on Sotavento’s turquoise waters and cross-offshore breezes.

But the first competition day was all about the high-octane tricks of the Surf-Freestyle discipline. The young guns have been revolutionising the discipline as they spur one another on and push the sport forward at a frantic pace.

It has also attracted many seasoned athletes from other watersports, like Venezuelan Jose “Gollito” Estredo, a multiple windsurfing freestyle world champion. His focus is on FreeFly-Slalom, but he threw his hat in the Surf-Freestyle ring.

“I feel really good because I know this place very, very well,” he said before the start of competition. “I’ve been here for many years in windsurfing. I won here many times. I’ve been training because this year I will compete only in wingfoiling. I want to enjoy the event and do my best, of course.”

Estredo battled his way through to the fourth round of the contest, but was dispatched there when he came up against the experienced Jerome Cloetens (ESP) and Benjamin May (GER), who had a breakthrough performance in Pozo Izquierdo.

Müller out injured

Other big names showed they meant business. Reigning Surf-Freestyle world champion France’s Malo Guénolé was keen to improve his showing after being dumped out early in Gran Canaria. In his day’s only heat in round three, he landed big scores for a Front Flip and a Trailing-Edge Back Flip that secured his progression.

“After last week in Gran Canaria we’ve moved to Fuerteventura,” said Guénolé. “The spot is looking pretty good. The wind’s strong with good kickers. It’s a freestyle paradise. I’m looking to get a better result than in Gran Canaria. I’m looking to get a strong one here.”

Many of the young athletes put in strong  performances. Gran Canaria finalist, France’s Axel Gerard, 15, saw off the challenge of  countryman, Luca Vuillermet, and advanced deep into the contest.

Thirteen-year-old Vuillermet, who had to fight for his survival later in the day, came though with good scores and moved up the ladder along with another French rider, Clément Hamon, 15. Spain’s Xavi Corr, 16, was one of the day’s standouts, with a massive 9.0 for a Combo. Canary islander Ancor Sosa, 16, wowed the fans on the beach with a “first”, a Toeside Front Flip that earned him 7.83 and a heat win.

But the old guard was not giving up without a fight. Italy’s Francesco Cappuzzo took a heat win to go forward with one of the higher trick scores of the day, 8.10 for a Radiculo 7. Balz Müller (SUI), in the same heat, had to fight again later but withdrew with a neck injury.

Topped all-comers

The dreadlocked Frenchman, Alan Fedit, was his usual irrepressible self on the water, advancing with one of the day’s bigger heat scores of 25.30. It included 8.60 for a Corkscrew Frontside 7 and 8.77 for a Back Flip-Frontside 3 Combo.

But once again it was Chris MacDonald who topped all-comers with the day’s biggest heat and trick scores. He romped away with 26.17 that included 8.87 for a Combo and 9.50 for the Frontside 10 that he is beginning to own.

“The conditions here [in Sotavento] are petty similar to Pozo,” said MacDonald, before the competition. “Let’s see what we can do. I mean this is definitely not an easy spot. The wind’s pretty shifty, but I think it’s going to be a good competition and the forecast looks good.”

On the women’s side Nia Suardiaz made short work of rivals, while Orane Ceris (FRA) advanced easily, scoring an 8.0 for a Back Flip and 7.53 for a Combo. The Dutch rider Bowien van der Linden could not put such big numbers on the board, but still won her heat and progressed.

“We’ve had a couple of training days here and it went pretty well,” said Van der Linden, before the contest. “I landed my first Back Flip, so it couldn’t have gone better. In Pozo it was survival sometimes. But here you have little waves, so it’s a little like a skate ramp park.”

On Sunday we hope to crown our winners. Join us here for all the action.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

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