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Galea lands consecutive crowns in Canaries thriller

  • French athlete seals back-to-back FreeFly-Slalom wins in fight that went down to the wire in Fuerteventura

  • Stellar racing in Sotavento caps immense world cup that catapulted wingfoiling to new heights

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

France’s Titouan Galea clinched the title in the FreeFly-Slalom battles at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup in Fuerteventura, Spain, in a thrilling contest that went down to the wire on the final day.

The veteran racer sealed the win in the very last race, just seeing off a stiff challenge from his closest rival, Italy’s Francesco Cappuzzo, by the finest of margins. It gave Galea back-to-back FreeFly-Slalom crowns in the Canaries, a week after he landed the win in Pozo Izquierdo, Gran Canaria.

Crossing the finish line just a few metres ahead Cappuzzo, Galea launched a Back Flip that signalled his joy and relief at getting the job done. Cappuzzo immediately sank into the water to congratulate his rival.

“It was pretty insanely tight with Cappuzzo again,” said Galea, as he walked ashore, wing and foil in hand after the last race. “I had to win this race to win the event. Yes, I’m pretty stoked. I had pressure until the end.”

Day five of the competition saw the climactic finale of three days of FreeFly-Slalom action with the 40 men battling through nine elimination rounds on Sotavento’s turquoise waters, fuelled by 30 knots’ breezes.

Piece of history

The women’s FreeFly-Slalom had already been concluded on day four. After 15 elimination rounds, Spain’s Nia Suardiaz had proved almost unbeatable. The 16-year-old had won 13 of the rounds and had the title in the bag long before the finish.

Suardiaz’s dominance was the mirror image of her performance a week earlier in Gran Canaria, where she also won the FreeFly-Slalom with an unrivalled display. There, again, she faltered rarely, dropping just three races late in the day.

The young Spaniard was equally dominant as she grabbed the Surf-Freestyle crowns at both Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, where wingfoiling was making its debut as the historic event celebrated its 35th year.

The Fuerteventura World Cup was also host to a piece of history. On consecutive Sundays, the US’s Chris MacDonald, 17, landed the Surf-Freestyle titles with unmatched riding that left rivals flailing.

MacDonald’s high-scoring Combos and Frontside 10 in the Sotavento final pushed reigning world champion, France’s Malo Guénolé, 18, to try to close the gap. The young Frenchmen almost landed a Back Flip-to-Back Flip Combo, but his failure saw him slip to third place in the end.

Put the hammer down

Spanish-Belgian rider Jerome Cloetens, 27, was the unexpected sensation in Sotavento. He took the second podium place and split the teenagers in his first final with smooth One-Handed Back Flips and stylish nose grabs, reminiscent of his other life as a professional kiteboarder.

But on the FreeFly-Slalom track over three days of intense competition, the battles were just as keenly fought. Three different courses: one starboard; one port and starboard; and on the final day, a port and starboard pump track; tested “goofy” and “regular” riders equally.

Going into final day, Galea held a slight lead in the overall standings. But the margin to key rivals, the French pair of Alan Fedit and Bastien Escofet, and the Italian legend, Cappuzzo, was slim enough that all was still to play for. A discard to come after the seventh elimination round had the potential to reshuffle the pack.

Fedit, who had been a master of consistency, slipped up almost immediately when he crashed in an early heat and failed to make the first elimination round final of the day. Galea put the hammer down and bossed it to take the win, with Escofet and Cappuzzo trailing in behind.

Came in hot

In the day’s second round final, the eight of the competition, Cappuzzo and Escofet battled around the marks. But Cappuzzo had the edge in the pump track sections and took the win.

Galea could only manage a fourth place finish, which meant that after Cappuzzo had discarded his lowest score, just 1.3 points separated the pair going to the last elimination round final.

Galea used every bit of his racing experience to the full. From the middle of the reaching start line, he came down hot on the first mark to take the lead. Fedit and Cappuzzo tussled behind and the Italian edged ahead in the second pump track.

By then Galea was clear just ahead and took the line, the win and the crown. Cappuzzo took the second podium place, followed by Escofet, and Fedit in fourth.

The next FreeFly-Slalom and Surf-Freestyle battles are set for Hvide Sande, Denmark, in early September. But first up comes the second stop of the GWA Wingfoil Wave World Tour in Rio de Janeiro, which kicks off at the end of the month. Join us then.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Fuerteventura results

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

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

Surf-Freestyle Men
1 Christopher MacDonald (USA)
2 Jerome Cloetens (ESP)
3 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
4 Axel Gerard (FRA)

Surf-Freestyle Women
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Bowien van der Linden (NED)
3 Orane Ceris (FRA)
4 Viola Lippitsch (AUT)

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