First GWA Qualifier Delivers Thrilling Action at Iberian Wingfoil Tour in Spain
14-16 May 2022
Words: Celtia Rebolledo Heil
Photos: Michel Martin
Videos: José del Corral
The Spanish resort of Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol played host to the inaugural event of the GWA Qualifying Series with a strong roster of athletes, including the son of windsurfing legend Bjorn Dunkerbeck. The wingfoilers hailed from all corners of the globe, eager to do battle in the historic competition.
The first stop of the Iberian Wingfoil Tour went down over the weekend of May 14-16 off Torremolinos’ Costa Lago Beach. It lives in starry company, with Europe’s kitesurf capital, Tarifa, just west along the cost. Torremolinos, too, is a major kitesurfing hub and the Iberian Tour’s organisers believe it will also prove a big draw for the fast-emerging wingfoil scene, with the opening event serving as a fitting spotlight.
BIG FIELD FROM AROUND WORLD
The 27 men and seven women competitors from as far afield as New Caledonia and New Zealand, ranging in ages from eight to 55, were eager to get down to action in the Surf-Slalom, Surf-Freestyle and Fun-Race disciplines. But on day one the westerly Poniente breezes stubbornly refused to build despite the hopes of locals like Alvaro Onieva, who felt the signs were good for a strong thermal wind.
Day two was a different story with the breezes filling early, allowing the much-anticipated action to kick-off. Race director Juan Antonio gave the green light and the first elimination round of the women’s Surf-Slalom was off, with Carla Herrera Oria, the GKA 2019 Strapless-Freestyle world champion, up against Nia Suardiaz and Oran Ceris.
TALENTED SUARDIAZ UNBEATABLE
But despite high-octane racing from Herrera and Ceris, from New Caledonia, they had no answer for the pace of the 15-year-old Spaniard, Suardiaz. Suardiaz had already shown her prodigious wingfoiling talent a few weeks earlier when she stormed to victory at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Surf-Freestyle division in Leucate, France. In Torremolinos she was unbeatable again.
In spite of the fading breeze, the competition director was able to squeeze in all the rounds of the women’s Surf-Freestyle contest. Maria Perdomo pushed Herrera all the way in one semi-final, but Herrera did just enough to win. Suardiaz was imperious, ovehauling her rivals to win with a score of 19.15 points. Ceris took the second podium step after knocking out Herrera, who earned third.
The men had also taken to the water in the Surf-Slalom division, with 16 riders burning through four furious races. Among the competitors was Liam Dunkerbeck, son of 42-times windsurf world champion, Bjorn. But for the young Dunkerbeck it was not all plain sailing when he was disqualified for crossing the startline early in one race. Dunkerbeck did not make the same mistake twice, and did enough to land on the top podium step, with Lucas Roguet and Jeremiah Mcdonald following behind.
On the third and final day of the Torremolinos Qualifying Series, 16 men opened the Surf-Freestyle discipline. After some intense heats with stunning tricks, Nathan Berger landed a huge Frontside 360 that earned him 6.15 points, beating Xavi Corr in round four.
MEN’S SURF-FREESTYLE FINAL: ROGUET GETS THE BETTER OF DUNKERBECK IN THRILLER
But Roguet and Dunkerbeck, bringing deep reserves of competition experience, also charged through their heats to meet in the final. With spectators on the edge of their seats, Dunkerbeck threw down a Frontside 360 that was answered immediately with the same trick by Roguet, who scored 6.67 points. It took his total to 16.2 and secured the victory.
After a gruelling 30 heats and with just one deciding heat left, there was a tantalising drop in the wind. But the race director held his nerve and was rewarded when the breeze returned to allow Berger and New Zealand’s Mcdonald to battle. In the end Berger landed a hard-fought third podium step in a thrilling finale to this history-making event.
RESULTS: GWA QUALIFYING SERIES TORREMOLINOS, IBERIAN WINGFOIL TOUR—ROUND ONE