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Intense battles spark drama in Gran Canaria

Titouan Galea and Nia Suardiaz falter but forge big leads in FreeFly-Slalom contests at the mythical spot of Pozo Izquierdo

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Gran Canaria
Pozo Izquierdo, 11–16 July, 2023

France’s Titouan Galea fought back to take the lead in the FreeFly-Slalom discipline at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Gran Canaria, Spain, after a costly early error left him left him down the order.

Galea took three wins from four elimination rounds after he had mistakenly gone to the wrong heat in the opening skirmishes of the competition at Pozo Izquierdo, leaving him adrift on the leaderboard.

Spain’s Nia Suardiaz topped the women’s FreeFly-Slalom rankings with a massively convincing outing when she took seven wins from eight. Even a crash on the startline of her day’s last race was not important as she was already throwing out first place finishes from her score.

Day two of the competition was given over to FreeFly-Slalom when the 32 men battled through four elimination rounds and the 14 women progressed through eight in perfect winds of about 30 knots, teamed with ocean swells.

The contest’s opening day, the first of a scheduled six, saw the athletes battle in Surf-Freestyle and the qualification rounds of the new wingfoil Big Air discipline, which will crown men’s and women’s world champions at the end of the event.

Dream start

But with renowned windsurfing “bunker” of Pozo Izquierdo welcoming wingfoiling and the GKA for the first time, the competition’s second day was dedicated to FreeFly-Slalom and its short, sharp races fired off back-to-back.

Germany’s Alan Fedit’s consistent second place finishes ensured he stayed top of the standings for much of the day. He only slipped into second spot at the end, but he remains poised should any of his rivals repeat their mistakes.

Italy’s Francesco Cappuzzo looked fast and made a dream start when he took the first elimination round win. But he failed to even make it to the second elimination round final after he crashed in one of the qualifying races and failed to recover.

In the third elimination round he was even unluckier as he battled at close quarters with Galea and France’s Bastien Escofet. Escofet crashed just after rounding a mark early on and Cappuzzo fell in his efforts to avoid his rival.

High-speed crash

But Cappuzzo was full of enthusiasm for the conditions. He was particularly stoked by his win in the opening round on the seven-leg downwind course that comprised two, technical “pump tracks”, one of 500 metres where it was vital to use the swell to gain the best advantage.

“As I said, I’ve been a bit stressed, nervous,” he said. “But I can’t wait to get out on the water. I managed to win my heat with a good lead as well. I want to prove that it was not just luck. I feel pretty confident now.”

Galea had been lucky to avoid Escofet’s high-speed crash that had taken down Cappuzzo in the third elimination round final. Galea won that and it helped him to three victories from the four rounds completed. He was able to discard his lowest score, suddenly catapulting him into the lead.

“I’m pretty stoked on that one,” said Galea, after his round three win. “It was crazy action. It was a really tight start and we were going fast. Rounding the first mark we were going too fast. Bastien crashed in front of me while he was leading. Francesco was between me and him. It was the craziest crash I’ve seen in my life.”

“Reading ocean important”

But Galea was able to avoid the mayhem and take the win, revelling in the conditions offered up by Pozo Izquierdo.

“It’s one of the first events where there has been proper wind and waves,” said Galea. “Riding the waves on the downwind [pump leg] is very important. So being able to read the ocean is super important in this event, I guess.”

Nia Suardiaz’s sheer pace meant that she had few of the problems suffered by Galea and the others. She romped to seven straight wins and her closest rivals, the French riders Flora Artzner and Orane Ceris, seemed to have no answers.

“I’m super-happy with my results,” said Suardiaz, still just 16. “I finished first in all of them. I’m using an 800cms2 front wing. It’s really important to use a bigger front wing to get a better ride on the swell.”

We will be back tomorrow with another full day for FreeFly-Slalom competition on Gran Canaria. Join us live here for all the excitement.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

Spot Info: Pozo Izquierdo, Gran Canaria

The weather in Gran Canaria, Spain, during July ranges around 25-30 degrees Celsius with sunrise around 07:15 and sunset at 21:00.

Wind and water
Gran Canaria enjoys great wind in July. Pozo Izquierdo is famous for its strong winds. The wind regularly blows 30+ knots, with gusts up to 40+ knots. The wind direction is from the north/north-east, blowing onshore at Pozo Izquierdo Beach. The strong wind creates decent chop and some wind swell that can break on the reef at low tide. The water temperature is 23-24C, so a shorty or summer wetsuit is a good idea.

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