Template: common/main-header.twig
single.twig

New year, new tricks, new Big Air champions crowned in Gran Canaria

Suardiaz and MacDonald are world champions taking a new discipline to new heights in one of the closest finals in GWA history 

GWA Big Air Wingfoil World Championships Gran Canaria
9—13 July, 2024 | Salinas de Tenefé

The Big Air pioneers who took the first ever world titles in 2023 were replaced today by new masters of the air, establishing the new level for wingfoiling’s next frontier.

Multi-world champion Nia Suardiaz (ESP) and hot American rider Christopher MacDonald took the GWA Big Air Wingfoil World Championships Gran Canaria 2024 by the tightest of margins while producing one of the most thrilling finals in GWA Wingfoil World Tour history, each winning their first Big Air title.

Unseated by a world champion

Suardiaz was crowned GWA Big Air Wingfoil Women’s World Champion 2024 in the late afternoon sun while the whitewater still crashed around the event site. It was a rapid-fire final where the lead switched in each exchange. The 2023 champion, Mar de Arce (ESP), took an early lead but Suardiaz wouldn’t let up, throwing down gliding airs with finishing 360s. De Arce boosted a 7.2-metre air to pull ahead again but her teenage rival had the last word.

In the end, De Arce fell behind in the last attempts by a heartbreaking 0.07 of a point, Suardiaz winning with 14.87 points from 20, leaving back-to-back titles out of reach for De Arce. Maria Behrens (GER) was third, less than a point away, and Viola Lippitsch (AUT) could only manage a 9.26 combined score in fourth.

“I came on the water before the flags and it was super fun, but my first jump when we started was terrible,” said Suardiaz, 17, the current world champion in the Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom disciplines. “For sure I knew I wasn’t out of the competition and I felt better all the time.  It’s one event, it’s different. I’m just going out and having fun and it’s working.”

Doubling down for the win

The men’s Big Air final guaranteed a showdown of the moment’s top riders, MacDonald, Malo Guénolé (FRA), Bastien Escofet (FRA) and Benjamin May (GER). There was going to be a new champion as 2023 winner, Julien Rattotti (FRA), was eliminated in the semi-finals.

May, known as the “Beast” for his giant Front-loops, never hit his stride in the final and wound up fourth as MacDonald uncorked a Double Back-flip in his first attempt and followed it by another, and another, earning a 9.77 on his way to a 19.24 combined score. This was a trick he had been practising at his home in Hood River, Oregon, and the one he was saving for the finals.

In the semi-finals, Guénolé stunned the judges with a 19.40, the highest combined score of the event. But even with super-clean and high forward flips in the finals, Guénolé and third-placed Escofet were not selling exactly what the judges were buying.

That series of Double Back-flips sealed the deal and MacDonald was crowned GWA Wingfoil Big Air Men’s World Champion 2024.

“It’s impressive how much the level has changed since last year,” said MacDonald, who won the GWA Surf-Freestyle World Championship 2023 title. “After the first double, I knew I could do it and things were easier after that.”

The eight riders wrapped in their country flags stood for the final photos on the sun-beaten, rocky shores of Salinas de Tenefé and ushered in a new era for Big Air competition. All the riders in the GWA Big Air Wingfoil World Championships Gran Canaria 2024 are fully switched on to the new discipline and judging by how much higher and further they went this year, there’s much more progression left for 2025.

words: GWA Media
images: Svetlana Romansova

2024 GWA Big Air Wingfoil World Championships Gran Canaria results

Women
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Mar de Arce (ESP)
3 Maria Behrens (GER)
4 Viola Lippitsch (AUT)

Men
1 Christopher MacDonald (USA)
2 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
3 Bastien Escofet (FRA)
4 Benjamin May (GER)

Image for Higher than ever, new challengers attack Big Air in Gran Canaria

Higher than ever, new challengers attack Big Air in Gran Canaria

One event, two world champions to be crowned, new format and a building breeze showed the next level of air games

Read this article
Image for Big Air world title fight set for Gran Canaria

Big Air world title fight set for Gran Canaria

One-stop wingfoil Big Air world championship battle returns to Spanish island renowned for its nuking winds

Read this article
Image for World Tour to shift up a gear in Fuerte

World Tour to shift up a gear in Fuerte

Second stop in FreeFly-Slalom and third in Surf-Freestyle turns up pressure on athletes fighting for titles

Read this article
Image for Big upsets at Youth Worlds in the Canaries

Big upsets at Youth Worlds in the Canaries

Reigning senior Surf-Freestyle title holder makes early exit as new face scoops FreeFly-Slalom crown at Youth World Championships

Read this article