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Surprise winners crowned at Rio wingfoil world cup

  • Spain’s Nia Suardiaz unexpectedly adds surf crown to her growing haul of honours

  • Surf-Freestyle world champion Malo Guénolé lands title at first wave competition

Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Brazil 2023
Itauna Beach, Saquarema, 31 July–11 August

Teenagers Nia Suardiaz and Malo Guénolé upended the form books when they lifted the crowns on the penultimate day of the Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Spain’s Suardiaz, 16, turned the tables and avenged her finals’ defeat at the first stop of the pure surfing wave tour in Cape Verde in March, when she was beaten by the US veteran, Moona Whyte.

“I’m super-happy to have won this competition,” said Suardiaz. “I’ve been training a bit since Cape Verde and the conditions here were super-good. We had some nice swells and good wind. I want to become world champion in Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom  really badly, so I didn’t expect the win here.”

France’s Guénolé, 18, the current Surf-Freestyle world champion, was equally surprised to find himself top of the pile in Brazil in his first pure surfing wingfoil competition.

“I’m pretty stoked with this first place,” said Guénolé. “It’s my first wave event ever. Pretty stoked because the conditions are feeling like back at home. The waves are my favourite thing in wingfoiling because I’m coming from surfing. So, yes, over the moon.”

Day 11 of the world cup, hosted at Saquarema’s iconic break, saw the competition again move to an alternate location to provide the best wind and wave conditions for the wingfoilers as their 12-day competition window was closing.

Out of sorts

The select women’s fleet had already battled through their heats on day nine with only the  final and mini-final left to run after the fickle breezes had faltered, leaving the competition on hold.

But with a perfect metre-high swell and 15 to 20 knots of wind, the athletes in the mini-final, former world champion Bowien van der Linden (NED), and Rocio Reigert (ARG) were able to get on the water. Van der Linden took the win and the third podium place.

In the final Suardiaz came out of the blocks fast and quickly earned some solid numbers from the judges, even as Whyte struggled to get out through the shore break. But even when Whyte got some waves, she was out of sorts riding a foil on unfamiliar “lefts” and gifted Suardiaz the win.

“There were some good sized waves, but it was challenging for me going left because I have not gone left much on the foil before,” said Whyte. “I could see Nia was getting some good waves and good turns. She definitely deserved to win and I’m happy with my second.”

The competition for the 24 men had stuttered along, the victim of massive swells and fickle breezes. But day 11 served up the perfect platform. The 10-minute heats threw up some intriguing duels and a few unexpected casualties.

By round three, there were no more second chances. In a rerun of the final in Cape Verde, the victor Wesley Brito (CPV) was up against France’s Benoît Carpentier. But Carpentier won and sent the Cape Verdean packing.

“Plenty of waves”

The semi-final saw Berzolla up against Tom Auber (FRA). In the tight heat Berzolla just got the better of Auber with the two seven-plus wave scores that were counted for his total.

In the other semi-final the all-French battle between Guénolé and Hugo Marin went down to the wire. But Guénolé’s 7.27 for one wave was enough to squeak through and end Marin’s run.

The race for the third place overall saw a relentless Marin put up solid numbers that Auber could not answer. Auber found himself adrift on the scoreboard, giving Marin the third podium spot.

The finals’ showdown was a mouthwatering prospect as Berzolla and Guénolé had earned some of the day’s highest scores in their heats. Both came out firing, working the waves with tight, carving turns.

But Guénolé’s big 7.13, followed shortly after by a 7.80, left Berzolla trailing. The American never quite recovered, even though less than half a point separated the pair in the end. Berzolla was stoked with his second place.

“This is only my second [GKA] event,” said Hawaii-based Berzolla. “The first in New Zealand was more focused on Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom. I was excited about this event because it’s wave-oriented. That’s what I love to do back home. We’ve plenty of waves on Maui. I was excited to see what I could do against the world’s best. Brazil’s been amazing.”

The next wave stop on GWA Wingfoil World Tour will be Dakhla, Morocco, in late September. Join us then.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Svetlana Romantsova

Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Brazil results

1 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
2 Cash Berzolla (USA)
3 Hugo Marin (FRA)
4 Tom Auber (FRA)

1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Moona Whyte (USA)
3 Bowien van der Linden (NED)
4 Rocio Reigert (ARG)

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