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Teens double up with back-to-back Canaries wins

  • Untouchable Chris MacDonald again tops the pile of wingfoil young guns to win with remarkable display

  • Nia Suardiaz utterly dominant to take second Surf-Freestyle crown in a week at Sotavento world cup

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

The US’s Chris MacDonald and Spain’s Nia Suardiaz landed their second Surf-Freestyle crowns in a week at the end of back-to-back GWA Wingfoil World Tour stops in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Seventeen-year-old MacDonald, from Oregon’s Hood River, seems unstoppable after he charged to the final and dominated the last heat at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Fuerteventura at Sotavento.

But Spanish-Belgian rider, Jerome Cloetens, 27, was the surprise sensation of the two days of Surf-Freestyle action. Cloetens edged it over reigning Surf-Freestyle world champion, Malo Guénolé, 18, in an epic final to take the second podium place and split the teenage young guns.

Suardiaz, 16, was totally dominant again to secure the win in the four-way women’s final in Sotavento, though the Dutch former world champion, Bowien van der Linden pushed hard the keep the young Spaniard within range and took second place.

Day two of the competition saw the closing heats of the Surf-Freestyle discipline played out in gusty conditions on Sotavento’s turquoise waters that served up some kickers as the tide pushed up, a perfect playground for the wingfoil athletes.

Formidable trio

The closing three days of the event, where the GWA is making its debut at the historic Fuerteventura World Cup as it stages its 35th edition, will be devoted to the FreeFly-Slalom discipline where 40 men and 11 women will battle for glory.

But the second day of the competition was filled with drama as the Surf-Freestyle action reached its finale. Inevitably there were upsets as some of the biggest names were dumped out by some of the youngest riders.

A partial rerun of one heat after a scoring error saw Italy’s Francesco Cappuzzo’s contest ended by one of the youngest riders in the competition. Luca Vuillermet, 14, came out firing when the last two tricks were rerun,  scoring 8.63 for an innovation trick that helped him overhaul Cappuzzo’s total and go to the semi-finals along with France’s Alan Fedit.

But in one semi-final Vuillermet came up against the formidable trio of Cloetens, Bastien Escofet, and Chris MacDonald. Vuillermet landed a Frontside 10 for 9.07 that took his heat total to 31.57 out of a possible 40, beating Escofet’s score. But MacDonald and Cloetens were too strong, though it was a close call for the Belgian and he was relieved.

“The heat was getting tighter and tighter because Luca [Vuillermet] was ripping,” said Cloetens. “When he threw that 900 [trick] I thought I really need to stay focused. It was the most fun heat of the whole event. I felt so comfortable out there. I was just in a state of flow. I landed almost every trick, so I just really enjoyed that.”


The other semi-final was a battle of the Frenchmen. Alan Fedit found himself up against a trio of teenagers, Guénolé, the finalist in Pozo Izquierdo last week, Axel Gerard, 15, and Noé Cuyala, also 15.

Fedit ended the heat in last place by a fine margin, even though he had started strongly with an 8.53 from 10 for a Combo Frontside 7. Gerard topped the heat with a score that included an 8.55 for a Frontside 10 that took him to the final with Guénolé, who was just half a point behind.

Cloetens was definitely the odd-man-out in the four-berth final with MacDonald, Guénolé and Gerard. But in his first final, professional kiteboarder Cloetens, was not fazed and began steadily building his heat score with clean and powered One-Handed Back Flips and Toeside tricks that kept him in contention.

Despite an 8.83 for a Frontside 10, Gerard could not quite put it together. Even MacDonald  seemed a little off as he tried to assemble four good trick scores from nine attempts. He missed his trademark Frontside 10 twice before stomping one for 9.27 that helped him get his nose in front and take the win.

“I’m really stoked to get two in a row,” said MacDonald afterwards. “Fuerte was nothing but challenging, but we made it work. It was tough during the heats, so it was an awesome final. It finally feels like my hard work is paying off. That’s crazy.”

Cagey final

Guénolé had opened his final strongly with a Back Flip Frontside 3, but crashed his last two trick attempts as he tried to land a Back Flip-to-Back Flip Combo that he had managed the day before in practice. That left the door open for Cloetens who landed a Radiculo 7 on his last trick to top Guénolé by just 0.11 of a point.

In the women’s draw Bowien van der Linden (NED) and Orane Ceris (FRA) had powered through their semi-final with big scores. The New Caledonia-based Ceris took a commanding lead with several big tricks that included a Back Flip.

“I’m super-happy,” said Ceris afterwards. “I think I did my best heat of the week and maybe the best heat of my life. I landed a new trick and now I’m in the final.”

The final was a cagey affair studded with crashes. New-comer Viola Lippitsch (AUT) could not quite match the firepower and consistency of the other riders. Ceris seemed to struggle after landing her customary, early Back Flip for a big 8.63. Van der Linden built a steady if unspectacular heat that earned her second place.

But it was Suardiaz who showed the way. She put some good numbers on the board, like 6.0 for Frontside 3, but then crashed several trick attempts. She kept her composure, though, and earned 7.07 for a Combo and landed her own Back Flip for an 8.03 that was enough to give her victory.

“I’m extremely happy to have won the fifth competition of the GWA here in Fuerte,” said Suardiaz. “My heat went really good. I landed all the tricks I wanted to land I’m extremely happy and so thankful to my sponsors and for my family being here.”

On day three it will be over to the FreeFly-Slalom discipline. Join us here for all the action.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Fuerteventura results

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

Surf-Freestyle Men

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

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