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

Tight battles as FreeFly-Slalom kicks-off in Fuerte

Victors at first of consecutive Canaries world cup stops on course to repeat success as they open accounts at Sotavento

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

France’s Titouan Galea and the Spanish teenager Nia Suardiaz stamped their authority on the FreeFly-Slalom battles as they opened their accounts at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup in Spain’s Fuerteventura.

The pair topped the standings after the first day of racing at Playa Sotavento, picking up where the left off a week ago when they won the FreeFly-Slalom crowns at Pozo Izquierdo, on neighbouring Gran Canaria.

But, as in Pozo Izquierdo, the veteran racer Galea did not have it all his own way. It was only in the last race of the day that he got his nose in front on the leaderboard when he secured a vital win.

By contrast Suardiaz, 16, fresh from landing the Surf-Freestyle crown in the world cup, was untouchable. She chalked up a perfect score from the women’s seven races, giving her a commanding lead.

Day three at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup saw the opening exchanges in the FreeFly-Slalom discipline after two epic days of action when the Surf-Freestyle champions were crowned. The GWA is making its debut at the Fuerteventura World Cup as it holds its 35th edition.

“Super-comfortable”

The 40 men and 10 women were battling on the FreeFly-Slalom course set just off Sotavento beach, competing in gusty breezes that varied wildly, from 15 to 30 knots, blowing over the idyllic turquoise waters.

The tricky starboard-bias course with 11 legs, including a “triangle” and a long FreeFly pump track, favoured “goofy” riders. But on the coming two days of racing, the courses will vary to also favour “regular” riders. The plan is to stage eight or nine elimination rounds for the men, and 15 for the compact women’s fleet.

Italy’s Francesco Cappuzzo came out of the blocks fast, apparently keen to set the record straight after he was beaten into second place in Gran Canaria by Galea. Cappuzzo won the first race and the first elimination round of the day and was delighted.

“It’s pretty flat, but there are some bumps,” said Cappuzzo. “But maybe because of the wind I’m managing pretty good at the pumping. The first [elimination] round was super-good; super-comfortable with every one quite far apart. It’s just an incredible level. I was scared from the first heat. I was thinking it’s already a final, so when I got to the final I’d trained to win.”

Costly error

But during the second elimination round Cappuzzo made a costly error during his semi-final heat, coming off the foil in the pump section, which kept him out of the final. That meant he finished well down the order and will be hoping for a discard after four races that will allow him to throw out the poor score.

France’s Bastien Escofet, the FreeFly-Slalom tour leader going into the first of the Canaries’ stops, capitalised on his rival’s error. Escofet managed to hold of stiff challenges from Galea, Alan Fedit (FRA) and the Venezuelan windsurfing legend, Jose “Gollito” Estredo. Escofet was pleased with his win that keeps him in a good position in third place on the leaderboard.

“I had kind-of a bad start,” said Escofet. “I was late, but everyone was later. I started to get some speed, but Titouan [Galea] came back in the pumping section and was pretty close to me. But it was good. The starboard-oriented course is good for me, it’s fun.”

Galea only got faster as the day went on. He took a third, then a second and finally the win ahead of Cappuzzo, Fedit and Escofet to go top of the leaderboard. Yet he knows from experience everything is still to play for.

Sheer pace

In the women’s contest none of Suardiaz’s rivals seemed to have any answers to her sheer pace and assured racing, that saw her lead every one from start to finish. She rarely seemed troubled, though she thought the flat water trickier than the course in Pozo Izquierdo.

“It’s a little bit more difficult [here in Sotavento],” said Suardiaz. “We don’t have the waves for the pumping. But I’m super-happy to see how it goes for the next races.”

Join us again here for more FreeFly-Slalom action on day four.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Fuerteventura 2023
FreeFly-Slalom

Men (standings after 3 elimination rounds, 0 discards)
1 Titouan Galea (FRA) 5.7pts
2 Alan Fedit (FRA) 8.0pts
3 Bastien Escofet (FRA) 9.7pts
4 Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA) 13.7pts

Women (standings after 7 elimination rounds, 2 discards)
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP) 3.5pts
2 Orane Ceris (FRA) 11pts
3 Flora Artzner (FRA) 12pts
4 Kylie Belouvre (FRA)16pts

Image for Winners crowned in epic Cape Verde waves

Winners crowned in epic Cape Verde waves

Spain's Elena Moreno stages big upset to defeat world champion Moona Whyte as Malo Guénolé turns the tables to beat Cash Berzolla in drama-packed final

Read this article
Image for Wave champions set to open title defence

Wave champions set to open title defence

Athletes gear up for return to Cape Verde’s legendary break in repeat of ground-breaking surfing competition that raised the wingfoil bar

Read this article
Image for First wingfoil world title ‘changed my life’

First wingfoil world title ‘changed my life’

Cape Verdean Wesley Brito's 'tough' road to maiden wingfoil Wave crown heralds exciting innovations to come

Read this article
Image for Tour win inspires Moona Whyte to ‘push’ more

Tour win inspires Moona Whyte to ‘push’ more

Hawaii-based surfer lands remarkable double by clinching first-ever wingfoil Wave world title

Read this article