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Wingfoil world cup poised for finals’ showdown

Repeat of women’s wave encounter after difficult day when fickle breezes again teased the athletes

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

The women’s final at the Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be another showdown between US veteran, Moona Whyte, and the Spanish teenage star, Nia Suardiaz.

The adversaries battled their way through compact field of women on day nine of the competition after the race director opted to try a new location in the quest for better wind and waves as time runs short in the 12-day contest window.

But despite a promising start when the men in the Copa Kitley Kite-Surf World Cup, which is being run in tandem with the GWA event, were able to ride comfortably, the breeze was tricky and fickle.

Still, the day’s opening men’s wingfoil world cup heat between Noé Cuyala (FRA), Cash Berzolla (USA) and Theo Demanez (FRA) was was a hard-fought affair. Berzolla came out on top with tight carving and a 360 with a cutback that was too strong for his rivals.

Yet an attempt to continue the men’s round one with heat six between Julien Rattotti (FRA), Hendrick Lopes (SUI) and the Spanish 16-year-old Xavi Corr failed when the wind dropped during the battle and it was cancelled.

Trashed form books

The Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup Rio is the second stop of a slated three in the pure surfing world championship. Whyte defeated Suardiaz at the opening stop in Cape Verde’s Ponta Preta.

Whyte, who has already taken the win in the Copa Kitley Kite-Surf World Cup, will be keen to repeat her success when she faces Suardiaz, just 16. But the young Spaniard has trashed the form books to win repeated Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom events this year.

Suardiaz had already opened her account earlier in the contest when she convincingly defeated former world champion, Bowien van der Linden (NED) in the first heat.

On day nine Whyte found herself up against Rocio Reigert (ARG) and Laeticia Nakiri (BRA). But Hawaii-based Whyte used all her experience in the surf to make light work of her rivals.

Brazil’s Nakiri was again on the receiving end of an on fire Van der Linden who got another chance for survival in round two. The Dutchwoman easily progressed to the semi-final, where she found herself up against Whyte, who trains on her native North Shore of Oahu.

“Already getting better”

It was quite a clash in the knee-to-waist high waves in 12 to 13 knots of breeze. In the difficult conditions both racked up reasonable scores in the 14-minute heat, but Whyte edged it by just 0.07 of a point to earn her place in the final. Van der Linden was sanguine about her loss.

“On the one hand, it’s tough because you really want to be in the final,” said Van der Linden. “But on the other hand Moona [Whyte] is such a good wave rider. She has a lot of experience, so it’s cool to be in a heat against her and nearly getting to the final.

“In the last semi-final [in Cape Verde] I was against her also and I lost by much more. So I’m already getting better. I hope [at the next wave world cup] in Dakhla, I can finally beat her.”

In the other semi-final there were no close calls. Suardiaz comprehensively overhauled the Argentinian Reigert with a heat total of 9.44 that sees her clear into the final.

But the wind refused to play ball and dropped shortly afterwards.  The mouth-watering prospect of another match-up between Suardiaz and Whyte will have to wait for the coming days, with the wingfoil athletes released until Thursday. Join us here for all the action when we return.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Svetlana Romantsova

Event information

  • Location: Praia de Itaúna, Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro
  • Dates: 31 July — 11 August
  • The official Race Notice and event schedule can be found here.
  • All event information here.

Spot Info: Saquarema, Rio de Janiero
Saquarema is a town to the east of Rio de Janeiro. It is renowned to have some of the best surf in Brazil and hosted a World Surf League tour stop in 2022. But it is often neglected by locals from Rio who travel further afield to explore other breaks. It may owe its reputation as a surf spot to the 60’s and 70’s, as it was one of the first places that surfers from Rio explored outside of the city.

Praia de Itaúna
Itaúna is stretch of beach to the east of the old church. A channel runs runs out from the natural lagoon. The east end has a rock shelf. Uncharacteristically for Rio surf, the sandy bottom can maintain big swells that keep their shape. The wave is generally a long left with hollow sections. But it can break right on occasions depending on the conditions. The waves can be chest to head-high and above.

August is winter in Brazil, with dry weather throughout most of the country. On the coastline around Rio de Janeiro, and in the city centre, the weather is pleasant with daytime temperatures around 21-27C and 18-21C in the evenings.

During August the main wind directions in Saquarema are from north-east, side-offshore, or south-west, side-onshore, with 15-20 knots depending on winter weather systems passing by.

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