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Wingfoilers battle in iconic break for first time

Athletes stoked by chance to compete at renowned Brazilian surfing spot as action kicks off in Saquarema

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

The US’s Moona Whyte opened her account at the Copa Kitley GWA Wingfoil World Cup, hoping to make it a second double title haul at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Saquarema surf break.

A day after Hawaii-based Whyte won the Copa Kitley GWA Kite-Surf World Cup, which is being run in tandem with the wingfoil event, she advanced to the semi-final in the select women’s field.

Spain’s 16-year-old wingfoil sensation, Nia Suardiaz, also made it to the semi-final on the other side of the draw. Whyte had defeated Suardiaz in the final of the first wave stop of the GWA Wingfoil World Tour in Cape Verde, where the American also won the kite-surf event to take consecutive crowns.

Suardiaz is fresh from twin back-to-back title victories herself. She won the FreeFly-Slalom and Surf-Freestyle titles at consecutive GWA world cups in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, Spain, last week. The young Spaniard had just arrived in Rio de Janeiro, without even chance to go on the water before her heat.

“It was a long journey but I’m excited to be here in Saquarema for the second stop of the [wave] tour,” she said. “I’ve been competing in all the disciplines and I love every single one of them. I love to race. I love freestyle. And I get excited in the waves.”

“Best for lefts”

On day two of the world cup, Suardiaz found herself up against the Dutch former Surf-Freestyle world champion, Bowien van der Linden. But Suardiaz found some good waves to earn two solid scores and take the win. With only five women competing, that took her to the semi-final.

In the other heat even veteran surfer Whyte, whose wave selection is key part of her armoury, struggled in the dying breeze. But she chalked up one wave score of 3.0 that was enough to see her advance.

Earlier in the day, though, as the breeze eventually filled in to around 12 to 14 knots, it was the men who were given the first chance to compete on wingfoils at Saquarema.

France’s Clément Roseyro was one of the first on the water in the men’s opening heat, and he was excited by the prospect of competing at Saquarema ahead of his contest.

“It’s a good place for surfing, as we know from the World Surf League,” said Roseyro. “It’s good for wind, as we saw from the kite-surf. And it’s one of the best places for lefts, so it’s good for ‘goofy’ footers. It’ll be good for turns, airs, carving and showing what people have learned in the last year in the waves. Super-excited.”

“Expecting amazing rides”

In his heat Roseyro put his experience to good use to take the win with two wave scores that saw him advance to round three, though it was a tight battle with Marius Auber (FRA) and Vinnicius Martins (BRA), who live to fight again in round two.

In another first round heat, France’s Malo Guénolé, the reigning GWA Surf-Freestyle world champion, also advanced ahead of Brazilian Fernando Novaes. Before his heat he was also stoked to get the chance to wingfoil at Saquarema,.

“We’re really excited to try it out,” said Novaes. “I think maybe it will be only the tenth time anyone went winging here, so we’re super-excited to see it from the inside. We’ve been training in point breaks. But for me especially, the waves at my home spot are totally different. For sure, here we expect some amazing rides.”

If there was a surprise it came in the last men’s heat of the day when France’s Bastien Escofet overhauled his fellow countryman Benoît Carpentier, who had taken the second podium spot in Cape Verde. But Carpentier will have another chance to get his title bid back on track when the action shifts into high gear in the coming days. Join us for the battles here.

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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