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Winners crowned after epic Danish clashes

  • Spain’s Nia Suardiaz lands first world title after Surf-Freestyle triumph in Hvide Sande

  • Malo Guénolé keeps himself in the hunt to retain championship crown with big victory

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Denmark 2023
Hvide Sande, 03—09 September

The Spanish teenager Nia Suardiaz clinched her first Surf-Freestyle world championship crown with a victory at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Denmark, fought out amid the stunning backdrop of Hvide Sande’s dunes.

The 16-year-old wingfoil phenom has swept all before her this year and closed out the title even as two Surf-Freestyle stops still remain on the GWA Wingfoil World Tour.

“It feels amazing to become world champion in Surf-Freestyle here,” said Suardiaz. “This was my goal since last year. I didn’t get it last year. I was second. I have been training a lot and my focus was way more on getting first. I was a bit nervous before the final, because I knew I’d be world champion if I won. So, I’m super-stoked.”

France’s reigning Surf-Freestyle world champion, Malo Guénolé, 18,  kept himself in the race to retain his world title after his win in Hvide Sande. It was his first Surf-Freestyle victory since he clinched the crown, though he secured a Wave win in Rio de Janeiro last month.

“I’m pretty stoked because it’s my first Surf-Freestyle win since Taiba [Brazil], when I won in the final last year,” said Guénolé. “It’s also my second win in a row on the GWA tour. This is called Surf-Freestyle. But it’s the first time this year that we’ve had surf. I’ve been surfing since I was young. So, I think I can figure out where the waves are best.

Seized their chance

The teenage duo seized their chance on day one of the world cup in Hvide Sande, which began shortly after daybreak because of concerns that the coming days’ forecasted lack of wind could prove difficult for the Surf-Freestyle contest.

The select women’s fleet of 10 athletes were first on the water. After a brief break when the wind dropped, the race director elected to change the format. With some small surf, one wave and one trick were the counting scores, altering the playing field.

But the usual suspects were able to tailor their game to the new conditions. In the first semi-final former world champion, Bowien van der Linden (NED), booked a place in the final. The Dutchwoman got the better of her old foe, New Caledonia-based Orane Ceris (FRA), who went on to take the third podium spot.

“I feel super-stoked because it wasn’t so easy,” said Ceris. “Normally, we would just have three tricks, but this was one trick and one wave score. I wasn’t super-ready for that as I don’t know how to surf. But I’m happy.”

In the second semi-final, France’s Kylie Belloeuvre gave Suardiaz a bit of a scare when the young Spaniard won the heat by less than one point. Suardiaz’s Toeside Frontside 5 had tipped the balance in her favour.

“Mixed emotions”

The first attempt to run the final between Suardiaz and Van der Linden failed when some riders encroached on the competition box and it had to be rerun. Suardiaz’s wave score and, coincidentally, identical Frontside 3, both earned higher scores and gave her the win over Van der Linden.

“I feel good; excited with my second place,” said Van der Linden. “It went really good in the final. I gave my all and it was really close. So I’m happy with my performance. It was a day of mixed emotions. Everything was a bit mixed up. We had two finals, so, we had a bit of extra practice.”

The tricky conditions in faltering breezes caused a few upsets, with the unexpected early exit in the quarter-finals of recent finalist, France’s Axel Gerard, 15, and the Swiss legend, Balz Müller.

But the semi-finals were taught affairs. The all-French battle between Alan Fedit and Bastien Escofet was tight. Fedit opened with 7.67 from 10 for his signature Corkscrew Frontside 7, that put his rival on the back foot. But Escofet’s 8.20 for a wave near the end gave him the win and a place in the final.

The second semi was a rematch between close friends, Guénolé and Chris MacDonald (USA). Guénolé’s big 8.57 wave score was the telling factor that avenged several recent finals’ defeats at the hands of the 17-year-old American.

Blistering form

MacDonald’s blistering form this year had put him on course for the Surf-Freestyle world title if he won in Hvide Sande. But his wave riding proved his weakness. He was also pipped by Fedit in the run-off for the third podium place.

“I’m super-happy because I’ve trained for the last three months in super-strong winds in the Canaries,” said Fedit. “Now I’m back on a 5m2 wing. It’s big and and heavy. But I managed to make the podium.”

The deciding heat was a banger between an in-form Guénolé and Escofet, who had a stellar run to his first world cup final. Escofet’s One-Handed Back Flip for 6.87 and strong wave score ensured both remained close on the scoreboard.

But it was again Guénolé’s wave selection and riding that did the damage, landing the highest score of the day, 8.60. A massive Frontside 7 for 8.33 at the heat’s end put the matter to rest and sealed Escofet’s runner-up spot, though he was delighted with his place.

“It’s my first-time ever in a final on the world tour,” said Escofet. “So I’m stoked about that. I was super-happy we secured waves, the first this year. The conditions were firing. The wind was a bit light but the waves so fun and so good. I’m really super-stoked.”

Tune in for the FreeFly-Slalom action in the coming days here.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Denmark 2023 results

Men’s Surf-Freestyle
1 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
2 Bastien Escofet (FRA)
3 Alan Fedit (FRA)
4 Chris MacDonald (USA)

Women’s Surf-Freestyle
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Bowien van der Linden (NED)
3 Orane Ceris (FRA)
4 Kylie Belloeurvre (FRA)

Spot info: Hvide Sande

Hvide Sande is a town in central western Denmark, set among the Holmsland dunes. It is focused on an artificial canal that joins Ringkjøbing fjord with the North Sea. It has two cable parks and a kite school. One of the biggest attractions is climbing up the Lyngvig lighthouse to take in the spectacular views of the flatlands around Hvide Sande.

Hvide Sande has a northern European climate, so weather conditions are rather mild in August. The air temperature during day can be between 20°C at the highest temperatures, and the lowest of 11°C. The water temperature of the North Sea is around 16°C, so bringing a wetsuit, and a jacket is recommended. Sunrise is 06.30h and sunset is 20.30h.

Wind direction is westerly winds blowing 15-35 knots, which are onshore at the spot. Easterly winds can also blow around 12-25 knots, which are offshore at the spot.

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