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Young freestylers throw down gauntlet in Gran Canaria

GWA Surf-Freestyle tour stop opens with a bang in Pozo Izquierdo as wingfoil athletes throw down clutch world competition firsts

GWA Wingfoil World Cup Gran Canaria
Pozo Izquierdo, 11–16 July, 2023

Teenage wingfoil stars, Chris MacDonald and Malo Guénolé, threw down the gauntlet to their seasoned rivals in the opening clashes of the GWA Wingfoil World Cup on Gran Canaria, Spain.

The US’s MacDonald, 17, and France’s Guénolé, 18, came out firing at the third stop of the GWA Wingfoil World Tour’s Surf-Freestyle discipline, putting down a marker and showing they meant business.

MacDonald, the U19 GWA Youth Surf-Freestyle world champion, advanced in the contest  with one of the highest heat scores on the first day of competition. A perfect 10 for a remarkable Frontside 1080 was twinned with a 9.07 for a Frontflip-Frontside 3 Combo.

Reigning GWA Surf-Freestyle world champion, Guénolé, racked up an even larger heat total of 26.47, the day’s biggest. His tricks included several world competition firsts, including 9.60 for a Backflip 360, and a Tack Frontside 7.

Tailor-made conditions

Only Bastien Escofet (FRA), the GWA FreeFly-Slalom tour leader after two stops, seemed to have the tricks in his locker that might answer the teenagers’ challenge. Escofet scored nine-plus for one of several 1080’s he threw down.

“I’ve just got out of the water,” said Escofet. “I did two 1080s, but only one of them scored. I did a few innovation [tricks] as well, and I’m happy to go through [to the next round]. My equipment is working awesomely in this strong wind. The wings are perfect and controlled. Perfect for the 10s.”

Day one of the six-day competition, the first time the GWA has staged an event at the renowned spot of Gran Canaria’s Pozo Izquierdo, opened with tailor-made conditions.

The wind was blowing at more than 30 knots throughout the day, teamed with kickers that were ideal ramps for the 28 men from 10 nations battling in the Surf-Freestyle discipline. Most of the men were using wings little bigger than 3m2.

Upsets and surprises

But the honour of taking to the water first went to the exciting new Big Air wingfoil discipline. The big breezes and kickers were perfect for takeoff as the 15 men trialled the new format in four qualification heats. At the conclusion men’s and women’s Big Air world champions will be crowned in Pozo Izquierdo.

As the thrilling action ramped up, it generated more than a few upsets and surprises. One biggest came in first heat of round three when the Danish 12-year-old, Benjamin Castenskiold, got the better of Xavi Corr (ESP) and Lilian Juppet (FRA).

From the three tricks to count out of a total of seven attempts, Castenskiold put three solid seven-plus scores on the board and advanced straight to round five. Corr, 16, was just 0.37 points adrift from his young rival, but he and Juppet must battle for survival in round four.

Another upset came in the form of Spain’s Ancor Sosa, 15, when he beat Benjamin May (GER). Again their scores were super-tight with just 0.53 separating the pair. But May lives to fight again in round four.

Germany’s Alan Fedit tops the Surf-Freestyle tour rankings after two stops, but he had to be on his game to see off the challenges of the French 15-year-olds, Axel Gerard and Clément Hamon. Fedit sealed the deal with three eight-plus scores that included a big Combo.

Tops leaderboard

Even as Bastien Escofet showed his prowess, he was pushed hard in his day’s last heat by Spain’s Jerome Cloetens, who accumulated a strong total with three seven-plus scores for several Combinations—back-to-back tricks—that the judges liked.

But it fell to the veteran watermen Balz Müller (SUI) and Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA) to ramp up the tension when they faced off in a heat alongside Chucho Nonnot (NED).  Müller and Cappuzzo went trick-for-trick in a fight that went down to the wire.

Müller pulled the trick he coined, the Radiculo, to earn 8.30 from the judges. But he had to watch as his rival Cappuzzo threw exactly the same trick and the took win to go to round five.

Little could dampen Müller’s infectious enthusiasm, as was obvious when he spoke before the competition started.

“My first time here in Pozo,” said Müller. “It’s absolutely nuts. Look at this playground out there. It’s crazy. I’m kind-of scared; a bit nervous. I’m definitely super, super excited for the insane wingfoil competition coming up. What I’ve seen in the past sessions on the water is absolutely mind-blowing. Everyone is going through the roof. This sport is going through the roof.”

On day two we are set to begin the FreeFly-Slalom action. Join us live here for all the excitement.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Lukas K Stiller

Spot Info: Pozo Izquierdo, Gran Canaria

The weather in Gran Canaria, Spain, during July ranges around 25-30 degrees Celsius with sunrise around 07:15 and sunset at 21:00.

Wind and water
Gran Canaria enjoys great wind in July. Pozo Izquierdo is famous for its strong winds. The wind regularly blows 30+ knots, with gusts up to 40+ knots. The wind direction is from the north/north-east, blowing onshore at Pozo Izquierdo Beach. The strong wind creates decent chop and some wind swell that can break on the reef at low tide. The water temperature is 23-24C, so a shorty or summer wetsuit is a good idea.

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