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Young wingfoil winners lift crowns in the Canaries

Big slate of up-and-coming athletes engage in thrilling battles to claim world titles in Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom

GWA Youth Wingfoil World Championships La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
29 June-2 July, 2023

The GWA has a host of new young stars who claimed their titles after four days of thrilling action at the Youth Wingfoil World Championships fought out against the dramatic volcanic backdrop of La Palma, in the Canary Islands.

One of the biggest performances came from 17-year-old Chris MacDonald (USA), who landed the Men’s U19 Surf-Freestyle crown with a remarkable outing that was enough to take down France’s Malo Guénolé, the current senior Surf-Freestyle world champion.

MacDonald was in a league of his own, scoring a perfect 10 for a Frontside 1080 in the final against Guénolé, who did not seem to have any answers. Guénolé, 18, consoled himself with the crown for the Men’s U19 FreeFly-Slalom, where he dominated, winning five from eight elimination rounds.

If anything, though, Spain’s Nia Suardiaz was even more dominant. She won all eight elimination rounds to take the Women’s U19 FreeFly-Slalom crown. The 16-year-old phenom had already bagged the Women’s U19 Surf-Freestyle title.

Hammerhead shark

Thirty-five young athletes from nine nations around the globe journeyed to La Palma with the hope of being crowned in the Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom divisions in the U14, U16 or U19 age groups.

The FreeFly-Slalom battles opened and closed the action on days one and four of the competition. The opening day saw lighter breezes with the result that the course was moved slightly further offshore, though the young athletes mastered the tricky conditions.

The closing, day four, saw a different and sometimes difficult slalom course. Each of the courses had a challenging pump track where the athletes cannot use the power of the wing. A visit from a harmless hammerhead shark swimming alongside the track also caused some excitement and not a little consternation among the young athletes.

Sparring partners

Britain’s Leon Schiel won the Boys’ U14 FreeFly-Slalom title, taking five elimination rounds from eight and shading it ahead of Ezio Bastianelli (FRA) and Benjamin Castenskiold, from Denmark.

France’s Axel Gerard took eight wins from eight rounds to land the Boys’ U16 FreeFly-Slalom title, seeing off challenges from his sparring partners and compatriots, Clément Hamon and Mahe Thébault.

In the Women’s U19 FreeFly-Slalom, Spain’s Suardiaz had to contend with the US’s Lily Buden and France’s Enoha Laurent. But the teenage Spaniard was just too quick and consistent.

It was the same story in the Women’s U19 Surf-Freestyle competition and the same outcome. Suardiaz topped the podium, with Buden taking the second step and Laurent the third.

Role reversal

The Boys’ U14 Surf-Freestyle, which played out alongside the women’s U19 contest on day two in about 20 knots, saw the roles reversed from the FreeFly-Slalom. This time Ezio Bastianelli got the better of Leon Schiel, who is one to watch even as he hopes to focus on wave riding.

The Boys’ U16 Surf-Freestyle saw the same role reversal, though this one was even more surprising. Clément Hamon bested Axel Gerard on day three, with about 25 knots of breeze providing kickers to boost off.

Gerard had landed the Frontside 1080 earlier in the competition.  But in the super-tight final Hamon edged it by less than half a point to take the crown.

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas

GWA Youth Wingfoil World Championships 2023 results

Boys’ U14 Surf-Freestyle
1 Ezio Bastianelli (FRA)
2 Leon Schiel (GBR)
3 Benjamin Castenskiold (DEN)

Boys’ U14 FreeFly-Slalom
1 Leon Schiel (GBR)
2 Ezio Bastianelli (FRA)
3 Benjamin Castenskiold (DEN)

Boys’ U16 Surf-Freestyle
1 Clément Hamon (FRA)
2 Axel Gerard (FRA)
3 Luca Vuillermet (FRA)

Boys’ U16 FreeFly-Slalom
1 Axel Gerard (FRA)
2 Clément Hamon (FRA)
3 Mahe Thébault (FRA)

Men’s U19 Surf-Freestyle
1 Chris MacDonald (USA)
2 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
3 Noé Cuyala (FRA)

Men’s U19 FreeFly-Slalom
1 Malo Guénolé (FRA)
2 Martin Tieles (ESP)
3 Noé Cuyala (FRA)

Women’s U19 Surf-Freestyle
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Lily Buden (USA)
3 Enoha Laurent (FRA)

Women’s U19 FreeFly-Slalom
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Lily Buden (USA)
3 Enoha Laurent (FRA)

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