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Wingfoil athletes set for title face-off in Denmark

by Ian MacKinnon 3 Sep 23:56 PDT 3-9 September 2023
GWA Wingfoil World Cup © Lukas K Stiller

The planet's best wingfoil athletes are primed for battle on the North Sea at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Denmark, where four world titles could be decided in the coming days.

The tour leaders in the Surf-Freestyle discipline, Spain's Nia Suardiaz, 16, and the US's Chris MacDonald, 17, could land the crowns with wins at the western Danish fishing town of Hvide Sande.

The remarkable Suardiaz could also secure the FreeFly-Slalom title if she triumphs in the discipline at the world cup event, which is the focal point of the watersports' Waterz Festival that has been staged in Hvide Sande for more than a decade.

The men's FreeFly-Slalom discipline leader, France's Titouan Galea, could also close out a world title with a victory in Denmark, though he would be relying on his closest rivals Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA) and Bastian Escofet (FRA) finishing fourth or worse.

Most of the competitors—34 men and 11 women from 14 countries around the world—took the opportunity on registration day to get in some last-minute training in the onshore breezes blowing on to Hvide Sande's picturesque dunes.

"Going for it"

The FreeFly-Slalom discipline has just one stop on the GWA Wingfoil World Tour remaining after Hvide Sande, which will allow riders a single discard. Surf-Freestyle has two further stops, which would give MacDonald and Suardiaz two discards and put them in pole position for world titles.

The Spanish teenager Suardiaz looks unbeatable after securing the win in both disciplines in consecutive world cup events in the Canaries in July. But former world champion, Bowien van der Linden (NED), has not given up hope.

"The only way I can beat [Nia Suardiaz] this year is if I win all three of the next [Surf-Freestyle] events," said Van der Linden. "So, of course I'm going for it. But she's really good and she deserves it. So, I'm fighting for second spot. But it would great to take an event win this year."

A fast-rising young athlete, Viola Lippitsch, 15, has been wingfoiling for just a year and is learning quickly from her seasoned rivals.

"I'm feeling pretty good and pretty comfortable here," said Lippitsch. "I know I've come up really fast, but I hope it stays like this. It's a big challenge with all the good riders here. But it's great to be on the water with them and learn from them. It helps me a lot."

"Nothing to lose"

Reigning Surf-Freestyle world champion, Malo Guénolé, 18, has been in Hvide Sande training for several days. He is relishing the conditions and is up for the fight against his good friend and rival, MacDonald.

"We trained for six or seven hours yesterday and the conditions were nearly perfect," said Guénolé. "Some nice waves and not super-strong wind, but still fun. The conditions in the Canaries were very different—super-strong. The top five riders are very close in terms of level. Each does one thing, or another, better. As far as Chris [MacDonald] is concerned, it motivates me. I've nothing to lose, and he has a lot to lose. So I'm just going to go 'full send'."

One of the youngest competitors, France's Luca Vuillermet, 14, fresh from a Surf-Freestyle semi-final place in Fuerteventura, is again eyeing a high finish in Hvide Sande.

"I'm hoping to get top five," said Vuillermet, who has been given special permission to be away from school in Santa Monica, California, to compete. "It's amazing to be here with the veterans of the sport and the other young guns like Chris MacDonald. It's super-fun."

We will not have Livestream at Hvide Sande, but follow all the action here.

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