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Leucate hosts the first GWA Wingfoil event for the Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom disciplines

by Holly Keenan 9 Apr 07:11 PDT 6-14 April 2024
GWA Wingfoil World Cup France 2024 © Samuel Cárdenas

Leucate is once again hosting the first GWA event for the Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom disciplines.

Yesterday marked the first day of competition at the GWA Wingfoil World Cup Leucate, heralding the debut of riders onto the grand stage to showcase their latest manoeuvres and skills honed during the off-season. With 41 men and 17 women participating in the Mondial du Vent, competitors from around the world have convened for this esteemed event. This is the 27th year of the Mondial du Vent, and we are thrilled to once again be back at this optimal wingfoil location.

The riders have a busy schedule this year with eight GWA Wingfoil events currently lined up. The GWA Wingfoil World Cup Leucate is the first event for Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom discipline with a fresh start; the riders have the opportunity to establish their points from scratch.

New FreeFly-Slalom format

This year, the GWA FreeFly-Slalom discipline introduces a fresh format adjustment. Instead of the previous maximum of 15 elimination rounds, the judges have opted for just four elimination rounds.

The event ranking involves four regular elimination rounds where one worst performance is discarded, followed by the final elimination, which only allows a limited number of competitors to participate.

After the four eliminations, competitors are ranked based on points using the FreeFly-Slalom scoring rules.

The top 13 male and top six female foilers qualify for the final round.

The super finals will consist of only four riders: the two winners of the quarterfinals and the two winners of the semifinals. While this alteration promises heightened excitement for spectators, as they know the first to cross the line in the finals is the winner of the whole competition, it also amplifies the pressure on riders in the final rounds, leaving no room for mistakes.

Pressure is on

Last year's FreeFly-Slalom winner, Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA), shares his thoughts on this new format introduced by the judges: "I am really keen to see how this new final format will play out. I am part of the GWA technical committee so it is interesting for me to know how the format will perform. For sure, there is more tension because it is something new. However, I will stay focused as always and try to win as many races as possible."

Cappuzzo's biggest rival of the FreeFly-Slalom discipline, Titouan Galea (FRA), is also feeling the heat with this new format. The New Caledonian wingfoil sensation was the first wingfoil world champion ever to be crowned and arguably is one of the most experienced and technical riders in this discipline.

"For the public, this new format will be much more exciting. With the old FreeFly-Slalom format, we had numerous discards and many races, so the positions were not changing much. But now the format is much riskier; we must take care in these final heats. You cannot afford to lose any race if you want to win the event."

Surf-Freestyle discipline

The forecast promises optimum conditions for the captivating Surf-Freestyle discipline with powerful 40-knot Tramontana winds set to unleash from Tuesday onwards. The Surf-Freestyle discipline boasts a formidable line-up with 28 men and 17 women set to compete.

In the men's Surf-Freestyle discipline, we have a diverse mix of competitors in contention for the win. Previous Surf-Freestyle winner Malo Guénolé (FRA) is looking more ferocious than ever, landing new handle-pass manoeuvres and one-foot board-offs during the off-season.

The prodigy Chris MacDonald (USA) will also be one to watch as he was recently the first to land the double backflip combo. Judges will be looking out for these kinds of trick variations, rewarding those riders who can make smooth links between the two tricks.

Making a comeback

On the women's side, the Spanish shredder Nia Suardiaz (ESP) is the current reigning Surf-Freestyle and FreeFly-Slalom world champion and has appeared unbeatable in previous events. Orane Ceris (FRA) took a close second in the FreeFly-Slalom last year but after tearing her ACL knee ligament, she was unable to put on her best show for the final Surf-Freestyle event of 2023 in Brazil.

Nevertheless, Ceris is here to battle it out in the FreeFly-Slalom discipline and Holly Keenan caught up with her to see how she was feeling after having her knee surgery only three months ago.

"I am feeling super good," said Ceris. "I am not putting must pressure on myself for this event and I won't be competing in freestyle as it is too early for this so I will only be competing in FreeFly-Slalom as this event. I want to enjoy this event as much as I can and get some confidence in my riding."

Mellow conditions for days one and two

The first day of competition did not deliver enough wind to start the FreeFly-Slalom discipline but the riders made the most out of the wavy conditions and showcased some impressive moves on the surf-foil.

The forecast bodes well for the upcoming days, with the famously robust Tramontana winds expected to howl over the next few days. Get ready for the action to unfold. Be sure to stay tuned to our social media page and live scoring for all the latest updates.

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