ROUND ONE: GWA WING FOIL WORLD CUP LEUCATE
After an epic barrage of action, in the end 129 surf-freestyle and surf-slalom heats were crammed into three action packed days and winners of both disciplines were crowned on Sunday in Leucate.
The 25th Mondial du Vent will go down as a huge success for the sport of wingfoiling and this first round gets the GWA Wingfoil World Tour 2022 season off to an amazing start.
BALZ MULLER (CHE) V ‘GOLLITO’ ESTREDO (VEN)
Sunday’s grand finale of the GWA Wingfoil World Cup France saw two rivals from the world of professional freestyle windsurfing battle it out for the top spot on the podium.
DAY SIX: MEN’S SURF-FREESTYLE
The competition resumed mid-Sunday morning with four heats left to complete in round four, which catapulted rapidly by as the Tramontana winds continued to build.
Windsurfing, kitesurfing and now wingfoiling pro, Francesco Cappuzzo from Italy, had his game face on today, knocking out the vastly experienced freestyle, kiteboarding competitor, Stefan Spiessberger in round four. Cappuzzo eventually came off second best in the semi-final in a very close battle with RRD teammate, Golito Estredo, who would go on to the final to meet Balz Muller; the two having met many times before in freestyle windsurfing, with the Venezuelan having won each and every one of those battles.
A mouthwatering match-up took to the water in round four when new kid on the block, 16-year-old Christopher Macdonald (USA) put on an incredible display of committed, powerful wingfoiling to successfully overcome F-One team mate, and reigning World Champion, Titouan Galea!
The two riders set out matching each other trick for trick, but Macdonald had his mission plan locked in and looked as fluid as he could ever have hoped for, nailing extra height and clean landings!
Sadly for the teen, the American could not keep up his winning streak and was unfortunately knocked out in the the quarter finals by Venezuelan Golito Estredo.
French rider Camille Bouyer has been incredibly impressive all event. As well as being locked in a super tight tussle with Titouan in the Surf-Slalom discipline, he despatched his countryman Malo Guenole here in the Surf-Freestyle, peaking his individual trick score with a massive 8.87 for a frontside seven – currently the big money move on tour if ridden successfully away from.
Camille was humbled soon after by Balz in the semis who had previous overcome another emerging talent at this event, Gregorio Pugliesi in the quarters. However, the full extent of Muller’s mastery was yet to be revealed…
Wing Foil World Cup Leucate Finals
MEN’S SURF-FREESTYLE FINAL
BALZ MÜLLER (CHE) V ‘GOLLITO’ ESTREDO (VEN)
The grand finale of the GWA Wingfoil World Cup France saw two rivals from the world of professional freestyle windsurfing battle it out for the top spot on the podium.
Up to that moment, Müller, 28, had never managed to defeat the 9 x Freestyle Windsurfing World Champion, Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo Perez, 33 – a man much revered around the watersports industry for his unbelievable aerial ability and competitive drive that has been in effect for so long.
The athletic powerhouses stormed into the heat all guns blazing. Gollito threw a giant front loop to start things off and rode away cleanly. Balz answered back with a lofty backflip, tweaked to the max and, from then on, there was simply no stopping the Swiss rider who went into full beast mode.
“It was so much fun out there and that was the best heat of my life!” Balz exclaimed after the final. Landing almost everything he tried, despite the 30 – 40 knot gusts pushing him and his gear to their limits, he was rewarded by the judges with two huge scores for innovation. Pulling off a clew first backflip and a toeside backflip (the first time that anyone has ever landed them) he quite rightly ended up with devastatingly strong overall heat impression score of 9.33. In the end Balz amassed the event’s biggest heat score total of 42.27 points from a possible 50.
Müller (AKA: Radiculo) is one of this sport’s true pioneering innovators and, in truth, it’s quite a shock to consider how this is his first GWA Wingfoil World Tour event win. Well.. he won the very first event the GWA ever staged in Tarifa three seasons ago, but explained that he counts this win in Leucate as his “real” first win since things became more serious as a full world championship tour”.
NEW WORLD ORDER YET TO PROVE IT ON THE PODIUM
As we unpick the pieces from this event, the rankings may not entirely reveal a new world order of youth at the top of this sport – but they’re coming. Reigning Surf-Freestyle champion Titouan Galea knows he has a huge challenge to reclaim his crown this season, especially as Balz Müller may have just unlocked the secret of turning wizardy into wins.
GWA WING FOIL WORLD CUP LEUCATE
MEN’S SURF-FREESTYLE FINAL RESULTS
1 Balz Müller (CHE)
2 ‘Gollito’ Estredo (VEN)
3 Camille Bouyer (FRA)
4 Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA)
Right after the completion of the Men’s Surf-Freestyle, the remaining Sunday focus shifted back to the Surf-Slalom heats as the race crew tried to slot in as many heats as possible for the fairest result!
SUNDAY’S SURF-SLALOM FINALE:
After a full-on Friday of non-stop Surf-Slalom eliminations, the drama resumed on Sunday afternoon in the remaining event hours once Balz had climbed off the Surf-Freestyle beach podium. Both the men’s and women’s competition was delicately poised with ties for the lead, broken broken only by the slenderest of discards.
In the women’s, Nía Suardiaz clearly had a spring in her step after her maiden win in Saturday’s Surf-Freestyle. She won elimination round 8 and 9, skipping her up the rankings, but not to the top. Flora Artzner, a marine biologist who has decided to put her career on hold, inspired by her wingfoil experiences, was determined to hold on to the slight lead she had over American Fiona Wylde from Friday. In the end proudly prevailed on home soil for her first event win.
In the men’s Camille Bouyer and Titouan Galea were similarly broken apart only by a small discard sadly had their tantalisingly ultimate final elimination showdown battle stolen when Bouyer was adjudged to have crossed the startline early and was disqualified.
In the end that left reigning World Champion Galea to light the thrusters without care and in the end he seemed to fly round the markers on rails with an ever increasing lead that only diminished once he let off the gas towards the end.
FINAL SURF-SLALOM RESULTS:
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Paula Novotna (CZE)
3 Flora Artzner (FRA)
1 Titouan Galea (FRA)
2 Camille Bouyer (FRA)
3 Francesco Cappuzzo (ITA)
WOMEN’S SURF FREESTYLE
GWA WINGFOIL WORLD CUP LEUCATE:
In just her second GWA Wingfoil World Tour competition, 15 year old Spaniard, Nia Suardiaz, took her first event win with impressive composure against a fleet of female Surf-Freestyle riders that had grown to ten at this event.
By the time the women’s final ran around 6pm, the wind was firing at 25 knots, gusting up to 30.
The pick of the Suardiaz trick list in the final was a toeside frontside 540 that she landed in the middle a total of eight clean tricks landed from 11 attempts.
In the end her opponent from the Czech Republic, Paula Novotna, 29, brings a decade of kitesurfing competition experience to the game and had stacked up the highest heat score of the competition in the semi final (24.69) against Flora Artzner from France (current leading rider over in the Surf-Slalom discipline which also features at this event).
As is her customary style, Paula doggedly dug in and fought to the very end of the final, finishing just over a single point behind the teenager who took the win on 19.77 points.
Nia carved her way through the elimination after dominating her first heat in round one, doubling the score of her closest competitor. In that three rider heat she beat Novotna for the first time (by a much bigger distance than she did in the final) and also American 3x SUP World Champion Fiona Wylde.
The round one win meant Nia skipped the often tricky round two dingle elimination heat and went on to beat Wylde for a second time in the semi-finals, (though Wylde, a leading Surf-Slalom contender, must be commended for bravely starting her quest to become the first woman to land a front flip in this heat).
After the beach podium when interviewed in Spanish for our upcoming highlight video, Nia smiled widely and said that she’s very proud of her achievement, thankful for all who have helped her so far in her career and very much looking forward to the rest of this world tour season.
WOMEN’S SURF-FREESTYLE FRANCE RESULTS:
1 Nia Suardiaz (ESP)
2 Paula Novotna (CZE)
3 Flora Artzner (FRA)
4 Fiona Wylde (USA)
We started off the day with the womens’ Elimination Round One, with each female rider having two discards. Fiona Wylde (USA) dominated the first heat. Wylde had a flying start, placing herself at the front of the pack from the very beginning. The firing Frenchie Flora Artzner was close behind but could not match the blistering pace of the American hotshot.
“I couldn’t have started the morning in a better way. I felt quite nervous this morning as we have been waiting around for the last three days not knowing when we are going to race.”
To jump in the first heat without much of a warm up is always difficult, but I just followed the tactics I thought would work and I am super happy to end up in first place in the first race of the day.”
In the Second Elimination Round Fiona had a turbulent start which left her unable to gain her momentum. Czech charger, Paula Novotna took full advantage of this slip up and powered through the fleet to take first place in the 2nd Elimination Round.
Nevertheless, it was the formidable Frenchie, Flora Artzner who came out victorious. Flora managed to take the win in both the 3rd and 4th Elimination Round which was enough for her to take the overall win in the Surf-Slalom discipline.
“It was such a fun event for me, I had to fight with all the girls, Fiona was really pushing me in all the races, but I am thrilled to come out on top.”
1 Flora Artzner
2 Fiona Wylde
3 Paula Novotna
Words: Holly Keenan and Jim Gaunt
Photos: Samuel Cardenas
Videos: Julien Leleu
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