GWA first-ever Big Air competition: the Fanatic/Duotone’s team of winners tell us all about it!

Almost a month ago, the very first GWA Big Air World Cup took place at Gran Canaria, on the Pozo Izquierdo spot in nuclear conditions. In waves and gusts of up to 45 knots, riders were allowed six tricks attempts, with two best scores counting. The scoring of these tricks was based 80% on height and 20% on technical difficulty. At the same time, RedBull, with the @the_surfr_app, measured the height of all jumps (during both the Big Air and Surf-Freestyle competitions) to award the Red Bull Rockets Award to the rider flying the highest. 18 men and 12 women entered the competition to conquer the Canary skies. Among them, the Fanatic/Duotone team shone particularly brightly, with 3 riders on the podium: Mar de Arce became the first ever Women’s GWA Big Air World Champion, while Benjamin May and Nia Suardiaz took the title of World Vice-Champion. Nia Suardiaz also won the Women’s Red Bull Rocket Award. For TotalWing, they tell us how this first-ever Big Air competition went, with what strategy they approached it, and their feelings about their results.

Benjamin May – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

So, tell us about this very first Big Air wingfoil competition?

Benjamin: Hell yeah! What an event. I think for me this was the best day of my life so far. But let’s start from the beginning. I felt already quite good the last days in the training as I love strong wind and some nice chop waves. For me it then all started in the qualification round for the Big Air. I slept well the night before and was good prepared for the comp. My gear was ready to send. As we started I went out on a 4.5qm Unit DLAB. A couple minutes right before my heat the wind picked up to 25-30 knots. Result was sending to the moon. I scored the highest points with a massive stalled frontflip. This made me very stoked and ready for the real competition.

We started in four heats with each four riders. The beginning in the first two rounds were quite relaxing as I only had to be one of the first two to advance through to the next round. Then in round three I maybe had the hardest heat of my live so far. I was riding against Malo Guenole, last years World Champion in Freestyle, Chris Mac Donald, the current leader in Freestyle, and Clement Hamon, a young French sender. Three really good riders where I knew I had to give it all to advance through. Luckily it all went perfect in my heat and I took the win with an overall score of 18.20 out of 20.00 possible points. Afterwards in the semi Finals the wind dropped a little bit but I still had some proper jumps and made my way against the French rider Camille Bouyer into the Final.

Benjamin May – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

The next day the small and big final started. Around midday I made my way out on the water against the Frenchies Julien Rattoti and Titouan Galea. With gusts up to 45 knots it was really hard and rough. Before my heat I made a couple warm up jumps and scored by the way the highest unofficial jump with 14.8 meters. But didn’t land it. A couple minutes later it got serious. Had a good start and already two 7 pointer jumps. But I couldn’t really find a proper wave to jump higher than the others. Until the last jump I was in the lead. Unfortunately, Rattoti found the kicker of the day on his last attempt and flew away. Afterwards I was a bit disappointed to get only second because I knew, I could have done better. Anyway I’m still happy with my performance and will train even more for the next year.

Mar de Arce – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

Nia: I very much enjoyed this first Big Air competition. The conditions were ideal for such an event, really strong wind, up to over 45knots and good waves. My disadvantage was that I am riding goofy and couldn’t use the kickers for my jumps going out. Instead I had to jump on the way back in. But I had so much fun and I am super happy about my second place and for Mar, my friend from Tarifa for making it into first position.

Mar: For this new discipline in the Wingfoil World Cup we had such an extreme conditions up to 45 knots and quite big waves, that makes the riding and jumping even more exiting and difficult. The process to be in the finals was long, 7 attempts and the best 2 jumps score to go into the next round. Suddenly I was there, in the very first competition of the big air, I was in the finals ready to enjoy this unique moment. It was so nice to be part of it and to enjoy it with all the girls.

Mar de Arce, Benjamin May and Nia Suardiaz – Photo: @nmcreative.tarifa

What was your strategy for getting the best possible score?

Mar: The wind was so strong that the only strategy possible was to try and get a kicker to jump and fly as high as possible. The trickiest part was trying to land all the jumps… I had a really high jump that didn’t count because I couldn’t land it.

Nia: I knew that with that strong wind I wouldn’t be able to do complicated tricks without risking to much. Also because I wanted to take a slightly bigger wing to get best possible height in my jumps and decided to go for high raleys.

Benjamin: Usually I tried to get one save score in the beginning with a high straight jump and then get some big proper stalled front flips in the pocket.

Nia Suardiaz – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

What equipment did you use for this competition ?

Nia: I used a 3m wing and my 45L board, a 82mast and a 650 Frontwing.

Benjamin: I was all the time on a 3.5 Unit DLab, 4’7’’ Sky Style, 90 cm fanatic Mast, 60 cm Fuselage and my frontwing was a prototype.

Mar: I used : Fanatic board Sky surf TE 35L, Duotone wings Unit 2.0 / 2.5 and foil Fanatic front wing Aero Carve 750.

Benjamin May – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

Did you expect your results?

Benjamin: No, I would have never expect to be that good in Big Air, especially as I didn’t know how the judges will score the tricks.

Nia: Yes I was expecting to be under the first 3, because I am able to jump quite high and saw that in the RedBull Rocket scoring I had the highest jump so far.

Nia Suardiaz – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

Mar: I really didn’t expect a win in the competition at all. It’s my first year competing and the level of the girls competing is incredible. Especially my friend Nia! So I was stoked to win and excited to keep training and learning to be among the best in the future.

Mar de Arce – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

Do you think Big Air wingfoil has a future?

Benjamin: Yes definitely. I think this could be one of the extrem disciplines in watersports. Hopefully there will be a couple even more radical tricks in the next years.

Mar: I think wing foil as a sport is a sport that will keep getting bigger and more known. For a lot of windsurfers like me, switching to wing foil is great because the equipment is much smaller and perfect to travel with. With much less equipment you’re able to sail in many more wind conditions. Also I think that for the spectators the wing foil competition is spectacular to watch in all its events. And of course Big Air have the chance to keep growing, the spectacular high jumps grab the attention of every one.

Nia: Yes I think so and I think it will improve still a lot and has a cool and exciting future.

Benjamin May – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

Thanks to all three of you for your answers, and congratulations again on your performances and your incredible jumps!

Follow Nia Suardiaz:

Follow Mar de Arce:

Follow Benjamin May:

Mar de Arce – Photo : Lukas K Stiller

More about Fanatic:
Official website / Instagram / Facebook

More about Duotone:
Official website / Facebook / Instagram

About the Author

Laurie Montagner

From SUP Racing to wing foiling, through windsurfing, wakesurfing and surfing, you will always find Laurie somewhere in the South-West of France. Passionate about watersports, Laurie spends her time surfing, whether on the wave... or online! Laurie is indeed a specialist in social media marketing and web development, from writing lines of code to making professional videos. Very much a competitor, you've probably already met her on one of the SUP and wing events all over France!

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