PRO-FILES: Maddalena & Nicolò Spanu

With Maddalena Spanu donning her first Wingfoil Racing World Champion crown in 2023, and her brother Nicolò also coming in close to the top of the podium, the Spanus are unquestionably the pair of siblings to be watching in 2024…


RIDER FACTS

 
17 AGE 19
1.68m HEIGHT 1.85M
71kg WEIGHT 83kg
GA Foils, Tabou Boards, Sabfoil, Groove SPONSORS GA sails, Tabou Boards, Sabfoil, Wingman
Racing, FreeFly-Slalom COMPETITIVE FOIL DISCIPLINES Racing, FreeFly-Slalom
Wingfoil Racing World champion BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE Wingfoil Racing Vice World Champion

PHOTOS IWSA MEDIA

Hey both! So to start off, where are you right now? When was the last time you both got in the water? 

MS: Hi, right now we are at home, in Sardinia, in Oristano. The last time we entered the water was yesterday. It was a great session, with excellent wind conditions!

Maddalena, you were crowned Wingfoil Racing World Champion in 2023. How did that feel? 

MS: Being crowned the Wingfoil Racing World Champion in 2023 was a thrilling achievement that exceeded all my expectations. At the beginning of the year, I faced significant challenges, encountering many obstacles. These initial difficulties make the current success even more exhilarating, reflecting all the hard work I put in. I don’t believe there are words to explain my emotions after this victory, and I still feel like I haven’t fully grasped it!

So was it a tough year working your way to the top?

MS: Yes, it was a tough but incredibly fun year as I worked my way to the top in the world of Wingfoil Racing. The experiences during this journey were precious, and I was fortunate to meet new people who taught me a lot. Moreover, throughout all the travels this year, I had the support of my family, which meant a lot to me and was fundamental in achieving my goal. Every challenge was an opportunity for growth, especially training at the Windacademy in

2023 World Cup Series Silvaplana, Ensis ENGADINWING by Dakine – 14 June 2023.

Torregrande, which was awesome as there were perfect conditions throughout the year to train alongside the guys who are part of my father’s crew. Working with an exceptional team and overcoming all the obstacles I encountered throughout the year made every moment unforgettable. I am grateful to be in a world circuit where everyone comes together, helps each other, and has fun both in the water and out.

2023 World Cup Series Silvaplana, Ensis ENGADINWING by Dakine – 14 June 2023.

And Nicolò, you came in as Vice World Champion. Did you find it challenging to place so high?

NS: I had to overcome several challenging obstacles in my journey to secure the second position in the championship. Until the last stage in Jericoacoara, I was in third place, just five points behind my direct competitor, Luca Franchi. This achievement is particularly noteworthy when considering my less-than-promising start to the championship, with a sixth position in Abu Dhabi. My comeback was made possible not only by my commitment during races in the water and in ground training but also thanks to significant equipment development. The constant optimization of gear played a crucial role in enhancing overall performance.

 

You’ve both been winging for only three years now, kind of mirroring the progression in winging as a sport. How does it feel to be in the first generation of competitive wingfoilers?

NS: We come from the windsurfing competition scene, an environment that has undergone significant phases of evolution, reaching a saturation point where equipment changes minimally, given that the competition format was already rigidly established. In wingfoiling, however, everything is in a state of continuous evolution.

MS: Yes, being part of this inaugural generation is a source of enthusiasm and pride, especially considering our background in windsurfing. Now, in the world of wingfoiling, we find ourselves in a unique position as athletes actively shaping and improving this emerging sport. However, this requires dedication in providing detailed feedback to refine not only the equipment but also the competition format. Our constant commitment is crucial to ensure clarity in feedback and prevent misunderstandings, as any mistake could have a direct impact on us as athletes. For instance, it could translate into equipment that doesn’t meet expectations or an ineffective competition format.

Materials development has obviously been a factor in making wings faster than ever. Does this side of the sport interest you, and do you think there’s going to be yet more breakthrough developments?

NS: The development of wings in this sport is one of our greatest passions, not only because it allows us to achieve increasingly astonishing speeds and execute more high-performance maneuvers but also because each year brings the promise of innovation. This year in particular, we are confident that we will witness a true revolution in the design and technology of racing sails. The prospect of exploring these new frontiers and being part of such a dynamic period in sail evolution makes this phase even more stimulating.

What’s your current setup of choice, and can you tell us about anything new you’ll be riding throughout the season this year?

MS: I’d say our current favorite setup includes the 5.5m JET wing, the 704 Sabfoil with the 104 Red Devil mast and the new Tabou Flying Saucer board. This combination represents our ideal set up, where we can achieve peak performance. The true innovation that particularly excites us is the new JET wing. We believe this advancement will mark a real gear change in our competitive journey.

Photo (c) 2023 Henning von Jagow / hanok_upnorth
Event: Foilfestival 2023
Photo credit: Henning von Jagow / Hanok Up North – Photography
www.hanok-upnorth.com
Instagram: @hanok_upnorth

As previously touched upon, you both started out as pro windsurfers. Was this sport your gateway into winging?

NS: Undoubtedly. The sponsors who supported us in windsurfing began suggesting the transition to wingfoiling, presenting it as a new and exciting opportunity with significant potential for success. Despite being young windsurfing athletes with numerous high-level achievements in our career, making this decision was a daunting challenge, given the many opportunities in windsurfing.

However, our sponsors emphasized the importance of wingfoiling for our future, believing it represented the key direction in the evolution of windsurfing. Motivated by the prospect of immersing ourselves in a new and highly competitive sport, we decided to embrace wingfoiling as a new path in our life.

MS: I think the turning point occurred during a world championship at Lake Garda, where we secured twelfth place after just one week of experience with wingfoiling. At that moment, we realized there was serious potential, and we decided to take wingfoiling more seriously. Since then, the rest is history – a story that has marked not only our sports career but also a new direction in our lives.

Would you say you’re both naturally competitive people?

MS: I think we have a deeply competitive spirit, a trait that has been evident since childhood, marked by our participation in numerous competitions that have consistently pushed us beyond our limits. We thoroughly enjoy competing with other young athletes of our age. This stands in contrast to the times when we began participating in slalom or wave windsurfing competitions, where finding peers engaged in these disciplines was a rare occurrence.

Do you think your knowledge from competitive windsurfing proved a real benefit to you as you moved into wing racing?

NS: Undoubtedly, this transition has proven to be a genuine advantage over athletes from different disciplines. Windsurfing, being not only physically more demanding but also strategically crucial, has provided a solid foundation for training. The increased physical intensity required by windsurfing has served as an excellent training base. Equally significant has been the integration of refined strategic tactics from windsurfing into the realm of wingfoiling. These approaches are yielding positive results. However, it is crucial to emphasize that the key to success lies in the commitment to daily training. Working tirelessly every day is the fundamental element to maintain excellence in wingfoil competitions.

You’re both clearly at the top of your game but who would you say is the most inspiring rider to you?

NS: For both of us it’s undoubtedly Antoine Albeau, followed by Björn Dunkerbeck, both for their extraordinary sports achievements and the relentless commitment they put into training. We’ve got to mention the legend Robby Naish too! For obvious reasons.

MS: Balz Müller gets a mention too, with his dedication and entertaining approach to wingsurfing. He totally embodies the free spirit of this sport.

Finally, what are your wingfoil goals for 2024?

MS: My goal is to reclaim the world champion title by pushing my limits and training more intensely than ever before.

NS: For 2024, my goals will be to participate in the GWA and repeat or improve upon my 2023 result at the IWSA.

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