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Video: Alaïa Open Winter Cup recap

The majestic Swiss Alps can now claim to be part of the history of surfing. Despite the water temperature reaching near freezing (3.5ºC/38.3F), 125 brave surfers from across the globe competed in the inaugural Alaïa Open Winter Cup in Sion, Switzerland.

Participants were quick to forget about the icy waters and focused on posting their best performances and highest scores possible. This was one of the first major international competitions staged in the Wavegarden Cove, and the success was evident not only from the smiling surfers, but from the cheering crowds. 

Adam Bonvin, Alaia Bay´s founder, was equally content with the outcome, promising competitors a bigger and better event next year. “I am happy that you all managed to challenge the weather, the cold, and experience what it is like to surf in Switzerland. The goal is to make it happen every year now,” said Bonvin.

Professional surfer Maud Le Car dominated the women’s division, taking out almost €10,000 in cash and prizes. 

“I am so happy to win. I am not used to surfing in the cold, but I got used to it very fast,” expressed Le Car. “This contest is great for surfers and will be the first of many in Europe.” 

Meanwhile, Nadia Erostarbe, a surfer from the Basque Country of Northem Spain, was pleased to compete despite not winning.

“The wave is excellent for training. The system is perfect for contests, competitors receive the same number of waves and opportunities, the person who surfs the best, wins. This is different from the luck factor of the ocean.” 

Spectators and organizers watched in awe as competitors turned up the heat with their positive energy and competitive spirit. 

The Kids category was claimed by Portuguese surfer Jamie Velselko, with Alejo Valedi (Canary Islands) and Francisco Santos (PORT) finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively. 

Maud Le Car. Photo Andy Higgins/Wavegarden

The Junior division saw a fierce battle unfold. However, it was German-Basque brothers Kai and Hans Odriozola who claimed 1st and 2nd place, respectively, with Axel Domínguez finishing 3rd and Portuguese Francisco Ordonhas in 4th. Accustomed to the chilly climate, spectators marveled at the mastery of the surfers´ open-face repertoire and tube-riding skills. A special shout out goes to the Spanish young female surfer Berta Gáñez Irazusta who was unfazed about competing in the Boys division due to limited entrants.

surf the alps
First day of competition dawned with fresh snow. Photo by Andy Higgins/Wavegarden

The grand finale, the Men’s Open, saw the Brazilians stand out once more. Pedro Henrique was literally ‘on fire’ the entire event and continued his winning form to stand on top of the podium, alongside Franklin Serpa in second place. The Frenchman, Justin Becret, put on a great show in 3rd. While young powerhouse Hans Odriozola, who at only 13 years of age, snuck into 4th place with a bold performance.