The Maldivian beach triumphed by just 2.72% in a fantastic final match against Anse Cocos of the Seychelles
In a spellbinding final that came down to the last few minutes, Veligandu Island Beach is the winner of the 2021 Kiwi.com World Championship of Beaches.
Both finalists came into the match looking strong. In their semi-finals, Veligandu swept aside Brazil’s Praia da Azeda 78% — 22%, while Anse Cocos was given a slightly sterner test by Sarakiniko of Greece, but still triumphed 64% — 36%.
And so the stage was set for the showdown. With supporters of both beaches whipping up a frenzy of excitement on social media, it always looked like it would be a tight game, and so it proved.
A classic final
Both beaches received a flurry of early votes, but Anse Cocos struck the first blow, racing into an early 63% — 37% lead. As the poll continued, social media became a tropical storm of encouragement, speculation and wild enthusiasm.
After a few hours, Veligandu gradually found its way back into the match, and set about reducing Anse Cocos’ lead. The Maldivians managed to draw level despite Anse Cocos’ best efforts, and heading into the final two hours, the match was on an absolute knife-edge, Veligandu holding the faintest of leads, 50.47% — 49.53%.
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However, Anse Cocos managed to regroup and came back at Veligandu, and minute by minute they began clawing back the deficit. With 90 minutes remaining, they’d managed to swing the vote just back towards them, leading 50.74% — 49.26%. With media outlets around the world roaring encouragement and supporters going into overdrive to get their votes in, beach fandom was holding its breath.
Approaching the final hour, it looked like Anse Cocos had weathered the storm: they had the finest of leads (50.99% — 49.01%) but then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, the momentum began to shift once again. The gap started to close and close until Veligandu edged into the lead…
…by only 10 votes.
With thousands upon thousands of votes cast, having a lead of just ten with 55 minutes remaining was unbelievable, incredible. This was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before in any World Championship of Beaches match. The Maldivians engaged in one final voting push, stretching their lead by almost invisible margins. Anse Cocos continued to fight, continued to soak up the pressure and gain votes of their own. It all came down to the final 30 minutes.
With one final, almighty effort, Veligandu’s persistence paid off, and they emerged victorious with a final score of 51.36% — 48.64%. Both beaches had given it absolutely everything in a clash that will surely be talked about for years to come.
Our Playa Analysis expert, Sandy McLeish, was left speechless by events. Then he recovered, and had this to say:
“I’ve simply never seen anything like it. When you talk about world-class, this is exactly what you mean. We anticipated a close game, but nothing like on this scale; if a Hollywood script-writer had pitched it, you’d say it was too far-fetched, you simply couldn’t make it up. Anse Cocos left nothing out there today, they should feel proud of their efforts, and Veligandu… well, what can you say? Sheer class, and worthy champions in what has been a thrilling tournament from day one.”
A tournament to remember
From the initial 58 suggestions put forward by our readers, we selected a fantastic field of 32 starting beaches from all around the world. As those were gradually eliminated through the round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals, we were left with these two, giving us an utterly engrossing final.
In all honesty, it was a magnificent contest from the very start. We’d like to say thank you to every beach that was involved; every tourist board, media outlet, beach bar and surf shack. Thanks also to anyone who shared and supported the contest and, naturally, huge thanks to everyone who voted. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastically communities got behind their beach and their country, and the competition was played in the passionate but friendly spirit that was intended.
For years, Kiwi.com has been trying to find out which beach is the best in the world, and now we have a definitive answer. After seeing off the challenge of 31 of the finest waterfronts in the world over ten riveting days of competition, the Maldivians are quite rightly overjoyed. Congratulations, Veligandu Island Beach, you’re a worthy champion.