Freestyle Ready to Explode onto the 2017 World Tour Before the Next Installment of Warp Speed Slalom
Fuerteventura is the next stop on the 2017 PWA World Tour and the next 10 days will see more world class windsurfing. The first 5 days of the Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam (21st-30th July) - sponsored by René Egli - will belong to the contortionists of the windsurfing world as the men’s and women’s freestyle fleet prepare to enter the competition fray for the first time this year, while the following 5 days will see the world’s fastest sailors return to action for the 4th time this season.
Sotavento is located on the Southeast coast of Fuerteventura and has developed a world-class reputation due to its year round sunshine, stunning golden beaches and most importantly, as its name suggests, strong winds, which create some of the most exhilarating conditions on the PWA World Tour. Fuerteventura is one of the most challenging stops on the tour for the freestylers, but it can also be one of the most rewarding when there is a swell running as it produces the perfect stunt ramps for the freestylers to launch into the latest aerial power moves, while the slalom fleet will be reaching for their smallest gear and trying to reach the end of the course unscathed.
Ones to Watch
Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) comes to Fuerteventura in search of an unprecedented 10th PWA Freestyle World Championship and the 26-year-old will enter the sole women’s freestyle event of the year as the overwhelming favourite. Offringa sails with style, power and consistency that no one else has managed to rival and it’s hard to see anyone bringing her 9 year unbeaten record to an end.
However, the standard in women’s freestyle is rising and if someone is to give Offringa a serious run for her money then you’d have to think it will either be the young and talented Maaike Huvermann (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) - who finished last season as the vice-world champion - or Oda Johanne (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) who have the best chance of providing an upset with both improving year on year and starting to land some of the latest power moves.
Arrianne Aukes (Fanatic / NorthSails / Maui Ultra Fins) will be doing everything in her power to return to the overall podium for the first time since 2013 (injured in 2014) and if she can sail consistently in Fuerte’s choppy waters then she’ll have every chance of doing so, while Russia’s Olya Raskina (JP / NeilPryde) will also be a challenging for the top 4.
Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic / NorthSails) produced a superb comeback in the final event of the 2016 season to earn himself an incredible 7th PWA Freestyle World title as he showed his champion winning qualities again while denying Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) a maiden world title. The Venezuelan oozes style and will enter the first event of the season as the narrow favourite, but he’s going to have his work cut out if he wants to make a winning start to his title defence with the aforementioned Vrieswijk coming into the season opener as the defending event champion after an explosive performance last year.
Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo
Vrieswijk is considered one of, if not the brightest spark in the freestyle world right now and it would seem only a matter of time before the 21-year-old gets his hands on his first world title. Will this year be the year? Time will tell, but with only two events there will be absolutely no room for errors.
Also in with a serious title shot in the opening event of the year will be the hugely talented Belgian - Yentel Caers (JP / Point-7) - who had a breakthrough season in 2016 as he broke into the world’s top 3 for the first time. The 22-year-old won the single elimination here last year and he’ll be heavily fancied for another deep run this time around.
Belgium seems to produce world class freestylers and two former world champions - Dieter van der Eyken (Starboard / Severne) (2015) and Steven van Broeckhoven (JP / NeilPryde / Shamal Windsurfing Sunglasses) (2011) - will be serious threats. Where others seem to falter in Fuerte’s choppy waters, Van der Eyken seems to excel the trickier the conditions get, while van Broeckhoven will be looking to bounce back from a slightly disappointing 2016, which saw the 31-year-old record 3 solid, but unspectacular 9th places.
Dieter van der Eyken
The level on the freestyle tour continues to go through the roof with more radical and crazy stunts being thrown down right throughout the fleet. Other names to look out for include Canada’s Philip Soltysiak (Starboard / Sailworks) - 5th overall for 2016 - and consistently battling it out for the top 10 and beyond.
Balz Müller (Patrik / Severne) - who is possibly one of the craziest and most innovative sailors on the planet. The Swiss seems to have found a way to channel that energy into winning heats and he’s certainly a sailor you can't take your eyes off when he’s on the water.
Frenchman Adrien Boston (Fanatic / NorthSails / Maui Ultra Fins) earned two podiums last year and if it wasn’t for a disappointing result here - 17th - then he’d have been challenging for top honours and you’d have to fancy him for a strong display - especially given his success on the European tour, which saw him take the event title in Tarifa, while you can also expect to see fellow countrymen Nicolas Akgazciyan (99NoveNove / Challenger Sails / Maui Ultra Fins), Antony Ruenes (Tabou / GA Sails) and Sam Esteve (JP / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) in the thick of the action.
Of course you can’t talk about freestyle and not mention the other key players from Bonaire - an island that has produced an outstanding crop of freestylers - so you can also expect to see the legendary Frans brother’s - Tonky Frans (RRD / RRD Sails) and Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic) - Youp Schmit (99NoveNove / Avanti) styling their way into the top 10, while former world champion Kiri Thode should be obvious threat - if he’s fully fit and ready to compete again after missing the final event of the year in 2016, which saw him drop to 17th in the overall rankings.
Jacopo Testa (RRD / RRD Sails) has long been considered one of the brightest talents in freestyle and it seems that he is now starting to fill that potential on the competition scene having produced an outstanding comeback at the recent EFPT event in Lanzarote to win the contest ahead of van Broeckhoven and he could be a real contender again if finding that sort of form.
Meanwhile, Davy Scheffers (Tabou / GA Sails) will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2016. As will Germany’s Adrian Beholz (Patrik / Sailloft Hamburg / Maui Ultra Fins) who suffered an injury hit year.
After 5 days of freestyle, the world’s fastest sailors will take their turn in the windsurfing spotlight for their 4th battle of the year. Last year Fuerte produced some of the best racing ever seen, so fingers crossed it can do the same again.
Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) heads up the rankings coming into Fuerteventura after a great start to the season which saw him claim a convincing victory in Costa Brava and a 3rd place in Japan. The 23-time world champion was untouchable here last year as he tamed Fuerte’s ferocious winds and choppy waters to claim an emphatic victory and he’ll be looking to win his 4th successive event title over the next 5 days.
Reigning world champion - Matteo Iachino (Starboard / Point-7 / Shamal Sunglasses) - and vice-world champion - Pierre Mortefon (Fanatic / NorthSails / Chopper Fins) - are currently tied on points in 2nd and 3rd and will be eager not lose any more ground to Albeau - otherwise it would look like a long way back to prevent AA from marching to a 24th world crown. Iachino looked slightly off the pace in Costa Brava and was delighted to make the podium so it will be interesting to see if he has found the formula to unlock the blistering pace he has shown in the last few seasons.
Ross Williams (Tabou / GA Sails / Mystic / Shamal Sunglasses) has an excellent record here over the last couple of seasons with a 2nd and a 3rd and the Brit comes into Fuerte perfectly poised in 4th place and ready to challenge for the overall podium again. Williams is usually one of the most consistent sailors and will be hoping to complete a hat-trick of podiums come the end of the event.
Finian Maynard (99NoveNove / Gun Sails) won here in 2012 and he is seeing his hard work over the winter pay dividends already this season. The 42-year-old shred 10 kilos during the off season and has been rewarded with a 4th place in Japan, while a 13th place in Costa Brava sees him currently sitting in 5th place. If everything clicks into place then Maynard could well emulate the success which brought him that event title in 2012.
Argentina’s Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Starboard / Severne / Chopper Fins) has been very consistent so far this season with 8th and 11th place finishes and with a little more look things could’ve been even better. However, Costa Hoevel didn’t enjoy Fuerte last year as he recorded a disappointing 21st place and he’ll be keen to put those memories behind him.
Gonzalo Costa Hoevel
Julien Quentel (Patrik / Avanti) went from hero to zero in the blink of the eye as he experienced the highs and lows of racing. The man from Saint Maarten sailed brilliantly to win in Japan, but then had a bit of a shocker in Costa Brava where he could only muster a 20th place. Quentel comes into the event 7th in overalls. Can he recapture that form from Japan?
France’s Antoine Questel (Starboard / S2Maui) sits in 8th place just ahead of Jordy Vonk (Fanatic / NorthSails) - who is another sailor to have produced in different performances. The 24-year-old earned his first ever podium in Japan before recording a disappointing 21st in Spain.
The top 10 is currently completed by Germany’s Sebastian Kördel (Starboard / GA Sails). Also, keep an eye out for Italy’s Andrea Cucchi (Starboard / Point-7), Bonaire’s Taty Frans, Israel’s Arnon Dagan (RRD / NeilPryde) and France’s Pascal Toselli (99NoveNove / Loft Sails / Chopper Fins), who agonisingly missed out on the podium in Costa Brava by just one point.
Of course, there are a whole host of other sailors who are more than capable of breaking into the top 10 and as we have seen already this season there really are no easy heats and almost anyone has the potential to book their place in the winners’ final.
Fuerteventura is famous for its strong winds and the forecast suggests we’ll be competing from the word go and it should be an amazing show - particularly with the possibility of some swell - which should make the freestyle an even more dynamic spectacle. Make sure you stay tuned into www.pwaworldtour.com between 21st-30th July to watch all of the explosive action as it happens via the PWA live stream.
To stay up to date with all the latest developments from Fuerteventura — including the live stream, elimination ladders, entry list, images and live ticker simply click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page.