A third day of 20 -30 knots of wind and overhead surf allowed all but the final of the double elimination to be completed. A 14-minute heat duration was set with two waves and one jump to count.
The double elimination is all about attack and defense – who’ll charge back up the ladder? Who’ll stand firm and shut the door on any pretenders that didn’t make the cut from the single elimination?
Starting from with the third round today, the system didn’t disappoint and threw up some determined challengers intent on knocking the big names from their pedestals.
First out of the blocks was Norwegian Vidar Jensen (North), the current world number 5, who shrugged-off strong opposition from fellow Gran Canaria residents Jonas Ceballos (Fanatic / Simmer) and John Skye (F2 / Naish) before he was slapped-down by a particularly on-form Klaas Voget (Fanatic / NeilPryde) who was already seeded into the 4th round.
Jensen failed on his trademark double forward loops against the aerial skills of Ceballos and Skye, but won through on solid wave scores until Voget’s aggressive attack halted him.
Julien Taboulet was next on the warpath in an attempt to repeat his famous claw back at Pozo earlier this summer. He managed 3 heats, winning some tough encounters against Phil Horrocks (JP / NeilPryde) and Peter Volwater (F2 / North), using his insane, stalled, tabletop forward loops to knock spots of the other riders jumping skills. However, it was Taboulet’s riding that let him down when he finally fell at the hands of round 4 seed Robby Swift (JP / NeilPryde) who was on fine form in the Ibiraquera waves today.
Swift then caused heartbreak for wavesailing legend and team founder Jason Polakow (JP / NeilPryde). The young Brit comprehensively out sailed the Australian using precise and aggressive timing to his advantage in the punchier sections of the Brazilian beach break, as well as his vast range of jumping experience.
It was a bitter pill for Polakow to swallow as he himself had strung a good run together after defeating Camille Juban (Quatro), Thomas Traversa (Tabou / Gaastra), and Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra).
But the most impressive climb up the ladder today came from the shock-knockout from the single elimination, Victor Fernandez (Fanatic / Simmer). The young Spaniard, who was also the pre-event form player with two consecutive event wins, left a path of destruction that truly had the top 4 seeds waiting and watching on the beach for their turn in fear.
On his way, Fernandez slayed Scott McKercher (Starboard /Severne), Ricardo Campello (JP / NeilPryde), Josh Angulo, Klaas Voget, Robby Swift, and Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) before a mammoth showdown with Britain’s Nik Baker (Mistral / North).
Baker pulled-out all the stops to match Fernandez in the air but fully taught the youngster a lesson in wave riding to end his dreams of a hat trick of event victories.
By halting Fernandez, Baker, who finished 3rd in the single elimination, then had a shot at single elimination runner-up Levi Siver (Starboard / NeilPryde).
The 36-yr old veteran of the tour predictably put all his years of knowledge to tactically position himself during the heat, but in the end he won on pure style with long fluid rides that linked all the sections together. That crucial victory means he now faces Kauli Seadi for a shot at the event title and to really pressure Seadi’s world title campaign.
Baker seemed ecstatic with his result, which guarantees him at least second overall and vital ranking points. ‘What can I say? I came here after not really sailing as well as I can, and without much port tack, down-the-line practice, so, to get this far is a real bonus. I’m even happier to make the final after we started counting a jump as that’s a real weak point for me on this tack too, especially when you go against guys like Victor’.
‘Basically I tried to keep my riding really vertical and top-to-bottom, and to vary the types of turns and hits on the wave – which I know the judges like and that’s what the guidelines specify. I also made sure I concentrated and didn’t get sucked downwind of the peak so I could choose the best waves – they always look better downwind, and I saw Levi riding well down that way but it paid off to be strict and stick to my plan’.
‘In a way I’d have liked to carry straight into the final as I felt like I was on a bit of a roll, but on the other hand I’m grateful for a rest and the time to take stock and re-focus my approach. The locals all say we’ll probably end up running in it in at least the same type of conditions as today, or that we might get lucky and get better waves, we’ll just have to see. I’m just over the moon that I beat these guys and now get the chance to face Kauli at his home spot!’
The organizers hope to use the remaining time left in the holding period to cherry pick the best possible conditions for a fitting final to this classic contest.