The 2004 Fuerteventura PWA Freestyle and Super X Grand Slam Day 1
Contrary to the howling condition that are usually expected at Sotavento, the first morning of this years PWA Fuerteventura Grand Slam, brought with it light onshore breezes and rapidly rising temperatures. Following the usual greetings at the 10 o'clock skippers meetings, the contest was put into a holding pattern whilst competitors waited for wind.
It is unusual for Sotavento to stay calm for long and today was no exception. By noon the wind had begun to fill in as the beach became a frantic hive of activity with sailors hurriedly rigging and ferrying equipment along the beach, ready for the afternoon's freestyle showdown.
At quarter to two, the red flag went up for the first men's heat and the four sailors exploded on to the water like greyhounds chasing a rabbit. There were no major upsets in the early heats, with almost all the results going according to seeding, but in the second round disaster struck for last years event winner and number 2 seed, Robby Swift (JP, Neil Pryde) as he crashed out to rank outsider Antxon Otaegui (JP, Neil Pryde).
Taty Frans (Starboard, Gaastra) and Colin Sifferlen (Starboard) pushed through to the quarter finals dispatching Jonas Ceballos (Fanatic, Gaastra) and Julien Taboulet (JP, Neil Pryde) to the losers bracket, with fluid moves including a variety of different Spocks ,Switch-Stance Chachos and the move that is rapidly becoming commonplace amongst the freestylers here, the Ponch.
Joining his brother in the quarters was the flamboyant Tonky Frans (F2, Gaastra). Tonky sailed solidly and was busting out the big moves as well as then next man, who in this case was Spain's very own Victor Fernandez (Fanatic) mixing new school freestyle with big air to knock out Otaegui and avenge Swifts defeat.
Diony Guadagnino (Neil Pryde) is no stranger the final rounds of a Freestyle contest and he made it to the top 8 quietly slipping by youngster Kiri Thode (Starboard). But the second shock of the day was just around the corner as Kevin Mevissen (JP, Neil Pryde) took down the current world number 2 Kauli Seadi (AHD, Naish) leaving Brazil's finest on the losers bench just a few seats from Swift.
Current World number 1, Ricardo Campello (JP, Neil Pryde) looked a little off form, but even an off form performance is impressive at that level. With incredibly complex maneuvers, again including Switch-Stance Chacho's and Ponchs, executed with speed and grace, Campello exhibited flashes of the incredible talent that made him World Champion in 2003. At times though, the young Venezuelan pushed too hard and fell hard after what must have been the biggest Shaka attempt of the contest.
Campello's repertoire was however, enough to secure his advance over Antony Ruenes (Naish) who was cut down by the World Champ despite performing some incredible Flakas and probably the best Shaka's of the contest so far. Joining Campello and taking the last seat at the quarter final table was Douglas "Cheo" Diaz (Fanatic, North) who had some of the biggest moves of the day as well as probably the biggest smile on the beach - someone who definitely enjoys his job!
Into the first quarter and Fernandez and Sifferlen fell easily to the unbelievable precision and control of the Frans brothers who were both sailing impeccably. Both accomplished perfect Air Flakas with military precision as well as Air Chachos, Double Spock attempts and one of the longest sliding Willy Skippers ever seen in competition.
Mevissen, who is looking very slick here in Fuerteventura, wasted no time in dismissing Guadagnino who seemed underpowered and certainly off the pace. Meanwhile, shock number 3 was in the making as Campello floundered leaving the door open for Diaz to sneak through into the semis.
After their demonstration of skill in the quarters, the Frans brothers finally met each other in the first semi final. Both were magnificent once more, but there could be only one and with an armory that included near perfect Air Flakas once more it was Tonky who progressed to meet the winner of the Mevissen - Diaz showdown.
After his slick moves of the earlier rounds Mevissen seemed to be tiring slightly and was unable to carry the same speed he had through the day. Diaz did not sail his best either, but maintained enough consistency to stay ahead of the young Dutch pretender and move into the final against Tonky.
The women's event was a great indication of how much the feminine side of the sport has moved on in recent years. With seventeen competitors here in Fuerteventura, it is one of the most heavily subscribed contests for a while and there is a lot of new talent. Including the stunning Tjernberg sisters (North, AHD), from Sweden, the beautiful Ania Ostrowska from Poland as well as a strong Austrian contingent in the shapely form of Claudia Vogt and Uli Hölzl (F2, Arrows).
By the time the girls had been reduced to the final four however, it was all the big names that remained. Karin Jaggi (F2, Arrows), Nayra Alonso (Fanatic), Sylvia Alba (Neil Pryde) and who else but current Freestyle numero uno, the near invincible Daida Moreno (Mistral, North).
Jaggi sailed very strongly to dispose of Alonso and secure her place in the final and with her unique repertoire of one handed Forward Loops and Flakas, it was Daida Moreno who triumphed over Alba to take the second slot.
Despite an expectably high level of sailing from Jaggi, Moreno still had the edge. Daida pulled off a one handed Spock to which Jaggi immediately replied with the same. Jaggi attempted a Grubby to which Moreno responded with an even faster one. Both girls crashed their Flaka attempts, but with one handed forward loops it was the young lady from Gran Canaria who convinced the judges taking the final victory.
The men's final was a true exhibition of flare and variety. Both Frans and Diaz are true Freestyle masters and their routines were as varied as you could imagine. Flakas, Air Flakas, Switch-Stance Chachos, Spocks and Ponchs were traded back and forth as the 2 youngsters played in the surf. Eventually it was the sheer consistency of Frans, who stayed on his feet as Diaz repeatedly splashed down, that commanded the greatest respect and claimed victory.
With three days of Freestyle competition left, anything could happen in what has traditionally proven to be one of the most radical Freestyle contests on tour. Tomorrow will see today's less fortunate sailors come back to try their hand again in the Double Elimination of round one.
Will Tonky and Daida hold on at the top..? Stay tuned...