Tow-in windsurfing and beach side games provided plenty of entertainment for the thousands of spectators lining the shore of Lake Neusiedl on the second day of competition.
With a promising start to day two, the first freestyle heat promptly launched into action. However, the wind quickly moderated leaving the sailors unable to even pump onto the plane. The race crew made every effort to re-start the competition throughout the day, but the wind refused to play ball.
The huge crowds hung out on the beach in the blazing hot sun with the world’s best freestylers until late in the afternoon when the young Belgian, Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2, Gaastra), decided to put on a show for them. After being towed along the shore at full speed behind a jet ski, he let go of the towrope, and threw himself round a perfect ponch on the glassy lake. On his next attempt, he exited a clean flaka diablo, which impressed both his peers and the spectators, reassuring everyone that he’ll be one of the main title contenders this season. Taty Frans (Starboard, MauiSails) also muscled in on the light wind action in preparation for the tow-in jump contest, which had been scheduled for the early evening.
Lured by the prospect of claiming a share of the €1000 prize purse, some of the craziest guys on tour signed up to be towed towards the huge mass of metal and plastic anchored just off the shore to throw down their extreme moves in front of a beach heaving with spectators.
Entrants for today’s qualifiers included Tonky (F2, Gaastra) and Taty Frans, Nicolas Akgazciyan (Starboard, Gun), Van Broeckhoven, Max Matissek (Fanatic, North), Tom Hartman (Naish, Naish), and Daniel Bikich.
Tonky had a small advantage, having been towed into the ramp the previous day, and Bikich also had a head start having built the ramp himself! All of those involved, put on an amazing spectacle for the partygoers of Podersdorf, and the moves that they managed to land included massive air flakas, ponches, and forwards. Other tricks were attempted but generally ended up as face plants and nasty looking crashes! The judges decided that Taty did the best move, followed by Bikich, and then Tonky. However, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see who claims the prize money.
Following the tow-in session, we caught up with Tonky to find out what makes this crazy man tick, and how he feels about being towed into the jump ramp.
PWA: What does it feel like to hit the artificial ramp at full speed with no wind in your sail?
TF: “It actually doesn’t feel totally alien to me because I’ve done it quite a few times now. I gave it a go in Holland at an exhibition, and I’ve had a fair few attempts here. It does feel a little bit strange I suppose, but when they let go of me as I approach the ramp, I have some apparent wind in my sail so it’s a bit like doing a normal jump.”
PWA: Isn’t it a little bit more frightening though? A normal ramp is just made out of water, this thing is made from a ton of metal and plastic!
TF: “No, I have no fear. In my mind I know it will work. It does get the adrenalin pumping a little bit more than usual, but that’s because I’m doing it in front of thousands of spectators. As a freestyler, I’ve crashed so many times before that it doesn’t really bother me anymore.”
PWA: So what moves do you think are possible when it’s absolutely glassy on the water and there’s not a breath of wind in the air?
TF: “I think that air flakas, air chachoos, and forward loops are all possible. If there’s a little bit of wind then back loops and push loops would also be ok, but you definitely need some sort of breeze to land those rotations.”
PWA: The video of you doing a forward on the PWA website looks unbelievable. How did it feel?
TF: “I can’t really explain it, but when everyone is watching, and I do it perfectly, it’s just amazing. I love it when I come back to the beach and everyone is smiling. I just want to be remembered as a legend in this sport. One day when I retire, I really want people to say, ‘hey there was this guy called Tonky Frans and he was a legend’. All the things I do now are to remind people that I was here, and I was helping the sport. I love it so much, it has enabled me to travel the world and live a dream life. I owe it everything.”
The organisers remain hopeful about the current forecast and will make every effort to get the main competition going at first light tomorrow morning.
Earlier in the day a minute’s silence was held in tribute to the former Czech freestyle champion and PWA competitor, Andrew Erban.
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