Day 6: The freestyle discipline witnesses a changing of the guard, as European charger Steven Van Broeckhoven stands firm to secure the first world cup victory of his career.
Competition’s final day in Austria kicked off bright and early with a 6.00am skippers meeting, which hoped to take advantage of the tail end of the passing weather system, which had brought the previous day’s wind.
It proved to be a shrewd move from the race committee, as the sailors were greeted with side shore winds gusting between 10-17 knots to finish up the double elimination in the morning sun.
First to mount their attack on the top seeds was France’s Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / Simmer), who battled his way back through the double to within touching distance of the man on man heats. His run of form was eventually put to an end by Davy Scheffers (Tabou / Gaastra) who obviously had plans of his own. Similarly, Canada’s Philip Soltysiak (Starboard / Dakine) was to crush Tonky Frans’ (Tabou / Gaastra) hopes of advancing any further in the elimination thanks to some super tactical sailing in the light and gusty conditions.
Moving into the man on man stage of the elimination, Scheffers and Soltysiak were the first pair to go head to head. Unfortunately for Soltysiak, he couldn’t continue his form from the previous heat, and a late flurry of high scoring moves was too little too late, leaving Scheffers to advance without major concern.
Scheffers moved on to face Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic). Historically the heat would favor Frans, but in reality, the cold European conditions were going to be a leveler for the pair. From the green flag, Scheffers was explosive, and quickly filled his score sheet with quality, power moves, leaving Frans under pressure, and fighting to catch the European up. With the heat drawing to a close, it was obvious that the usually consistent Bonaire freestyler had been out sailed by his rival.
Continuing to bulldoze his way through the elimination, Scheffers lined up his next heavy weight opponent, Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North). Uncharacteristically, Estredo was looking slow and uninspired, perhaps as a result of the bone chilling 5-degree air temperature. Either way, Scheffers wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass, and punished the Venezuelan’s mistakes to seal a decisive 5-0 judging decision and in turn, the heat win.
Next in line for the crusading Euro was Bonaire’s final bastion, Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra), who wasn’t going to let the cold get in the way of a second potential event win for him. From the outset, it was a tough heat to call, but seizing the final few minutes, Thode went into over drive with massive Culo’s and double combinations to finally end Scheffer’s run.
That meant the event title would come down to the same match up witnessed in the single elimination the previous day; Thode vs Van Broeckhoven. In what stood poised to be an epic finale, the heat turned out to be a largely one-sided affair, as Van Broeckhoven struggled to lay down his trademark power moves in the light winds. Thode on the other hand had happily adapted his routine, and filled out his score sheet with a mix of cleanly landed moves, which handed him the victory without too much drama.
Cue the super final, as the pair sparred one last time. For this final bout, the wind returned, and with it, Van Broeckhoven went off the scale. Huge burners, culos and konos were just some of the outrageous moves getting pulled. Equally, Thode continued to deliver his stylish repertoire, which included a crazily technical switch stance double funnel. It was a super close final, and had the judges scratching their heads as they tried to separate the pair. In the end, a 3-2 judging decision handed Van Broeckhoven his first ever world cup victory, and placed European freestyle back at the pinnacle of the professional discipline after a prolonged drought.
We caught up with the newly crowned event winner to get his thoughts:
Steven Van Broeckhoven: “For me, this is the first time I’ve won a world cup event. It feels like I’m dreaming! I’m really happy, and really motivated to go for it this year. During the heat I was just sailing for myself, so I didn’t know how well I’d done against Kiri. I was just trying to do my best.
My first heat against Kiri was super light, I was almost not planing, so I was just waiting for the gusts as I wanted to do power moves, but I lost. In the final heat, the wind came through a bit stronger, so I could do all move moves, it was good. For sure this is the start of big things for European freestylers, there’s some really good talent coming through. It should be a good year!”
The 2011 PWA Surf World Cup Results:
1st Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2 / Gaastra)
2nd Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra)
3rd Davy Scheffers (Tabou / Gaastra)
4th Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North)
5th Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic)
The World Tour now swaps freestyle for slalom, with the race fleet hitting Korean waters from the 14th – 20th May for the second slalom clash of the year. Be sure to follow all the action at pwaworldtour.com