2011 PWA SURF WORLD CUP
Event Summary: European freestyle enjoys a spell in the lime light after Belgium’s Steven Van Broeckhoven secures his first ever world cup victory on the waters of Lake Neusiedler.
Since it’s inception in 1998, the Surf World Cup has juggled with slalom, super cross and freestyle, but one variable has remained constant over the 13 years of competition history; Lake Neusiedler has always been an anomaly.
2011 was no different, and over the six day competition period we were greeted with everything from blazing sun and dead calm, to sailors hunting for 3.7m sails as frontal storms rolled in from northern Europe.
With conditions playing ball for the last two days of competition, we witnessed both a single and double elimination to crown Steven Van Broeckhoven the definitive 2011 Surf World Cup Champion. This is how it happened:
In the single elimination, Mattia Pedrani (Simmer / Starboard / Dakine / AL360) was the first seeded sailor to fall, departing at the hands of the UK’s Max Rowe (Fanatic / North), who was reveling in the challenging conditions.
Continuing through the elimination, round three witnessed both the highest scoring heat of the round, courtesy of Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2 / Gaastra), who set the bar skyward when he dominated his heat against Deivis Parternina Teran (Fanatic / North), and the closest heat of the day, when France’s Nicolas Akgazciyan (Starboard / Gun) sneaked past Bjorn Saragoza (Starboard / Hot Sails) with a mere half point advantage on tie-break.
In the quarter finals, Van Broeckhoven continued to assert his dominance when he took down the stella Tonky Frans (Tabou / Gaastra) to seal himself a place in the final four. Joining him were the familiar faces of Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North), who put an end to Dieter Van Der Eyken’s (Severne / Starboard) hopes of advancing further, Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra), who defeated Holland’s Davy Scheffers (Tabou / Gaastra), and Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic) who left Akgazciyan in his wake.
With the green flag flying high, it immediately became apparent that Van Broeckhoven wasn’t going to be happy with a place in the losers’ final, and despite going head to head with freestyle’s most highly decorated athlete, he dug deep to deliver a truly world class performance, leaving Estredo to question where he’d gone wrong as he failed to take up his usual place in the winners’ final. In the second half of the semi final, Kiri Thode appeared to still be riding the high of his recent event victory in Vietnam. His super polished routine had the crowds gasping at the sheer audacity of some of his creations, which rightfully earned him the remaining place in the final.
Roll on the finals, and in the battle for third place, Estredo showed his mettle as he held his head high to defeat Taty Frans in the gusty, onshore conditions. That left the battle royale between Thode and Van Broeckhoven. To put the heat into context, the PWA’s head judge rated this one as up there in his top three best freestyle finals ever. For a man that’s witnessed hundreds of world class freestyle finals, that gives you an idea of just how spectacular this heat was.
Thode pulled what we believe to be the first ever spock-kono in competition. In reply, Van Broeckhoven laid down what was as close to a perfect run as you could get in the conditions. The two protagonists were both hellbent on securing victory, but the day ultimately went to Van Broeckhoven, who had a slight edge on the magnitude of his maneuvers.
Entering the final day of competition, a 6.00am skippers meeting coupled with freezing temperatures had many of the riders struggling to find their rhythms as the double elimination ran its course.
Very much in his rhythm, France’s Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / Simmer) 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 Scheffers who obviously had plans of his own. Similarly, Canada’s Philip Soltysiak (Starboard / Dakine) was to crush Tonky Frans’ 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. 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. 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, 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. For Scheffers, despite his loss, this was a hugely significant step in career, marking far and away his best PWA result, and placing him firmly within freestyle’s elite.
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