The 2007 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam – Event Summary
Pozo Izquierda immediately served-up a feast of wind and swell for the single elimination of the wave contest. A truly groundbreaking day saw both the tour leader and the current world champion ejected from the ladder.
Predictably some of the famous Gran Canarian locals such as Dario Ojeda (Quatro / Gaastra) and Vidar Jensen (North) prevailed before an historic final between Victor Fernandez (Fanatic / Simmer), and Brazilian Kauli Seadi (Quatro / Naish). That historic clash included perfect double forward loops and the first push-loop forward ever witnessed in competition. Fernandez took the honours in a close fought encounter, in which, despite both riders’ aerial skills being near-perfect, the young Spaniards wave riding was superior.
The women’s event was also marked a milestone in the sport. It takes more skill than ever before to compete at this level so, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Pozo legends Iballa Moreno (North) and Daida Moreno (North) who emerged as the finalists. Both the twins ripped and threw double loops mixed with sick wave-riding, but Daida Moreno took the victory after landing the fist ever Pushloop-tabletop seen in a women’s contest.
More good waves meant there was no delay in starting the double elimination of the wavesailing event. Strong comebacks were made by Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails), Marcos Perez (Exocet) and France’s Julien Taboulet (F2 / Naish) but Seadi and Fernandez stood firm to fight through to another final to settle the event title. The conditions were not as good as the first day but another jumping-oriented final allowed Fernandez to seal his second consecutive event win and second successive Pozo crown.
The racer’s got their first start on the third day and with two races completed the top seeds sprung into action to take the early bragging rights. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) showed form early by beating Antoine Albeau (Starboard / MauiSails) in the first race in a desperate bid to avenge his defeat at the Frenchman’s hands here in 2006.
Not wanting to let Dunkerbeck have a key psychological victory Albeau pulled-off a perfect start and, despite strong challenges from Dunkerbeck and Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra), he kept his lead to win - the race event was on!
On day 4 the Women’s freestyle event finally got underway. Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde) struck early to take the event lead after a stunning performance against 2006 Freestyle world champion Daida Moreno (North) in the first single elimination final. Offringa was drawn early against last season’s impressive debutant Laure Treboux (Naish / Naish) and survived to advance all the way to the final. Just like the wave event, this was a landmark in the women’s sport as the tricks witnessed in the finals smashed all previous barriers. Lighter wind favoured Offringa as she dealt with Moreno after completing moves such as air flaka’s, a switch-stance chacho, a Funnel, and a Cana Brabu.
Racing - Slightly more consistent wind prompted the crew to run slalom in the afternoon.
Antoine Albeau cut a clear and decisive victory in race 3. The tour leader, and 2006 racing champion successfully snaked Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) who led from the start to record the race win.
The wind denied another race as it switched to a northerly direction. That meant the competition area became too gusty and scattered with large glassy patches of water unsuitable for fair competition.
Freestyle - Once more the call on day 5 was to start with freestyle and the first double elimination, before reverting to racing later in the day.
After struggling in the single elimination Iballa Moreno (North) dug deep and battled through shoulder pain in a gritty double elimination fight back. After no less than 6 consecutive heats Iballa’s assault on a place in the final was halted by her sister Daida Moreno.
In the final Sarah-Quita Offringa and Daida Moreno completed their familiar line- here on the Moreno’s territory.
Daida came out of the blocks flying as Offringa fell a fair bit, and with home advantage showing, there was a re-sail to decide the winner under the double elimination system.
Moreno was perhaps over-confident in the re-match as she crashed many spectacular moves, as, with great support on the beach, Offringa’s composure blossomed, especially after a perfect switch-chacho near the crowds boosted her to land everything and subsequently take the event lead.
Racing - The 4th race signified a landmark as the fleet earned their first discard and the chance to throw away their worst result so far. Albeau was in danger of blowing it in the 4th race final, but recovered well after a mistimed start. The French colossus gambled and took a 7.8, and after an awful first reach into the sun successfully chanced a ‘Hole-Shot’ at the first mark to make up lost places. He then snuck inside Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails) and Finian Maynard (F2 / NeilPryde) at the second mark and stole Micah Buzianis’ (JP / NeilPryde) wind on the third reach to take the lead and win the race.
The slalom racers were given centre stage in the morning to showcase their skills to the sizeable weekend crowd. Good wind of around 25-30 knots made for exciting racing and so three races were placed on the schedule.
The race 5 final turned-up a few surprises as team mates Ross Williams (Tabou / Gaastra) and Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra) capitalized on confusion at the first mark to slip past and allow Williams the race win and Tabou/Gaastra team boss Matt a second.
Widespread nerves spread like wildfire through race 6 as many top names slipped-up under pressure, and once again Williams was primed and ready to pounce on the unwary.
The first blunder was from event leader Antoine Albeau who made an uncharacteristic mistake to miss out on a berth in the final. But the story had another cruel twist for his leaderboard rivals after final had to be re-started because Buzianis and Dunkerbeck were disqualified for premature starts.
Williams and Matt Pritchard were once again at the ready to make it count in the re-sail, and to try their best to deny Buzianis or Kevin Pritchard the chance to own any of the key podium slots.
The seventh race was run using the magnificent half-fleet format to treat the spectators to a spectacular sight of 22 racers streaking across the ocean and through the start line simultaneously.
After 2 qualifying heats all the favorites made it to the 22-man final which brought a straightforward victory for Albeau. In a perfect lesson on how to race, The French racing force made a textbook start and built an unassailable lead all the way to the finish.
Freestyle - The afternoon meant a switch to women’s freestyle and the start of the second single elimination.
Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic / North) came close to an upset against Daida Moreno in the early heats. Her off-season training nearly paid dividends when she forced a tie-break decision that edged the victory into Moreno’s favour.
It was also a day to remember for Japan’s Junko Nagoshi (F2 / Simmer). She turned heads when she elbowed-out tour leader Sarah-Quite Offringa in the second round. After the dust settled from the tough semi-finals the two finalists left standing were Daida Moreno and Laure Treboux.
Continuing the trend of the day it was another close call and a 3-2 decision from the judges that gave the Swiss freestyle specialist the win. Treboux successfully pulled a Puneta 540 and a one-handed clew-first Spock to impress with the technical difficulty scores.
Freestyle - The focus on day 7 zoomed-in on the women’s freestyle event and the completion of the crucial 2nd double elimination. The hardest days work was probably Sarah-Quita Offringa’s gruelling 6-heat struggle back up the ladder (Starboard / NeilPryde). She finally fell exhausted at the hands of Daida Moreno.
Moreno marched onward into battle with smooth sailing Swiss stylist Laure Treboux. There was something different and more motivated about Moreno’s approach today as she came out with all guns blazing to force a re-sail, whilst obviously loving the windier, wavier conditions.
Racing - In the afternoon strong steady wind and bright sunshine made for perfect slalom racing conditions. The course was adjusted from previous formats to have two long reaches after the start before some tighter zigzagging reaches nearer the beach to really test the full range of the competitor’s skills.
Race 8 was a clear-cut affair and another perfect example of Albeau’s flawless racing technique. There were good performances from French twins Sylvain Moussilmani (F2 / Simmer) and Benoit Moussilmani (F2 / Simmer) who made it into the final with another form player Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails) loving the gnarly conditions.
Race winner Albeau was over-powered on a 6.7 starting upwind but screamed ahead straight away from the pack in the choppy conditions in over 35 knots of wind.
With the strong consistent wind the call was to run half-fleet races for the rest of the afternoon on a similar course to the first race.
Race 9 - after a thrilling drag-race with Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde) this time it was Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) who gave everyone a lesson on how to compete as event leader Albeau blew-out in a pile-up at the first mark.
Race 10 - The wind was howling by now in typical Pozo style and that suited old hand at racing Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra) like a glove. The swell, especially at the outside marks became a crucial weapon for overtaking moves Moto-X style which favoured Pritchard’s technique, especially being a former Pozo winner in similar heavy winds back in ’99.
Fierce conditions whipped the ocean at Pozo into a frenzy early in the morning to spoil the party for the women’s freestylers. Even with sails as small as 3.0 the ladies were left with little flat water or any chances of control to exhibit their skills. Sadly the decision was made to cancel the final single elimination.
However the predominantly heavyweight race fleet dared to venture out to the shorter 5-leg course, meaning technical skills at the marks and a level head where mandatory to succeed.
Race 11 - Many riders were on their smallest registered sails of 5.0 but the heavyweights muscled it out on larger rigs of around 5.4 to 5.8sqm.
The final was a brilliant example of high-wind slalom racing. Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde) led the fleet down the first reach before tail-walking as he slammed-on the brakes approaching the first gybe mark to subsequently allow Dunkerbeck the lead, and consequently the race win.
Race 12 - This time a half-fleet format was chosen and the shorter course kept to really keep the pressure on.
Everyone’s breath was held as Dunkerbeck and Maynard screamed along the last section of the first reach and around the critical gybe. Perhaps only a miracle prevented the two giants colliding as they skirted the buoy whilst Albeau cruised around wide and into third place. Dunkerbeck’s fighting spirit was fortified with the extra wind and he made no bones about taking a consecutive race win here in his own backyard.
The 13th race was unlucky for some as quite a few top names struggled around the course. A lot of the top seeds played it safe in the final but one player was determined to make this race count. Dutchman Ben Van Der Steen (Exocet / Naish) lived-up to his growing reputation for gaining consistency by taking his virgin PWA race win. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North) was cursed as he catapulted going over the start line and subsequently losing his final shot at the event crown.
Kevin Pritchard took a vital second place ahead of brother Matt to pile the pressure on event leader Albeau and to virtually eliminate Bjorn Dunkerbeck’s chances of a podium finish
The tension was rife before the final of race 14 due to the hair- breadth point’s difference between Albeau, and Matt and Kevin Pritchard.
The final was stacked full of elite names who gave their all to make the final. No-one really pressed the line too hard at the start, but the fleet was even all the way along the first reach.
Race winner Kevin Pritchard however was a little more determined and that shone through as he screamed along every inch of the course to bag the victory.
Albeau rolled-in second to consequently take the Pozo event win and strengthen his grip on the tour lead, and Matt Pritchard bagged third to guarantee himself the runner-up’s trophy.Kevin Pritchard’s third place for the event slid him into second overall for the year.
Albeau once again showed that he can play the full deck of cards when it comes to competing, from total domination to a safe and conservative approach.
El Maquinola Super-Session
Canary Islands surfsports magazine El Maquinola sponsored a jumping-only Super-Session to round off an epic Pozo Grand Slam event. Two men’s qualifying heats, a women’s heat and a junior section entertained the crowds with an array of off-the-wall stunts.
Daida Moreno (North) won the women’s category with her insane Pushloop-tabletops and Philip Koster (Starboard/ Severne) showed why he’s a future star of the PWA scene with his amazing performance of high backloops, shakas and forwards in the junior division.
Victor Fernandez claimed the win after landing a perfect, high, planing double forward in the dying seconds. The level of tricks was though the roof, but the Spaniard won despite stiff opposition from Ricardo Campello (JP / NeilPryde) and Kauli Seadi (Quatro / Naish). Seadi failed to land his Push-loop forward loop and Campello was on fire with his doubles and Pushloop table tops.
A glamorous prize-giving and closing ceremony rounded-off a spectacular event that, as has happened so often before at Pozo, saw history made and champions crowned. Gran Canaria never fails to deliver the goods when it comes to high-pressure high wind competition and one can only imagine what the future here will see.
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© PWA / Brian McDowell