Events From Hell
Sunburn, windburn, grit, salt, dust, nuclear gusts, extreme heat and punishing cold water are all features of the greatest tour on earth.
Some riders make it all look easy on the water, even in the thick of competition, but the truth is that the often remote and windswept PWA tour stops can take their toll on even the toughest competitors.
I grilled some hardened pros on which events are an uphill struggle.
What makes an event challenging?
Nayra Alonso (Fanatic / Severne): "A challenging event for me can be one with pretty big waves, like Maui, or some with tricky hard conditions like Guincho or Sylt, when it is bang on-shore.
Also getting to some events or having everything ready can be quite challenging sometimes.
Guincho takes forever to get all the gear ready: first in the tent and pit areas, and secondly on the beach when the event is on.
Sylt is also another stop that keeps you running around like a crazy duck! The wind picks up, then drops, changes direction, and keeps you constantly on your feet to check you’re prepared and up-to-date with the schedule.
In Pozo, I could easily rig my 3,2 and 3,7, leave them at the beach and forget about it! Although there, as the event is so long that you end up knocked out!”
John Skye (F2 / Naish): “For me personally waiting around is the hardest challenge. When you turn up at an event you want to compete. I find the longer I have to wait around, the less motivated I get.”
Jesper Orth (Starboard / Severne): “The actually sailing conditions for sure, but also the surroundings like the beach access, storage of gear, food etc. Also the difficulties travelling to some spots have a great deal to do with what make it challenging.”
2007’s most extreme event?
Jesper: “Well it has to be the Pozo event. Actually the 3 events in Canaries back to back are very hard.
But the Pozo Slalom event must be the most demanding of them all.
First you have to battle the shore break and the slippery rocks to get out on the water, without chipping your fin and board or trashing your rig in the shore break.
Well, actually you have to ensure that your gear don't get airborne before getting to the water.
I once let my rig slip out of my hands because I had some sun cream on them, and the sail just slipped and went about 20 meters up in the air and landed 100 meters down the rocks…luckily there was no damage or anyone hurt!
Nayra: "Guincho, because carrying all the gear through the sand back and forth is terrible punishment. And Pozo. Because Pozo is such a long competition that doing two disciplines it seems to last forever…”
John: "Tiree this year was painful for me. I had a killer flu virus for the whole 2 weeks (UK + PWA event).
It meant that on one side I was trying to rest, take it easy and recover, whilst on the other side I was trying to stay fully motivated.
In the end I was really lucky that the only day of contest was at the end when I had almost recovered.”
The Hardest Tour Stops?
Nayra: "Sylt and Guincho really. They both can get quite gnarly when it flicks onshore and with the super-nasty shore breaks.”
Jesper: "Pozo again. To actually sail in up to 60 kts is just another game. Your trimming is totally different.
Suddenly it’s all about control more than ever. Hitting the start line with 10 other guys and going full speed when your board that suddenly decide to tail ride before that first mark inside, close to the rocks.
This is where hell chop will welcome you and destroy any style and smoothness you thought you had in jibing skills, and with the last ingredients of the "no rules' concept, makes this very challenging.
Then next leg is towards the waves and sometimes you seams more airborne than on the water with the board.
This is the only event I experience those total, out-of-control wipeouts, where the wind and waves just throw you around with no respect.
The amount of sailors entering Slalom at Pozo is pretty much half of the other events, so it’s a very clear line where some sailors decide not to battle those conditions.
But as always there is a group of sailors that swears never to put their feet into Pozo’s waters again to join this special slalom battle.”
John: "Pozo always kills me. Hanging around all day at the beach and the conditions really drain you.
I think its worse when I am not actually sailing. I finish the day in pieces. When you have heats it keep you busy.”
Who seems to take all the hardest conditions in their stride?
John: “Josh (Angulo) is the master. He stays motivated by constantly sailing and pushing for contest. Even when its so tiny and crappy, he is still out there sailing in front of the judges and ripping whatever chop he can find into bits!”
Jesper: “Well there are a handful of sailors with a lot of knowledge from all their years in the slalom comps, and they all seams to pull through in style (Antoine Albeau (Starboard / NeilPryde), Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1 / North). Micah Buzianis (JP / NeilPryde), Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MauiSails), Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra), Steve Allen (Tabou / Gaastra).”
Nayra: "John Skye. Unbelievable! No matter how it is, he is happy. He takes it as it is... Never complains. And at the end of the day, he is always happy. Maybe I should start looking into what sort of sugar does he put on his coffee...”
© PWA / Brian McDowell