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Victor Fernandez: King of the New Skool

20.07.2006

The 2006 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam Event Summary

Victor Fernandez (E-42 Fanatic / Simmer) wins his first PWA Grand Slam, and has his name etched in history as one the greats to have won at Pozo. Antoine Albeau (F-192 Starboard / NeilPryde) notches up 11 straight race wins to dominate the Slalom 42 racing, and Daida Moreno (E-64 North / Mistral), convincingly wins both the women’s wave and freestyle titles.

Pozo in July has rarely disappointed competitors on the PWA World Tour, and this year was no exception. 10 days of insane wave, racing and freestyle action entertained the crowds at the purpose built terraces, with mind-bending freestyle tricks, rocket fast racing and outstanding wave sailing skills. With a €90.000 prize purse at stake only the best showed up to stake their claims for glory.

Wavesailing

The wave action kicked off from day one, when the single eliminations of both men and women’s competition started. Leading the tour after the excellent Guincho event was former world champion Kevin Pritchard (US-3 Starboard / Maui sails), who was eager to keep ahead of last years wavesailing world champion Kauli Seadi (BRA-253 Quatro / Naish). Daida Moreno too had Karin Jaggi (Z-14 F2 / North) snapping at her heels going into this event after a close run Guincho final.

Men’s

The early rounds had some tough draws with which might not have looked out of place at the semi-final stages, and that was reflected in the action, as no-one held back on the level of performance with major stunts going down, and double-forward loops as standard. Sadly before the contest Robby Swift (K-89 JP / NeilPryde) broke his foot practising and so last years 4th ranked wavesailor had to sit the event out. There were also several of freestyle windsurfing’s young guns eager to gain wave-ranking points this season, but despite outrageous aerial skill there was little success for most of the flat-water specialists.  Perhaps unsurprisingly the Pozo specialists and locals dominated, Vidar Jensen (N-44 North) being the standout with his stalled, one-handed double forward loops!

The later stages of the single elimination saw many of the old guard out-gunned by the new-skool crew. Bjorn Dunkerbeck (E-11 North) had outstanding waveriding skills, and Kevin Pritchard stood his ground using the highest scoring old skool jumps – one-handed one-footed back loops - to reach the single elimination final against aerial wizard Victor Fernandez. After looking to be behind in the scoring early in the final, Fernandez suddenly sprung into action and thundered ahead with excellent wave selection and perfect clean double-forwards, push loop table-tops and shaka's back onto the wave in the dying minutes. There was no argument and the judge’s decisions unanimous. The double elimination saw no serious fight backs, and the last heats saw major battles with Jensen, Dunkerbeck, and Peter Volwater (H-24 F2 / North). This time it was Seadi who advanced to the final against Fernandez after a tough battle with Kevin Pritchard that ended the hopes of the experienced campaigner. Excellent early morning conditions made for some outstanding riding and jumping action for the spectators. Both sailors were on fire pulling clean double forwards, massive one-handed back loops, and pushloop tabletops. But the riding battle was dominated by Fernandez who picked all the good set waves and showed off with fluid taka’s, backside 360’s and shaka’s back onto the wave face,  before racking up more perfect turns. Seadi was beaten fair and square in the highest standard Pozo final ever seen. Fernandez has come to competitions before with a fierce reputation as being the new king of professional wavesailing, which his freesailing certainly confirms. But, until now his performance in competition has not matched this reputation, until he delivered this magnificent victory in Gran Canaria.

Women’s

Like the men’s competition the ladies ladder had many freestylers trying their luck this year. But a face not seen in competition for some time gave firm opposition to the established players. Steffi Wahl (G-303, F2 /North) advanced from the early rounds to beat big-hitter Junko Nagoshi ( J-11 F2 / Simmer). Also progressing well was local girl Nayra Alonso (E-4 Fanatic / Severne) who marched into the semi-finals and lost to Daida Moreno before meeting Jaggi in the losers final. The single elimination final was between sisters Daida and Iballa Moreno (E-63 Mistral / North).  Iballa had done well to beat Guincho runner up Jaggi in the semi-final, but was unlucky against Daida in the final ,where good waves were scarce and Daida’s jumping offensive was too much for her to match.

The double elimination again saw a strong performance from Wahl, and also from Uli Hoetzl (AUT-123), who met each other after Hoetzl beat experienced wave specialist Annemarie Reichmann (H-98 Naish / Naish). Hoetzl won and advanced to meet Alonso, but the Gran Canarian’s local knowledge and powerful riding style ended Hoetzl’s impressive run. Alonso then  lost to Jaggi, before  Jaggi in turn lost to Iballa Moreno. In the final, Daida started off with a textbook planing forward loop straight on the starting signal, which was immediately followed by a tabletop forward. Iballa replied with a Table-forward of her own, although hers was marginally lower. Daida then landed an amazing forward loop with one hand off all the way round, before pulling a lean double forward loop out of the bag! Iballa showed impressive wave riding skill and wave selection, but it was Daida’s superior riding power and massive backside hits that earned her the higher wave scores, and a well deserved overall event victory.

Junior wavesailing Contest

On the morning of day two, the PWA judging team held a junior’s wavesailing competition with some of the most exciting new talent emerging from around the globe. Many of the names that competed will no doubt go on to greatness in the PWA elite competition scene. Experience of high-level competition is key to these young guns progression towards their ultimate goals in professional windsurfing.

The entry list included Hawaiians Connor Baxter and Zane Schweitzer, both with great heritage in windsurfing history. Schweitzer’s grandfather Hoyle was one of the key figures credited with the sports invention. Several Canarian hotshots such as Philip Koster joined them - also an entrant in the mains men’s event here, at only 13 yrs old!

These gifted young riders had the privilege of being coached by the most experienced heads on the competitive scene. Dunkerbeck, Orjan Jensen (E-19, North Sails) and Daida and Iballa Moreno were all on hand to give their knowledge and experience on how to sail the perfect competition heat. Nayra Alonso provided commentary. Who knows if this assistance will ever come back to haunt them? Many will remember a young Dunkerbeck facing Robby Naish (US-1111 Naish / Naish) before defeating the heroic figure on his way to multiple world titles. What is great to see is the dedication to the sports future that these top-level sailors are prepared to give back.

The final was close and run in good conditions. Jose Romero E 45 emerged as the winner, with Philip Koster in second and Jorge Vera in third. The standard was really high with planing forwards by all of the top 3 sailors, air chacho’s by Adzubenam Trujillo and Koster making Clew first Puneta's, stalled forwards, backloop's and very good wave riding. But it was the superior riding and aerial skills of Jose Romero that earned him the win.

Slalom 42

All eyes were on Antoine Albeau fresh from his recent 2006  Super-X world title. Super-X runner-up Kevin Pritchard would also be a strong contender in the Slalom 42 discipline, but the big hitters of downwind racing could not be ignored, such as joint 2005 world champions Micah Buzianis (USA-34 JP / NeilPryde) and Bjorn Dunkerbeck (E-11 T1 / North). After the thrills of the constant lead changes of Super-X it was now time for the tension of the high-speed chase. No one could believe the speed that the big men of windsurfing were achieving as they streaked across the waves of Pozo.

Albeau had a dream start winning the first two races, before losing the third race, which Kevin Pritchard won. It looked at this stage that Albeau was fast, but not unbeatable, as even in that race he fell and was second to last before he clawed his way back up to fourth position! In the fourth race world speed record holder Finian Maynard (KV-11 F2 / NeilPryde) slipped past the leaders of the first reach and showed he could rival the Frenchman for pace by holding him off until near the right near the finish line. Maynard thought he’d won and misjudged the finish line as Albeau sneaked past him just in time to take the win.

With downwind 5 leg courses Race Director Juan Antonio Aragon then changed to a seven-leg course with shorter reaches to test the full range of the fleets racing skills.  After that it was Albeau winning all the way, challenged only really by Dunkerbeck, Kevin Pritchard, Matt Pritchard (US-10 Tabou / Gaastra), Micah Buzianis and Jimmy Diaz (ISV-11 F2 / North). By race 10 the call was to run a long distance, full fleet race. Starting out to sea there was a spectacular start as the entire fleet crossed the starting line and sped along a super-broad and long reach towards the beach. Here the racers had to negotiate increasingly short legs towards the finish in front of the grandstand on Pozo’s boulevard sea front. In this race and Race 12, another long distance extravaganza, Matt Pritchard  and Dunkerbeck showed their racing experience and got the closest to taking on Albeau who won yet again. It seems racing has born it’s first legend since the days of Dunkerbeck’s total domination of the sport in previous seasons. Although Albeau showed himself to be a complete racer with exceptional starting and turning skills, he will no doubt provide a clear threat on the speed course after this display of un-paralleled boardspeed. With 11 wins from 12 races Albeau firmly shut the door on any competition during this event. Consistency from Dunkerbeck earned him a well deserved second place, and Kevin Pritchard finished in third.

Women’s Freestyle

There rumours of new talent in the run up to this event. And right from the start of this contest these rumours were confirmed when some new names were seen out freesailing. Last season it was Sara Quita Offringa (ARU-91 Starboard / Maui Sails) who showed up and shook up the scene with her fluid style and technical repertoire. This year it was Laure Treboux  (SUI-4 Naish / Naish) who rocked the boat, showing outstanding skill with flowing routines of high-level tricks. There were some more experienced competitors too who had trained hard and pushed past some big names since last season, such as Yoli de Brendt (V-26 Fanatic / North), and Silvia Alba (E-67), who made their efforts pay off by finishing higher than established names such as Reichmann and Nagoshi.

Two double-eliminations were run throughout the 10-day contest. Daida Moreno won the both finals in the first double elimination, and  the crowd got a treat for the second final when Daida Moreno and Jaggi demonstrated just how high the level of women’s freestyle is.  Karin showed a full range of old skool tricks along with the usual spock's and grubbies. Daida was sailing fluidly and had pulled an amazingly clean grubby to back up her style ratings. It looked like Jaggi had lost despite her stronger diversity of tricks, but her technical score was boosted in the dying seconds as she made a super clean flaka heading out. The judges said it was one of the tightest finals they had ever judged but it was Daida who won narrowly on the style category.

Daida made a typical start to the second double elimination final landing a forward loop within seconds of the heat starting. Moreno then really raised the bar by making a perfect clew-first spock 540, and a backloop. Jaggi had made a shuvit into a heli-tack, a forward loop and a one-handed spock. She also fought back by scoring a great clew-first spock 540. But Moreno had other ideas and then threw a perfect ponch right near the beach and the judge’s tower. It was a unanimous decision by the judging panel that awarded her another win. It seems no-one just yet has the firepower and range of tricks in their routines to challenge Daida Moreno, but the standard of the entire fleet has increased rapidly this season, with many challengers showing promise for the upcoming events.  Treboux made an outstanding debut finish to her first ever PWA event by scoring a solid third in both doubles. Offringa was unlucky not to progress against Treboux when they met in the double eliminations final stages. In fact Offringa might well have advanced had she not performed a couple of her best tricks out of the official competition area.

There is no doubt that at Pozo the traditional performers such as the Moreno Sisters, and Karin Jaggi prosper with their ability to make power moves in the rough conditions. Daida Moreno is no stranger to landing double forward loops, one-handed forwards and massive back loops within a freestyle heat. There is also little doubt she would perform in the new-skool’s preferred flat-water conditions too, with her ability to make flaka’s, ponch's and all the traditional flat water sliding tricks and more. Offringa and Treboux will no doubt soon be pushing harder for podium places, especially after further competition experience, particularly for Offringa who is only 16 years old and surely the main name to watch out for in seasons to come.

After 10 days of intense competition the 2006 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam put all its competitors through the most intense test possible to find the most worthy winners. Albeau, Fernandez, and Moreno are true forces to be reckoned with in windsurfing and Fernandez’s victory has surely signalled the end of the old-guards dominance of wavesailing. Albeau has shown true racing pedigree with multiple world titles while Daida Moreno will no doubt take a little longer to shift from her throne.

Next up is the 2006 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam with Slalom 42 and Men’s and women’s Freestyle. You can follow all the progress at www.pwaworldtour.com throughout the event with live updates from 21st July through August 1st.

Or for more information please contact the PWA office at info@pwaworldtour.com

PWA/McDowell