Mondial du Vent PWA World Cup
The elite of the male freestyle world will have the honour of raising the curtain on the 2015 PWA World Tour as they prepare to explode into action during the Mondial du Vent PWA World Cup, which runs between the 20th-25th April. After a five month break windsurfing is set to return to the world stage with a bang.
Leucate is located in the South of France - approximately 130km southwest of Montpellier. During the winter Leucate has a population of about 11,000 people, but during the summer months this figure rises to around 80,000 - with many arriving to take advantage of the golden sunshine, pristine white sand beaches and of course the famous Tramontana wind which whistles down the Pyrenees Mountains - sometimes in excess of 60 knots - to transform Leucate into a windsurfing paradise. The wind is so reliable and frequent here that there are around 300 windy days a year.
Ones to Watch
As the reigning world champion - Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic / North / MFC) - will enter the opening event of the year as the undoubted favourite and the man that everyone has to beat. With six world titles to his name at the age of just twenty-six, Gollito, is the undisputed King of freestyle and will be looking to lay down the gauntlet once more. However, there will be a stern test waiting for him.
The first of those contenders will be Steven Van Broeckhoven, who has finished the past two seasons as the vice-world champion and he will be desperate to go one better this year. The Belgium maestro claimed his solitary world crown in 2011 and will be more determined than ever to add to that. Van Broeckhoven suffered a knee injury at the start of the off season, but is back to full fitness and will be a major threat in the season opener.
The 2013 world champion - Kiri Thode (Starboard / GA Sails) - will be on a mission to reclaim his world champion status, having relinquished the title to Estredo when leading the title race heading into the final event of 2014. Judging from Thode’s latest video, the Bonairean wizard has taken his sailing to another level yet again, with crazy combinations such as kabikuchi into culos now in his armoury to back up his usual fluid and explosive array of tricks. Expect to see Thode finishing in the prestigious top three at a minimum.
Fellow Bonairean - Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) - proved already last year that he possesses all of the skills necessary to challenge the best in the business and was deservedly crowned the PWA Youth World Champion in 2014, after finishing fourth overall. However, the nineteen year old will have a bigger prize in his sights this time around. Expect to see trademark air kabikuchis and double culos as he looks to kick off the season with a bang.
Bonaire is renowned for producing world class freestylers and as a result there will be a whole host of Bonairean’s in the running for the prestigious top three. The legendary Frans brother’s - Tonky (Tabou / GA Sails) and Taty (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic / MFC) - will be a major force to be reckoned with alongside the likes of Bjorn Saragoza (Starboard / Hot Sails Maui), seventh overall in 2014, and Youp Schmit, who has battled back from a serious knee injury and looks to be back at his best from his latest video, which sees the twenty-two year old landing the first ever air double culos.
Dieter Van der Eyken (Starboard / Severne) has a been a prominent member of the overall top ten for the past four years, and after another winter of training under his belt in Western Australia and Bonaire, will be hoping to kick on from finishing in an excellent fifth place overall in 2013 and ’14. The Belgium is one of the most diverse sailors on the tour - landing the latest power moves and combinations on both tacks and will once again be someone to keep a careful eye on.
Antony Ruenes (Tabou / GA Sails) enjoyed his best year to date on the PWA World Tour last year as he finished sixth overall - including a superb second place in Sylt. Ruenes will be leading the charge of the French alongside Nicolas Akgazciyan (99NoveNove / Point-7 / AL360), Adrien Bosson (Fanatic / North / Maui Ultra Fins) and Julien Mas (JP / Avanti), all of whom will be hoping to make the most of their home advantage.
The level on the freestyle world tour in so incredibly high right now that there simply isn’t an easy heat anymore, which means there’s also a whole host of sailors, who are capable of beating anyone on their day. From the likes of the hugely talented Dutchman Davy Scheffers (Tabou / GA Sails) - tenth overall in 2014, whilst being ranked as high as fifth overall in 2012, to Adrian Beholz (Fanatic / Sailloft Hamburg), Max Rowe (Fanatic / North).
Another sailor to keep a close eye on is Phil Soltysiak (Starboard / Sailworks), who until last year had finished in the world’s top ten for the past six years. The Canadian was hampered by injury for much of last season, but is now back to full fitness and would look a sure fire bet for a place in the top ten.
Don’t be surprised if there a few upsets either as some of the up and coming generation look to take the scalps of some of there unsuspecting rivals. Word on the street is that twenty year old Belgian - Yentel Caers (JP / NeilPryde) - is sailing extremely well and has plenty of experience of sailing in Leucate, so could be a major threat, whilst Brazilian wonder kid Hugo Sousa (RRD / RRD / Maui Ultra Fins), could also shine in the strong winds and flat water.
Make sure you don’t miss any of the amazing action by tuning into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 20th-25th April. Here you’ll be able to follow the majority of the freestyle action as it happens via the PWA live stream and live ticker. It promises to be a spectacle you can’t afford to miss. Who’s your money of for the first event of 2015?