We are currently just over halfway through the 2017 PWA World Tour, so while the tour remains in hibernation for another two weeks - before the Hvide Sande PWA World Cup (9th-14th September) - we take a look back at a few things we’ve learned after the Canaries leg of the tour.
1. Antoine Albeau (RRD / NeilPryde) is like a fine wine - he seems to just get better with age
- The 23-time world champion has enjoyed an imperious first half to the season which has seen him claim two victories and a third place from the three events where it has been possible to gain a result so far, which gives Albeau a commanding lead heading into Autumn.
2. Philip Köster (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) is back bigger, faster and stronger than ever before
- Before the start of the new season I think it’s fair to say that everyone had their doubts and question marks about the German wonderkids knee… both mentally and physically returning to an extreme sport so soon after a major injury, which usually takes 12-18 months for top athletes to return from, was a tall order. Would the 3-time world champion be able to fully trust his knee mentally, and physically, would it be able to hold up to the brutal landings it would be required to take to compete at the very top of the sport again?
- That first heat back was a bit of a leap of faith, but one that Köster passed with flying colours as he soon landed a trademark ankle-dry double forward like he’d never been away, which put to bed any doubts over his mental preposition and his knee passed it’s first physical test. By the end of Pozo Köster may have been hobbling a bit, but with three weeks before the next event in Tenerife the 22-year old had time to rest up and when he returned he destroyed the rest of the competition again to maintain his perfect record since returning from injury. Köster’s jumping appears to be as radical and impeccable as ever, but it seems like his wave riding may have even improved after a layoff, which is a scary thought for the rest of his rivals. If PK continues that level of form it’s hard to see anyone denying him a 4th world title, such was his dominance in Tenerife.
3. The next generation of young wave sailors are starting to claim the scalps of their more experienced peers… is there a changing of the guard on the horizon?
The next generation of wave sailors seem to be thriving at the moment and that has caused people to standup and take notice of the young crop, who have been causing some major upsets in the opening two events of the year… Alessio Stillrich (Fanatic / NorthSails) has been on the radar for a few years already, but is still only 22 and he recorded his best finish yet - 6th in Tenerife - as did 19-year-old Marc Paré (Simmer / Simmer Sails), who broke into the top 10 for the first time - while others who stood out include 19-year-old Julian Salmonn (Severne / Severne Sails), 17-year-old Loick Lesauvage (Goya Windsurfing / Shamal Sunglasses), 16-year-old Jake Schettewi (JP / Hot Sails Maui), 18-year-old Noah Vocker (Fanatic / NorthSails / Maui Ultra Fins) - who won the 16-18 year old Youth’s division - while the most exciting grom, who looks a serious talent for the years to come has to go to 15-year-old Marino Gil (Goya Windsurfing), who has already won two heats on the world tour.
4. Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde / Maui Ultra Fins) completed la Decima in Fuerteventura, but Maaike Huvermann is closing the gap - will SQ still be there to be taken a shot at next year?
Sarah-Quita Offringa is the undisputed Queen of Freestyle having remained undefeated on the PWA Freestyle World Tour for the last 10 years. This season saw the Aruban pushed the hardest she’s ever been by Maaike Huvermann (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) as she went in search of an incredible 10th world title, which the 26-year-old would eventually win by just one point in the final over her Dutch protege. For the first time in a long time you could see Offringa was under pressure and there were a few cracks in her usually flawless display, so the question is will she still be battling it out in the freestyle arena next year?
Now would seem like the ideal time to hand over the freestyle flame to Huvermann would it not? Offringa could choose to leave freestyle on her own terms with her perfect record in tact, but it would also allow her to focus her attention on the waves - the only world title missing from her otherwise spectacular résumé. But as the Queen of Freestyle I think she would find it hard to walk away - particularly when she is still at the top - and with 13 world titles she’s clearly an athlete who loves the feeling of winning.
Take nothing away from Huvermann, who is the first sailor in many years to have put Offringa under any kind of real pressure in the freestyle arena by raising her own level of performance year on year, but she still has a long way to go to execute her moves with as much style and power as Offringa. Yes, she is closing the gap, but if you were to take both sailors best possible performance on paper then there would still only be one winner. Huvermann is undoubtedly closing the gap, but the real question remains whether Offringa will still be there to be taken a shot at. If she chooses to continue then you an expect to see new moves added to her repertoire with the Aruban gem likely to up her freestyle anté.
5. Slalom - and windsurfing - comes with its dangers like an extreme sport, but it’s no more dangerous than it was before
Unfortunately in Fuerteventura two serious injuries occurred within the space of a few days with Aruba’s Ethan Westera (Tabou / GA Sails) and Bonaire’s Taty Frans (Starboard / GA Sails / Mystic) both being injured in racing incidents. Both are still sidelined at the moment and the PWA wish them all the best with their recoveries and hope to see them back on the water soon.
Slalom wasn’t the only discipline to see injuries though with Belgian’s Yentel Caers (JP / Point-7) injured whilst competing in the freestyle in Fuerteventura, while Daida Moreno (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) was forced to withdraw from the competition in Tenerife after injuring herself midway through her semifinal.
Make sure you tune into www.pwaworldtour.com between the 9-14th September when the Men’s and Women’s Slalom fleets will be returning to action for the Waterz Festival Hvide Sande PWA World Cup.