Reflections On An Almighty 2007 PWA Season – Freestyle
The 3rd and final review of an epic years competition
With the silverware all dished-out and the big names sent home to re-charge and review their years work, the world of windsurfing can be proud of an impressive run of competition that pushed levels far beyond most peoples expectations.
All in all 6 world championship titles were settled in wave sailing, slalom racing and freestyle between the most talented men and women windsurfers on the globe.
The standard of freestyle seems to shoot through the roof each season. The level required to advance from even the first rounds is incredible and it is often said that any of the top 25 names could take an event win of they gained momentum through the ladder.
2007 also saw the newer limited 32-man format to intensify the competition even further. The ladies fleet was no-less cutthroat and the variety of conditions on tour certainly matched the variety of styles on the water.
The 2007 Costa Teguise Grand Slam – Lanzarote. June 30th-July 7th
Perfect freestyle conditions on day 1 meant there was no delay in getting the first double elimination of the year underway. There were a few shock exits, namely the Frans brothers who couldn’t seem to perform to their usual standard, but, many were excited about the potential comeback of Ricardo Campello (JP / NeilPryde) who’d dipped below the radar in 2006 and fought his way up to the final stages, including an amazing Pushloop-Vulcan in the single elimination final.
However, despite a bit of a fright from Campello Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North) dug deep to secure the win after another all-Venezuelan final in the double elimination.
Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra) fended-off any other pretenders to defend the third place spot.
Daida Moreno (North) fended off the new wave of ladies freestyle talent despite the standard rocketing in the off-season. Aruban Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / NeilPryde) sealed second place after halting Laure Treboux’s (Naish / Naish) remarkable fight back in its tracks.
Moreno was also using the sizable ramps on the Las Cucharas reef to her advantage as the younger girls focused more on technical sliding tricks.
A second single elimination was started on day two with big swell still sweeping through the course area.
Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / Gaastra) and Marcilio Browne (Mistral / Gaastra) sprung into form but couldn’t displace Thode or Estredo who met in a tense final. Estredo was injured, but his combo moves gave him the win even though Thode must’ve notched-up a record amount of tricks in a heat.
In the women’s final Moreno fell a fair bit leaving Offringa to punish her with her impressive array of the latest switch-stance tricks.
The 2nd double elimination of the freestyle was completed in the morning of day 4, and Campello’s hopes of a fight back to the final were dashed. He scrapped well through 6 heats to reach the last three, but young Kiri Thode spoilt the chances of a Margaritan party for the final.
Just prior to the final Estredo injured his foot but soldiered on to defeat Thode and still pull-of his trademark moves such as the one-handed burner through the pain to win.
Sarah-Quita Offringa and Daida Moreno met once more after Treboux failed to barge her way into the final. Offringa made it 1-1 between her and Moreno with a solid heat as Moreno floundered and fell.
Another Estredo vs. Thode final surfaced on day 5 after the young Bonaire youngster brushed aside all pretenders. Once more, Thode’s work rate was exceptional as he performed an amazing array and number of tricks, but Estredo’s higher scoring moves and unique stunts awarded him the win.
The women’s final between Daida Moreno and Offringa was unanimous in a 5-0 decision in Offringa’s favour. That settled the tie between her and Moreno and awarded Offringa the event win and the tour lead going into the next event in Gran Canaria.
The 2007 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam – Canary Islands, Spain. July 9th-19th
Pozo once again hosted a women’s only freestyle event. The off-the-wall conditions are unique and presented the ultimate test in both aerial and sliding trickery.
After days of racing and wave action the Women’s freestyle event finally got underway on day 4. Sarah-Quita Offringa struck early to take the event lead after a stunning performance against 2006 Freestyle world champion Daida Moreno in the first single elimination final.
Offringa was drawn early against last season’s impressive debutant Laure Treboux 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 flakas, a switch-stance Chacho, a Funnel, and a Cana Brabu.
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 her sister Daida halted Iballa’s assault on a place in the final.
In the final Offringa and Daida Moreno completed their familiar line-up 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.
Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic / North) came close to an upset against Daida Moreno in the early heats of the second single elimination. Her off-season training nearly paid dividends when she forced a tiebreak 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 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.
Sarah-Quita Offringa launched a grueling 6-heat struggle back up the ladder in the second double elimination, but 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 as she came out with all guns blazing to force a re-sail, whilst obviously loving the windier, wavier conditions.
Fierce conditions whipped the ocean at Pozo into a frenzy early in the morning of day 8 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 and so the event came to an abrupt end and allowing Daida Moreno to top the podium ahead of Offringa and Treboux as the ladies tour headed to neighboring Fuerteventura to hook up with the men for their second event.
The 2007 Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam – July 20th-30th
Men’s - Marcilio Browne (Mistral / Gaastra) immediately caused controversy when he elbowed-out tour leader and reigning world champion Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North) before winning the first single elimination final against Thomas Traversa (Tabou / Gaastra). Daida Moreno (North) stood her ground to win the women’s final against a spirited performance from Sarah-Quita Offringa.
The final was certainly not as intense as the semis but the there was still a barrage of top-drawer tricks to be seen. Traversa fell a little more than the Brazilian youngster who threw down clew-first ponchs, and ponch flakas amongst the standard repertoire the elite sailors all possess.
The victory visibly helped the youngster find relief from all the pressure of expectation that’s heaped on his shoulders. The win also allowed Brawzinho to take a big step towards living up to the hype that surrounds him, on a day that cemented his footprint in windsurfing’s elite.
The double elimination is always about the fight backs, and after a dip in form in 2006 Ricardo Campello (JP / NeilPryde) reverted to type and obviously loving the lighter and flukier conditions that his opponents found harder to handle.
The upsets continued when Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra) of Bonaire preventing reigning world champion Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo staging any form of backlash through the ladder. The youngster beat the Venezuelan comprehensively in the lighter flatter conditions that must have reminded him of his Caribbean home spot of Lac Bay.
All eyes were then on Campello and Thode to see which one might be able to launch an offensive on the final four. The decision was predictably close and it was the former world youth freestyle champion Thode who took the win and ended Campello’s ambitions on a crack at the final.
Thode’s run at the top gained some momentum when Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / Gaastra) became his next victim, followed by Gaastra Team mate Tonky Frans (F2 / Gaastra). Kiri then moved on to the next stage against single elimination runner-up Traversa of France.
The judges certainly had their work cut out but it was Thode’s time once again to make the final and to apply pressure on single elimination winner Marcilio Browne.
The conditions in the final once again favoured Thode and he predictably racked up the points as Browne stuttered and frequently fell. No one was surprised to see Thode had won after he’d clearly outscored modern windsurfing’s much-hyped sensation.
Under the double elimination format that meant there had to be a re-sail to break the tie, and so after a short break they headed-out to do battle for a final time.
Browne was a hundred percent more active in this critical deciding heat and the crowds certainly appreciated the action close to the beach. He got the nod from the judging panel and sealed a famous victory that justified the hype that surrounds him as a force of the future.
Women - The flatter water conditions brought the standard of the women’s competition to a higher level than earlier in the season. This was predicted to favour the freestyle specialists like Laure Treboux and Sarah-Quita Offringa, but no one expected Moreno to find the lack of ramps suitable for success either.
The first round heats inevitably favoured the higher seeds but the going got tough in from the second round onwards. Things got serious at the semis though when world number 3 Laure Treboux was crushed by joint tour leader and 2006 world champ Daida Moreno. Treboux was billed as a hot-favorite here in conditions ideal for her style but Moreno found the smoother water to her advantage too when she showed she’s got more than just air-moves to brag about.
Offringa beat Alba fairly easily in the other semi with her wide range of switch moves and flakas. The final started out looking better for Offringa as Moreno fell a few times at the start. The 16-yr old Aruban was racking-up points but Moreno soon hit back and gained momentum. Neither competitor looked certain of victory before the prize-giving announcement, and Moreno certainly looked grateful for the win.
Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic /North) made a breakthrough in the women’s double elimination when she beat Iballa Moreno for a shot against the final four contenders.
De Brendt loved the flatter conditions, which were similar to her home spot in El Yaque, Venezuela. Margarita's top female competitor showed us a full range of switch before falling against Nayra Alonso (Fanatic / Severne) of Gran Canaria.
Alonso had stuck a solid 4-heat streak together beating Junko Nagoshi (F2 / Simmer), De Brendt and Silvia Alba before she finally fell exhausted at the hands of Laure Treboux.
Treboux reveled in the flat parts of the course, pulling clew first Spocks, Punetas, e-sliders and grubbies. After beating Alonso she challenged single elimination runner-up Offringa.
Initially the heat went Treboux’s way. She completed an E-slider, a Clew-first Puneta and a Grubby whilst Offringa completed a Flaka an E-slider and a Puneta too. Most people expected her to go for the Switch Chacho too but time ran out and the judges deemed she’d done enough to make the final against Daida Moreno.
The final opened up at a frightening pace. Both girls opened with one-handed Spocks and Moreno launched full pelt into high speed Flaka and a Clew-first Spock. Sticking to the windier parts of the course her assault continued. An E-Slider 540, a forward, and a one-footed forward all added to the sliding tricks and spelt disaster for Offringa who could only reply with a flaka and sketchier switch moves compared to her usual high standards. A unanimous decision from the judges awarded the 2006 champion the victory eliminating the need for a re-sail.
The first round of the second single elimination was started but abandoned, as the wind was just too light to continue.
Day’s 8, 9 and 10 tested all the competitors as Kalima wind snuffed-out the chance of further competition which left a windless Sotavento in baking temperatures. Eventually by mid afternoon on day 10 the event was called-off and the champions announced. Browne and Moreno were awarded their event crowns at the typical Fuerteventura party-tent closing ceremony. Moreno had wrapped-up another impressive world title and the men headed to Sylt to see if Estredo would fight back to re-claim his title or if someone else would emerge victorious.
The 2007 Colgate World Cup Sylt – Germany. September 21st-30th
With the women’s season over it was crunch time for the men’s freestylers in the unpredictable German North Sea.
Bonaire’s Kiri Thode, aged 17, arrived as tour leader and hungry to equal Estredo’s record of youngest PWA world champion.
Straight up on Monday morning Jose Estredo stormed back into the freestyle title hunt as a volatile North Sea flicked the switch to turn on a raging tempest.
5 riders were in the frame for the title as the day dawned ands all the top seeds advanced through the first couple of rounds until world number 6 Anthony Ruenes was knocked-out by Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails).
The tour leader Kiri Thode was next to fall at the hands of fellow Bonaire big-hitter Tonky Frans (F2 / Gaastra).
Frans was on a roll and had to sail tough and ignored the implications his victory had on his young friends lead in the rankings.
Frans’ path of destruction also dented the hopes of the last event’s winner Marcilio Browne from taking the lead in the rankings as the Caribbean style master axed the young Brazilian in the semi-finals relegating him to the loser’s final.
Browne was left reliant on a double elimination to repair his hopes after Ricardo Campello defeated him in the loser’s final.
Another squall blew-up for the final to really test Estredo and Frans’ skills and stamina. In truth both riders crashed, burned and wrestled in the gnarly choppy conditions.
Typically though, the young Venezuelan, who was the youngest PWA champion in history last season, threw down to his trademark move, the one-handed burner, to leave Frans stunned and the judges in little doubt as to who’d won.
As such the title race had suddenly became even more intense. Amongst the many scenarios possible the best chance of displacing Estredo rested with Kiri Thode who only needed to climb two positions to reclaim the trophy for Bonaire.
However if Browne could stem Thode’s progress up the double ladder he’d be the new king.
The pressure gauge went off the scale in the double elimination during a late afternoon session, which eliminated the final title hopefuls as the light and time faded.
The first key loss was that of Kiri Thode, who touched down in Germany in pole position and only had to advance two positions in the ladder to take the trophy back to Bonaire.
But the youngster, fresh from excluding Traversa, stumbled during his heat against ruthless Gaastra team mate Anthony Ruenes who’s power moves left Thode reeling in the dusk shadows.
Ruenes’ fatigue soon showed however when he went down at then hands of the partisan German crowds favorite, Andre Paskowski (F2 / North) who’d enjoyed the momentum he’d built from the second round.
It was Paskowski’s turn to feel the effects of tiredness next when he came against Browne who destroyed him with a superior range of power moves and precision maneuvers.
The tension became unbearable immediately as Browne faced-up to Campello for a do or die finale to the day. In near darkness the two went out for an all-out conflict to settle the title.
If Campello won he’d rely on a chance to finish the double elimination and would have to beat Estredo, and if Browne won he’d have enough points to secure the silverware.
Looking at the time left and the forecasts this was almost impossible and so all eyes were focused on the brooding North Sea twilight for the winner.
Browne seemed once more to be on a different level and landed almost every move he tried. Campello came back fighting hard at the end but had fallen too often on the technical tricks and air moves to win his first world title aged just 18.
The last chance Sunday saw the conclusion of the freestyle double eliminations. Although Browne had stolen the thunder by taking the world title, the event crown was still up for grabs.
First up Browne faced Tonky Frans for a shot at the final against single elimination winner Estredo.
Frans came out super fired-up but the conditions limited both his and Estredo’s ability to pull off their top-drawer tricks.
Eventually a stylish, one-handed regular stance Chacho, right under the crowd’s noses gave the Caribbean stylist the win and so, under the double elimination format, a re-sail to settle the event title was necessary.
This time Estredo was not settling for second. Immediately the youngster floated an amazingly high and tweaked shaka in very marginal winds. ‘Gollito’ then killed off Frans’ hopes completely when he bust out his signature move, the ‘Burner’, and a perfect one-handed Chacho of his own.
Gollito took to the stage later in his familiar first place to restore pride after effectively handing Browne the title back in Fuerteventura, but without doubt the 18-yr old will simmer in the off season and explode back with a vengeance in 2008 for sure.
Browne’s achievement was significant to his home nation, and an important landmark in his career. By shrugging off his critics he’s lived up to the hype and carved his name into the history books forever.
Sylt’s famous closing ceremony went-off in typical style with fireworks, anthems, emotions and celebrations shooting sky high. Three world championship crowns were dished-out on top of 4 event winner trophies for the winners to cherish forever. The organizers have a contract until 2010 to keep this spectacle returning and as the action just keeps on coming it’s easy to understand why.
No one could have predicted or even wished for a season of this magnitude and intensity. As the footage and word spread throughout he mainstream media the imagery windsurfing presents is of a sport re-born and emerging freshly into and exciting new era. Such inspirational sights will hopefully inspire new generations of champions and see the equipment developed to allow even more progress and evolution.
A short rest period precedes another mammoth schedule for 2008, which will contain even more exciting new tour stops.
You can review each event using our extensive video and photo galleries, read news summaries, browse the results and elimination ladders, swot-up on the stars using our profile biographies, stay up to date with the latest news on the pro scene daily and more at www.pwaworldtour.com
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Thanks for following the action with us. See you on the water.
© PWA Brian McDowell