The first continental event of the 2023 Freestyle Pro Tour is ON! We’re back to the classic season opener at Lake Neusiedl, Austria, where the first day saw some decent wind to complete most of the single elimination. 21 riders took to the water on the chocolate lake, some of the best in the world amongst them. At the end of the day four riders were left standing: Lennart Neubauer (Severne/Starboard/Maui Ultra Fins), Jacopo Testa (Point-7/AV-Boards), Steven Van Broeckhoven (Starboard/Gunsails) and Sam Esteve (NeilPryde/JP). Read the full report below to learn about how they managed to make it into the top 4.
This event will feature both freestyle and tow-in. With 15-20 knots forecasted on the first day of the Surf Opening, all eyes were on the horizon in the morning in order to see the wind-line approach as forecasted. Around 10 o’clock the first heats were sent out and the action could commence. Standouts from the first rounds were riders like Danish Mathias Vingaard (Severne/Starboard) and Dutch Bodhi Kempen (Severne). Vingaard, although losing out to Van Broeckhoven, sailed an impressive heat and staked a serious claim for his consideration in the regular competitive lineup. Kempen was filled with confidence after the dutchman put in a solid result in Bonaire. Impressing with arguably the most powerful move of the day, a Pasko 360, he took down Eugenio Marconi (Duotone/Fanatic).
Eyes were also peeled for UK rider Jamie Howard (Severne) and local Austrian Michi Czech (Severne). Both athletes caused some big upsets at the last edition of the event, and are known for their light wind performance. The brit was only stopped due to a knee injury during the event, for which he has since had surgery, making him hungrier than ever to make a comeback now. Taking out fellow countryman Ollie Townsend, he then faced current tour leader Youp Schmit (GA-Sails/Tabou) from Bonaire. Followers of the tour have been wondering how the Caribbean rider would fare outside of his home turf, and got to enjoy an early competition nail-biter of a showdown. Separated by only a few tenth’s on their final score, Schmit managed to advance over Howard. In the process, both riders put in some of the highest total heat scores of the day.
Czech was matched up against Brouwersdam local Tim Gerdes (Severne) first. He dispatched of the upcoming Dutch talent while being on a 4.4, while all other riders were scrambling for their 5.2’s and 5.6’s. He was then up against 5 times European Champion Van Broeckhoven. Czech put up a good fight but did not make it against the Belgian freestyle superstar.
Also having to face one of the greats in our sport was Bonaire local Nigel Hart (FutureFly/Point-7). Taking part in his first continental freestyle event, he advanced out of his round 1 heat, and was then up against teammate Jacopo Testa. The reigning European Champion put down the second highest heat score of the day in order to beat the Caribbean rookie. The Italians heat score was second only to his own score against Tigo Kort (NeilPryde/JP), whom he went on to relegate.
Leaping across the elimination ladder, one could see some other names doing well for themselves. Frenchman Sam Esteve (NeilPryde/JP) won against George Grisley (AV-Boards) and then beat current tour leader Schmit to reach the semi-finals. Back from injury, Lennart Neubauer has managed to continue his successful streak after his official comeback in Bonaire. His absence from the 2022 tour meant that the Greek Youth European Champion had a very bad seeding for this event. This translates into an unfavourable starting position in the ladder, putting him up against highly ranked riders int he early rounds of the competition.
In this case it meant an early big heat against Yentel Caers (NeilPryde/JP). In similar fashion to their epic heat in Bonaire, Lennart wielded his 5.6 to win against the former European and World Champion from Belgium. In what was the closest heat of the day, the two separated by only 0.2 points, it became clear that Neubauer is impressively consistent and on a course towards his first potential event win.
With the semi’s lined up, it was Neubauer versus Van Broeckhoven and Testa versus Esteve. Conditions were deteriorating with only the first semi final completed. Van Broeckhoven put on a very powerful style today, and this semi final was no different. With less and less wind, he resorted to this signature Barracuda, but unfortunately crashed on multiple occasions. This left him missing a move on porttack, meaning that Neubauer escaped the grasp of yet another Belgian powerhouse. We will now have to wait for the results of the second semi-final until conditions are suitable again.
An eventful first day of the 2023 EFPT Surf Opening in Austria! Stay tuned for more action in the next 3 days, where tow-in will be on the menu. There is also a potentially suitable forecast for Sunday, which will hopefully allow the top 4 to battle it out for the podium in the Freestyle.
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