A new generation of freestyle windsurfers has claimed their spot on the scene on the opening day here in Bonaire. With plenty of wind, flat water and 24 competitors, the Sorobon bay was lit up with action all the way up to the finals of the single elimination. Causing some big upsets along the way, the final 4 distinctly young competitors took each other on in the semi’s and the finals, until the wind ran out an left us with no official result just yet. Read on to find out about the 5.2 double power move action, the rise of some exciting new talent and the impression based scoring system.
The wind on Bonaire is known to be stronger in the mornings and the evenings, hence an early skippers meeting was necessary. As the event is part of our Proving Grounds Series, the race director explained a simplified scoring format which promotes individual style and moves. The final score consists in 50% of a best trick format, where the best trick on each tack counts. The other 50% was assigned to overal impression, leaving room for the riders to do their signature moves without worrying about the technical difficulty scores that would normally change their strategies away from them. With the new system explained, riders rigged their 5.2’s en 4.8’s en the action immediately got underway.
The first round saw some tasty matchups already. Riders like Lennart Neubauer (Starboard/Severne/Maui Ultra Fins), Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde/Maui Ultra Fins) and Oda Johanne Brodholt (Starboard/Severne) all have no seeding on the FPT yet, and hence had to battle their way up through the ranks. Offringa, the countless world champion from Aruba, and Neubauer, who is just back from injury, managed to fend of local riders Storm Nicolai and Bimbi Clappers (GA-Sails/FutureFly). Brodholt however matched up against Ryan Richie from the neighbouring island of Curacao, who impressed with a couple of very powerful moves. Most notably a Culo right in front of the judging tower, allowing him to take the win over the Norwegian.
Although Neubauer managed to fend of local talent Clappers, the Polish rider Pawel Palichleb (Fanatic/Duotone) had no luck against another bonairean ripper: Nigel Hart (FutureFly/Point-7). Hart took the win to start his impressive run throughout the comp, taking out another Polish ripper, Pawel Kazmierczak (Starboard/Severne), on his way to meet Yentel Caers (JP/NeilPryde). A final mention in the first round goes to youngster Leander Halm (Starboard/Severne), who took out Sjoerd de Koning boasting a No-Handed Spock, granting him his first heat win as a rookie on the Freestyle Pro Tour.
As the rounds progressed, the non-seeded riders started coming up against the weel established freestyle fleet. The most exciting heat must have been the one between Steven Van Broeckhoven (Starboard/Gunsails) and Lennart Neubauer. Emphasising he means business after injury, the 19-year-old Greek put together a heat worthy of a World Title, on a 5.2… Double Culo’s, Flaka into Ponch, Airfunnel Burner’s, there was no stopping him as the 5 times European Champion Van Broeckhoven tried to retaliate. Neubauer took the win and reflected on it as one of his best heats ever, as it was the first time he ever managed to beat one of the greatest freestyle windsurfers of all time in competition.
Another big heat went down between Yentel Caers and Nigel Hart. Hart was proper warmed up and gave the Belgian a tough time right from the get go. The heat was extremely close, but the judges swayed towards the young bonairean in the end, meaning that the former World and European Champion will have to fight his way back up in the double elimination. Other riders who will have to take a second take are Taty Frans (FutureFly/Point-7) and Tigo Kort (JP/NeilPryde) who both got eliminated by Youp Schmit (GA-Sails/Tabou) who was on fine form on his home turf. Finally, Brouwersdam local Bodhi Kempen (Severne) managed to outscore Sarah-Quita Offringa, causing another upset. With that, the Top 4 was settled for a showdown in the semi’s and finals!
As the semi’s got underway, heats had to be cancelled due to deteriorating conditions. The competition got postponed to the afternoon, when wind was expected to improve. With the sun setting over the bay, Schmit, Kempen, Hart and Neubauer got underway once again to settle ever ongoing debate on the beach. Schmit showed his superstar status on this spot as he rotated through his signature moves: Shove-it Spocks, One-Handed Ponches and Culo’s. He made it to the final, and was joined there by Neubauer, who gave Kempen no chance, despite a strong heat from the young dutchie.
The runner’s up final between Hart and Kempen was ran as conditions deteriorated. The heat was completed successfully with both riders managing to squeeze out power moves during the 7-minute heat. However, the result is kept under wraps for now, as the final between Neubauer and Schmit was cancelled in the dying winds. The plan is to resume the winners final at first light tomorrow to then announce the podium of the single elimination. Right after, we will go into the double elimination where all riders get a second chance to improve their result.
What an exciting day! With 3 riders in the finals who are representing the future of our sport, tomorrow is definitely going to boast some action! Stay tuned to our socials to get the news first! As always, there will be an event highlight video coming, as well as the final heats posted on our youtube. You do not want to miss this!