On the final day of the Surf Opening in Austria, competitors faced off against each other in a Tow-In team competition. Belgian powerhouses Steven Van Broeckhoven (Starboard/Gunsails) and Yentel Caers (JP/NeilPryde) took the win with their synchronised Air Funnel Burners in what was a refreshing change in the Tow-In show discipline! The day also featured the official prize giving of the Freestyle discipline. Read the full account of the events on day 4 below.
Being one of the founding places of Tow-In Freestyle, the chocolate lake was once again a place for innovation in the discipline. Premiering a new fun format – Team Tow-In – athletes matched up and competed as a team. With each run being in a different category, for example Syncro or a Free Routine, the doors opened for some exhilarating new move combinations as riders got towed simultaneously. A total of 8 teams took part in the qualification, with Tow-In rookies Primus Sorling (Fanatic/Duotone) and Manolis Chrysopoulos (JP/NeilPryde) getting wet first. Both improved run by run, and were clearly hooked now to try more of this form of freestyle in the future.
As usual at the Surf Opening, crowds were lining the beach to see action. The qualification runs were done is relatively strong winds for tow-in, which in general is a good thing, except for the tricky chop that was rolling through the take-off zone. George Grisley (AV-Boards) and Bodhi Kempen (Severne) tried to line up their moves but were caught out by this state of the water. A similar story can be told for local team Andreas Roessler (JP/NeilPryde) and Michi Czech (Severne) who despite one of the most synchronised runs, also did not make it into the final. Jamie Howard (Severne) and Ollie Townsend were the last to get eliminated. The two put on a great show during the training sessions in the previous days, but came short in the judges eyes on the two runs that really mattered.
Showmanship was appreciated by the scoring panel. Still high on their results from Bonaire, Youp Schmit (GA-Sails/Tabou) and Nigel Hart (FutureFly/Point-7) went for a different approach to achieve that. Nigel let go first to go for a massive One-Handed Burner, especially impressive as this is the rookie’s first tow-in competition. Youp then kept his momentum until sending his move right in front of the judges, blowing them a kiss to seal the deal on their advancement into the final.
The final saw each team complete 3 runs. Tigo Kort (JP/NeilPryde) and Tim Gerdes (Severne) came in fourth, just behind the Bonairean team. It was clear that the win was to be decided between the Belgian Team and the Tow-In Maestro team of Sam Esteve (JP/NeilPryde) and Lennart Neubauer (Starboard/Severne/Maui Ultra Fins). Fresh from his event winning heat, Neubauer pushed the agenda with Esteve, as they were using the wind to go exceptionally high. Trying to pull out all stops, they both went for Air Funnels into No-Handed Burners at the end. Unfortunately they went down, leaving the door open to Caers and Van Broeckhoven to sweep in for the win.
With the show completed, it was time for the official prize giving. With cheers from the beach galore, Lennart Neubauer received the trophy for his first ever event win. With Van Broeckhoven and Testa (AV-Boards/Point-7) next to him, the podium pictures were now complete. The Freestyle Pro Tour would like to extend their massive thanks to the team of the Surf Opening for putting on the event despite difficulties! As always, this classic event has delivered the goods and has officially kickstarted the 2023 title race! Stay tuned to the FPT for an exciting season ahead!