Marc Pare (Fanatic/Duotone) and Pauline Katz (Severne) win the first ever Freestyle Pro Tour event in Cape Town! Nuclear winds kicked off the 2023 competitive season with riders up and down the draw frantically searching for the smallest gear they had. Two eliminations were ran, one at the Rietvlei lake and one at the wavespot Doodles, meaning diverse conditions which challenged every single one of the 28 entrants. With 40+ knots in the heat areas, history was made as we saw the first ever Pushloop Forward in a freestyle heat, as well as highly technical freestyle combo moves performed on wave gear. Read on to learn everything about the explosive action and showdowns at this freshly introduced Proving Grounds Series event!
First round at Rietvlei
The wind usually kicks in around midday in Cape Town, but when the riders arrived at 9AM for registration they were greeted by what is locally described as a black south easter. This meant strong winds right from the get go and was a good sign for the rest of the day. After Head Judge Florian Ragossnig explained the altered judging format at the skippers meeting, the wind was already well in the 30 knots range. With a mix between wave and freestyle conditions, as well as the presence of a lot of traditionally wave oriented riders, the scores were decided based on only one best move on each tack. Overall impression accounted towards the other 50% of the score, forcing riders to get creative with their sailing. Throughout the day judges were also going to keep an eye out for the best Forward Loop, Pushloop, new move attempt, rider of the day, biggest send and overall best move. The riders performing these were going to be awarded an extra prize at the end of the day along with the winners of the traditional competition.
As the fleet got ready to hit the water, lot’s of talk was going on about the wave specialists entering the competition. How were they going to fare in the flat water with a limited freestyle repertoire? Will they loose out early and just fight their way back up the ladder in the waves? And can you even freestyle on a wave board? Riders like Marc Pare, Flo Jung (Starboard/GUNSAILS/Maui Ultra Fins), Alessio Stillrich and Miguel Chapuis (JP/NeilPryde) among others, seemed confident though, and little did anyone know, were they about to cause some upsets…
The strong wind was wreaking havoc and ducking the sail started becoming an achievement on its own. In the early rounds we saw impressive performance from Dudu Levi (FutureFly/GUNSAILS) who was in control of his gear despite the rough conditions. He was taken out by current world champion Adrien Bosson (Fanatic/Duotone/Maui Ultra Fins), who was in a league of his own. Maarten Molenaar (GUNSAILS) dispatched of David Jeschke (GUNSAILS), both riders entering the Freestyle Pro Tour for the first time and forcing the judges to make some tough calls early on. German Marco Lufen (JP/NeilPryde/Maui Ultra Fins), Belgian Dieter Van der Eyken (Severne) and Brit George Grisley (AV-Boards) also passed their heats as the wind started to hit the 40+ knot range. Surprising the judges were Pare, Jung and Stillrich, who all put together a solid heat. Showing off Ponches, Flaka’s and Spocks along with some stylish old school jibes added to the mix for their impression score, they announced that they mean business.
As the rounds progressed, up and coming freestyler Mathis Mollard (JP/NeilPryde) came to everyone’s attention as he took out Adam Sims (Sailloft) in the quarter finals. With strong support from the french crowd on the shore, the 21 year-old was launching into Skopus and Burners so close to the judges tower that concerns were jokingly raised about him landing on top of them. On the other side of the draw, Marc Pare started busting out regular ducking moves on his wave gear, impressing the judges with Culo’s and Kono’s. Joining the final four were Van der Eyken and Bosson, well known for their Freestyle achievements in the past.
Due to Pare sustaining a light shoulder injury, Mollard managed to secure himself the 3rd spot in the first round. By the time the final between Bosson and Van der Eyken was run, the two were so overpowered that it was truly back to the basics. Landing Double Puneta’s and Forwards was the safe way to go, after the heat started with the belgian rider having to swim for his gear for what felt like ages after crashing while trying to duck his sail. Bosson came out victorious and became the event favourite, as the frenchman is known for his skillset in the waves as well.
With two women entering it was straight to some final heats to decide the winner. It was great to see some new names, with the Swiss Pauline Katz (Severne) and French Aurore Bous both making their competitive freestyle debut. With a mix of Forward Loops and Air Jibes as well as some impressive Spock attempts, the two challenged each other in the strong winds. Katz came out on top, convincing the judges with Forwards on both tacks.
Second round at Doodles
The lake was soon “blown out”. Riders packed their gear and began their procession towards Doodles, a wave spot where the second round was going to be ran. Upon arrival the general consensus was that going out on freestyle gear would be a foolish exercise. After everyone rigged sails in the lower 3’s, the comp was back on, but with an entirely different story on the water. As the wave riders were now on home soil, they quickly advanced through the ladder. Freestyle was not yet completely off the table though.
We saw George Grisley, the only rider out on a freestyle board, attempting Burners and Skopu’s up the face of the oftentimes mast high waves. Van der Eyken, who took second place in the first round, was stomping some incredible Spock Culo’s and Spock Kono’s on a 3.3 with wave board. Mathis Mollard was also not slowing down, actively going switch and trying to duck his sail on each of his runs on the inside. Finally it was Sims who made it the furthest of the traditional Freestylers, mixing up some massive Backloops with Konos, Culos and Spocks on the inside.
Still, they were no match for the wave specialists. Though they were keeping up appearances, for example Jeschke was still attempting Spocks on his runs in, the comp was now fully wave jump dominated. Baptiste Cloarec, Arthur Arutkin (Fanatic/Duotone) and Miguel Chapuis were storming up the ranks with jumps resembling a typical day in Pozo. Stillrich and Pare managed to hold them off but had to go all-in to do so. The crowd that gathered, although hiding in between cars not to get sandblasted, witnessed what must have been one of the highest Pushloop into Forwards ever seen, and definitely the first one ever seen in a Freestyle competition. The spaniard Pare, who wrote that feat to his name, clutched the win over Stillrich who went down swinging with some crazy Double Forwards. In third was Chapuis who managed to take down Sims in the small final, in part thanks to his Stalled Forward finesse.
Also on her home turf was Pauline Katz, who despite her opponent forfeiting due to the crazy conditions, went out and cemented her lead.
Back at the lake
The moment the last heat was finished, everyone evacuated back to the Milnerton Aquatic Club for a relaxed evening and results announcement. The judges did their calculations, combining the two rounds together to get an overall result. Coming out on top was Marc Pare who made a real impression on everyone present with his unexpectedly high level of Freestyle. “Whenever the wind gets light in Pozo I just try to duck the sail, this way I learned some of the basic power moves on my wave gear” the spaniard said when asked about where he learned all of this. In second was Alessio Stillrich who also showed off his allround windsurfing character. Completing the podium, to everyone’s surprise, was Mathis Mollard. The frenchman had two good results which added up nicely to a third place overall. In the women it was Pauline Katz who got to pop the champagne, admitting that she is super motivated now to do more freestyle in the future.
Proving Grounds Series and extra prizes
The event was part of the new Proving Grounds Series, introduced in an effort to make competing in freestyle as accessible as possible to everyone. The flexible judging and on forecast nature of the event makes it a fun way to get involved, without the stress associated with a serious high level sporting competition. The FPT Cape Town event therefore also had an Amateurs division. Winning this category, and receiving a free membership to the MAC for next year, was Victor Landau, with Sietse de Jager in second and Clement Auger in third.
The event being part of the PGS also means that more prizes could be awarded. The judges kept their eyes peeled all day and decided that the best Push Loop award should go to David Jeschke, who was fully committing to this move in his heats. The best forward went to Alessio Stillrich who planed out of one as if he never even took off. The best move had to go to the Pushloop Forward by Pare, with head judge Flo Ragossnig saying that he had never seen anything like that in his life before. The best new move attempt was a tricky category to choose, mainly because no real new moves were seen in the competition. In the end however, Adam Sims received the award for his stylish OH Railgrab Pushloops, which were never seen in a freestyle competition. The biggest send had to go to Miguel Chapuis for the insane height he was getting, and the subsequent bails resulting from that. Finally the rider of the day award went to Mathis Mollard, thanks to him exceeding all expectations and entering the competition scene with a bang.
The event succeeded in marrying together freestyle and waves, and provided some of the most exciting action we’ve ever seen. We now hope to grow the event for 2024, making it a fully fledged Championship Series tour stop! Check out the full results below and keep your eyes peeled for the highlight video!
Overall Results Men
|First name||Last name||Nationality||Sailsponsor||Boardsponsor|
|6||Dieter||Van der Eyken||Belgium||Severne||Severne|
Overall Results Women
|First Name||Last Name||Nationality||Sailsponsor||Boardsponsor|
Overall Results Amateurs Men
|First name||Last name||Nationality||Sailsponsor||Boardsponsor|