by Chris Yates
For the first time since 2011, the PWA World Tour will be returning to the paradise Caribbean Island of Bonaire from the 20th to the 24th June, as the contortionists of the windsurfing world prepare to return to action, battling it out for those crucial early season world tour points, as they begin their quest for world dominance. Get ready for the most explosive moves on earth as the 2014 PWA Freestyle World Tour prepares to kick off in spectacular fashion.
The world champs ready to defend titles.
Bonaire is part of the ABC Islands - Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao - which has consistently produced some of the best freestylers in the world, is located off the north coast of South America, approximately fifty miles north of Venezuela. Situated just outside of the Hurricane Belt, Bonaire benefits from consistent trade winds, which when combined with the crystal clear, mirror flat water of Sorobon produces the perfect playground for freestylers to unleash their most mind-blowing moves. Add to this the laid back Caribbean lifestyle and stunning scenery and you start to understand why this quickly rates as one of the best spots in the world for windsurfing.
As the reigning PWA World Champion - Kiri Thode (Starboard / GA Sails) - will enter the opening the event of the season as the favourite. The fact that Thode was crowned the King of Bonaire in 2011 - after winning both of the eliminations completed last time around - only further adds to his credentials as the man to beat. The Bonairean is landing double power moves, such as double culos and double air bobs with consummate ease and is also busting out flawless quadruple moves too. Thode is an ominous force anywhere in the world, but he may prove unbeatable in his own backyard.
With five PWA World Championships to his name - Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic / North / MFC) - is never far from the action. The Venezuelan is a born winner and will be hungrier than ever to regain his world crown having relinquished it last year. As one of the most stylish and innovative sailors in the world Gollito will undoubtedly be challenging for top honours come the end of the event, as he unleashes double power moves and flakas into one-handed shakas. Who knows what else he has up his sleeve?
Steven Van Broeckhoven (JP / NeilPryde) just missed out on the overall title last year and he’ll be determined to add to his previous victory in 2011. The Belgian is one of the heaviest sailors on tour, but is renowned for his explosive, powerful style even in light winds, making him one of the most dangerous men in the world. Van Broeckhoven finished second here in 2011 and he’ll be a prominent figure over the next five days.
As well as Thode the remainder of the Bonaire crew - Tonky Frans (Tabou / GA Sails), Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic / Maui Ultra Fins), Bjorn Saragoza (Starboard / Hot Sails Maui), Amado Vrieswijk (Starboard / Severne) and Choko Frans - will be gunning for the top on their home waters with their unique, fluid island style.
A stunning morning here in Bonaire - 2014 PWA Bonaire World Cup
Dieter van der Eyken (Starboard / Severne) enjoyed his best season to date on the PWA World Tour in 2013 as he finished fifth overall. The Belgian maestro will be hoping to continue in the same vain as last season as he looks to continue his climb up the rankings ladder, by reaching into his ever expanding bag of tricks. Having already spent a couple of months training in Bonaire over the winter he will be fully tuned into the conditions and we can expect to see him challenging for the top five and beyond.
Two of last year’s overall top ten - Davy Scheffer’s (Tabou / GA Sails) and Youp Schmit (JP / Avanti) - are on the recovery path from injuries, but neither sailor can ever be ruled out from fighting for the top places. Scheffer’s suffered a broken hand and has only just had the cast removed, but he is determined to sail 'I’ll be ready, I’m registered for the event and I’ll be there when the green flag goes up. I will just do all my moves one-handed ;)'. Schmit on the other hand suffered knee ligament damage at the beginning of the year after landing a pushloop flat, but has been back on the water for the last 6-7 weeks.
Hugo de Sousa’s (RRD / Maui Ultra Fins) reputation continues to grow thanks to his monster moves, but the Brazilian is another sailor on the road back from injury after injuring his ribs. However, de Sousa has been resting ahead of the event and should be ready for battle when the event kicks off. The seventeen year old has the potential to do some serious damage and will be one to watch very closely, as he could claim the scalps of any big named sailor.
The standard on the PWA Freestyle World Tour is so high right now that a plethora of other sailors could easily break into the top ten and beyond. Phil Soltysiak (Starboard / Sailworks) is a regular in the top ten and after completing his rehabilitation from a shoulder operation this winter, will be hoping to make a strong start to the season, as will Frenchmen Adrien Bosson (Fanatic / North / Maui Ultra Fins) and Anthony Ruenes (Tabou / GA Sails) and Nicolas Akgazciyan (99 International / Point-7 / AL360 / Maui Ultra Fins), German Adrian Beholz (Fanatic / Sailloft Hamburg / Maui Ultra Fins) and Britain’s Max Rowe (Fanatic / North).
Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Mystic / Chris Benz / Maui Ultra Fins) will enter the season opener as the firm favourite. The lady from Aruba has an incredible six PWA Freestyle World titles to her name already at the age of just twenty-two, making her the undisputed Queen of Freestyle. Offringa sails with unrivalled consistency and has the latest power moves at her disposal and she’d give many of the men a run for their money. Unbeaten for the last six seasons we expect her to extend her unbeaten record.
Oda in the groove - 2014 PWA Bonaire World Cup
Last year represented Arriane Aukes’ (RRD / Simmer / Maui Ultra Fins) best season so far on the PWA Freestyle World Tour as she finished as the PWA Vice-World Champion, bettering her previous best of third in 2012. After a winter of training in Brazil and Bonaire the twenty-seven year old is as prepared as she can be for the first event. Expect to see text-book funnels, technical bobs and even regular konos as she looks to go one better this year.
Training partner Oda Johanne (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) is continuing to progress at an alarming pace and she’ll be a serious threat over the next five days. After finishing fifth overall in her debut season the Norwegian possesses all the skills required to force her way onto the prestigious podium for the first time. In her quest to do just that Johanne will be busting out flawless funnels and shakas.
Venezuela’s Yoli de Brendt (Fanatic / North) is a regular in the top three and she’ll be using her years of competition experience combined with her smooth sliding moves to challenge for the top again over the coming five days.
Olya Raskina (JP / NeilPryde) just missed out on the overall podium last year, but she’ll be back stronger than ever for the coming season, as will the 2013 PWA Youth Freestyle World Champion Maikke Huvermann (Starboard / Severne / Maui Ultra Fins) and Maxime van Gent (Fanatic / North / Maui Ultra Fins), who will be hoping to maximise her home advantage.
The forecast for the first freestyle contest of the year couldn’t get any better with strong winds being predicted for the duration of the event. Get ready for a five day freestyle bonanza in Bonaire as the elite of the freestyle world prepare to explode into action.
PWA World Tour