2011 PWA Aruba Grand Slam hosted the world’s finest freestyle and slalom events between 19 June – 26 June
The dazzling island of Aruba marked the second stop on the Caribbean leg of competition, and played host to the world’s finest freestyle and slalom windsurfing talents for eight days of exhilarating action between 19 June – 26 June.
The happy island had previously hosted PWA events for ten consecutive years, with the last competition taking place in 1997. After a 14 year break the conditions have not changed at all, the consistent trades blow every day, the water remains bath warm, and the crowds are extremely proud to have the world’s greatest windsurfers on their shores.
Opening up the competition the cream of the PWA’s male and female contortionists took to the pristine water for a four day freestyle frenzy. Cue an explosion of spectacular aerial and sliding manoeuvres as the sailors battled their way through man on man heats, in order to decide which sailors had the greatest armoury of tricks.
Testing condition’s had an adverse effect on the freestyle fleet for the opening two days of competition, due to blankets of cloud rolling in over the event site, leading to exceptionally gusty wind and bursts of rain. The sailors took to the water to make use of the occasional squall and polish their maneuvers, whilst the crowds were given a glimpse of the action that was to come. In an attempt to get proceeding underway the PWA headed out to sea to their floating judges tower, however the wind remained insufficient for a fair competition.
Entering the third day the sailors were greeted to wall to wall sunshine and Caribbean trades blowing between 15-20 knots. Head judge Duncan Coombs wasted no time in heading out to sea and putting the sailors into competition sequence, extending the heats to nine minutes, and announcing the best three out of six moves in either direction would count towards the sailor’s scores.
As the single elimination progressed, the form-players slowly began to emerge; as a result it was no surprise that the quarter finals consisted of European freestyle wizard Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2 / Gaastra), Caribbean superstar Kiri Thode (Tabou / Gaastra), four times world champion Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic / North) and the style master Tonky Frans (Tabou / Gaastra).
Fuelled by his second place in Bonaire, Van Broeckhoven delivered an outstanding series of combination maneuvers. Taking advantage of the nine minute heat he timed each move to perfection, ensuring his advance into the final past a devastated Thode. On the other side of the heat, Tonky was firing on all cylinders performing his most spectacular aerial maneuvres. It did little to phase the four times world champion Estredo as he sailed a well-planned out heat granting his pass into the winner’s final.
Van Broeckhoven and Estredo entered the final both hungry for victory. Van Broeckhoven opened with a funnel, which was upstaged by Estredo’s double. The sailors then embarked on a game of one up man-ship as the opening minutes of the heat flew by. Both sailors fought tooth and nail, busting out everything in their collection of tricks but ultimately a 3-2 decision from the judges crowned Van Broeckhoven as the winner in the single elimination.
The fourth day in Aruba marked the final day of competition for the PWA freestyle elite. Having completed the single elimination, the ensuing double elimination would determine the event standings, and crown the competition winners.
The sailors battled their way through the double elimination in an attempt to build on their event scores, drama arose early in the day when Davy Scheffers (Tabou / Gaastra) lost out to Bonaire hot shot Florian Wegerer, Wegerer sailed the heat of his life, leaving Scheffers distraught with his early exit.
The standout sailor of the double elimination was Brit Andy Chambers (JP / NeilPryde). Chambers displayed a collection of carefully chosen tricks to fight, through five heats raising his result from 17th to ninth.
Moving toward the final heats of the double elimination Thode went into overdrive, storming past his fellow country man Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic), and Estredo with his multitude of mind-blowing maneuvers.
The final came down to arch rivals Van Broeckhoven and Thode. Thode opened the heat with all guns blazing, whilst Van Broeckhoven bided his time, and waited for the larger gusts to power him through an enormous culo and a burner. It came down to tactics as both sailors kept one eye on the clock and another on the gusts. Van Broeckhoven managed to seal the deal with a final sequence of explosive maneuvers; thus securing his win in the final and the overall event win.
The women’s single elimination saw experienced competitors Laure Treboux (Fanatic / North) and Yoli De Brendt (Fanatic / North) sail their way into the semi-final, alongside Xenia Kessler (JP / NeilPryde) who managed to defeat Arrianne Aukes (RRD / Simmer) for the first time, having lost out to her four times in Bonaire. Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic) breezed through her heat into the next round.
In the semi-finals Treboux quickly disposed of De Brendt displaying a particularly impressive heat, she landed a clean shove-it spock and a high switch kono. Meanwhile Offringa appeared to be in the zone claiming a shaka, and an array of switch maneuvers as she worked her way past Kessler.
The final came down to the familiar duo of Swiss style Queen Treboux and local hero Offringa, having faced each other five times on the 2011 world tour, both sailors were well aware of each other’s tactics. Opening up the heat both women struggled to land their initial moves, however as the minutes passed by Offringa relaxed and flew through her routine. She made use of her home advantage to land her tricks to perfection, securing her early victory in front of her fans.
The double elimination took place on day four seeing Kessler as the standout sailor of the day, she worked her way past Mio Anayama (NeilPryde) and De Brendt raising her result from fourth to third.
Kessler’s next opposition was Treboux with the prize at stake, and a coveted place in the final. Kessler fought hard throwing down every move in her armoury, however Treboux’s powerful Swiss style swayed the judges and saw her take her familiar place in the final.
Once again Offringa and Treboux took to the water for the final. The women unleashed everything they had in their repertoire of tricks, each time upstaging one another in order to win the judges votes. Offringa upped her game in the closing seconds of the heat, landing a sequence of astonishing stunts, securing her the event victory on her home turf.
The baton was then handed over to the slalom fleet for their turn to hit the azure water and battle it out for first place. With the wind’s blowing between 15-20 knots, Aruba proved that it was not only a freestyle mecca, but a slalom dreamland as well.
The race crew, led by Juan Antonio Aragon took advantage of every minute of daylight, plowing through two eliminations a day, the sailors fought tooth and nail in an attempt to work their way onto the sacred podium steps.
Freestyle fanatic Taty Frans proved that he has the skill on the racecourse, seeing him sail into the winners final in three elimination and earn himself the nickname ‘the wasp that won’t go away’ by the rest of the fleet’.
Lena Erdil (Patrik / Loft / Mystic / AL360) put in an outstanding race in the elimination three women’s final. Erdil stormed off the line and sailed a stellar race, fending off Karin Jaggi (Patrik /Severne) to secure her first ever women’s final win.
Fanny Aubet (JP / NeilPryde) was overjoyed to have won her first ever winners final in the fifth elimination, having displayed an outstanding set of polished skills defeating, Karin Jaggi (Patrik /Severne) and local legend Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic).
Throughout six of the eliminations, flying Frenchman Antoine Albeau (JP / NeilPryde) had his claws on first place, having bagged two race wins and a series of consistent positions. However his arch nemesis Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard / Severne / Mystic / DunkerbeckEyewear) sat just a few points behind and it came down to the final day of competition for the drama to unfold.
The upset arose when Albeau suffered a slow start, placing him in an unrecoverable position from the outset in the elimination seven winners’ final. Dunkerbeck and Ben Van Der Steen (Starboard / Loft / Mystic) sailed the race of champions, securing their first and second places consecutively, causing Albeau to drop down into second place on the overall event scores.
In order to recover his position Albeau needed to secure a first place in the final elimination with Dunkerbeck finishing at least fifth.
Disaster struck in heat fourteen of elimination eight, the sailors were raring to go, and pushed the start too hard seeing four sailors cross the line early including Albeau and Dunkerbeck. This dramatic turn of event’s cemented Dunkerbeck’s win on the event and left Albeau helpless in the battle for second place, leaving the door open for Van Der Steen to snatch the valuable podium spot.
Having the blessing of the wind gods Van Der Steen had the opportunity to break into the Dunkerbeck, Albeau stronghold over first and second.
Van Der Steen exploded out the gates in the elimination eight winners final, and fought off any challenges from the rest of the fleet, seeing him win the race and slide into second place overall, knocking Albeau down into third. The first time the windsurfing legend has had a result below second since Korea 2007 when he was third.
A similar story arose from the women’s fleet, Jaggi and multitalented Offringa entered the final day of competition with everything to play for in the final eliminations. Both sailors had been placing consistent results throughout the week; however Jaggi held the upper hand by a few points.
The big crescendo came in the final eliminations; Offringa turned on her turbo chargers in the elimination seven winners’ final and secured an easy win, whilst Jaggi fell victim to a rouge piece of choppy water, rendering her unable to complete the race. Offringa’s result bumped her up into first place, however she would need to secure one more podium result before it was set in stone.
Jaggi went for an aggressive move early in the elimination eight winners’ final, resulting in her misfortune, allowing Offringa to take advantage and sail into second place. Content with her position Offringa cruised around the remainder of the course and locked in her second title at the 2011 PWA Aruba Hi Winds Grand Slam.
The 2011 Aruba Hi Winds Gland Slam Freestyle Results
1st Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2 / Gaastra)
2nd Kiri Thode (Starboard / Gaastra)
3rd Jose Estredo (Fanatic / North)
4th Taty Frans (Starboard / MauiSails / Mystic)
5th Tonky Frans (Tabou / Gaastra)
1st Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard / Gaastra / Mystic)
2nd Laure Treboux (Fanatic / North)
3rd Xenia Kessler (JP / NeilPryde)
4th Yoli De Brent (Fanatic / North)
5th Mio Anayama (NeilPryde)
The PWA will now embark on the Canary Islands leg of competition, opening up with Lanzarote for the fifth stop on the men’s freestyle tour, taking place on the Jun 30 - Jul 03. PWA World Tour 2011