The PWA Fuerteventura Grand Slam opened up with a bang as gusts to 40 knots greeted us riders on the first day. Classic Playa Sotavento conditions continued into days 2 and 3 in which we completed the first single elimination where I placed 4th, followed by the double elimination where I dropped down to 5th.
Later the wind uncharacteristically dropped for days 4 and 5, only allowing a few heats to continue as the focus shifted to the ladies competition.
Day 1 was both registration and competition. 48 of the world’s best freestyle riders from all around the world including Japan, Australia, New Caledonia, Brazil, Venezuela, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Israel, England and Europe. Plus there was me, the only Canadian, and only North American.
The wind was ferocious and gusting to 40 knots on this first day, everybody was flying around on their smallest sails. I was waiting in the 2nd round (round of 32) of the elimination due to being seeded in the top 16, and my competitor was going to be the winner between English rider Max Rowe and German rider Julian Wiemar. Max took the upper hand over Wiemar, and soon enough it was going to be my heat: England vs. Canada.
I had my 4.2 and 4.0 ready on the beach, but it was a no-brainer to opt for my 4.0 Sailworks Revo and 93l Starboard Flare. It was tail walking conditions with 18cm fins. Doing a move was all about getting the power under control for just enough time to land something.
I was a bit nervous going into the heat, as I barely landed anything in my warm-up, but after a few friendly words with Max before our heat it turns out he was struggling with the conditions too. I managed to put together a decent heat to fight off Max’s challenge, and I moved on to the round of 16.
The round of 16 in the single elimination was sailed on day 2, throughout which I used both my 4.5m and 4.2m sails and the same board and fin combo as before.
My opponent was the Italian Francesco Cappuzo, who knocked out Dutch rider Davy Scheffers in his previous heat. Although Cappuzo is not somebody we’ve seen in the top 10 yet, the fact that he knocked out a solid sailor capable of finishing on the podium like Scheffers goes to show you the level everybody’s at. I didn’t sail my strongest heat against Cappuzo, and to be honest I felt a bit nervous knowing that he already took out Davy. Luckily I still managed to link some moves together and squeaked through to the next round.
In the round of 8 I was up against Jacopo Testa, who is known for his enormous and ridiculous Air Kabikuchis. Once again I put together a good combination of Skopus, Spock into Culos, Burners, Futures and Bongkas to make it into the final 4! I was stoked!
The stoke translated to a very good heat against for me against my room-mate Yentel Caers. One of us was going to make it to the winner’s final, and the other to the loser’s final. Yentel sailed incredibly well, as he always does, and although there was only a few points between us in the end, it was clear that Yentel was going to the winner’s final, and me to the loser’s final.
In the loser’s final, the fight for 3rd and 4th place, I was up against 6-time World Champion Gollito Estredo from Venezuela. Although I had a decent heat and was leading for the majority, once Gollito’s scores for his big moves dropped it was the Venezuelan who took the lead and held onto it until the end of our heat.
On the 3rd day the good conditions continued, and we ran the double elimination. Last year’s event winner Dieter Van Der Eyken advanced through a few heats, including one against me, which dropped me back to 5th place.
Yes, it’s a lot of losing to get to 5th place. In fact I lost the most heats out of anybody in the event 😉 I had to lose twice in the single elimination to get 4th, and then once in the double to get 5th. Everybody else apart from the winner Armado Vrieswijk only lost twice.
The wind was marginal on the last 2 days, so although the organization tried to run a few heats, I didn’t have to compete.
My 5th place here in Fuerteventura slides up my World Ranking to 7th place with only one event remaining, the PWA Super Grand Slam in Sylt, Germany, where the World Tour Champion will be crowned and where the final PWA World Tour points can be won!
I’m now enjoying a couple of nights out in the famous Fuerteventura party “Carpa”, heading home to Canada for a couple weeks of resting and physical training, and then off to Hood River again to train and test some new gear.
Here are a couple of highlight videos from Day 3 of the event:
And from Day 2 of the event:
And here is a gallery of images: