Cappuccinoed in Sylt

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I got “Cappuccinoed” in Sylt, and it was fun 99% of the time.

The fun times started in the 2nd round of the single elimination, the round of 32. I was up against long time friend Max Rowe from England – we roomed together on Isla Margarita a couple winters. He’s a solid sailor and it was great to see him back on the tour after he missed our planned trip to Aruba and the Fuerteventura PWA contest due to having a tumour (thankfully benign) removed off his intestine. I watched Max’s previous heat from which he advanced to sail against me. He looked on form stomping powerful moves and making Sylt’s messy waters look easy.

Phil Soltysiak windsurfing mid-heat in Sylt, Germany. Photo by John Carter
Mid-heat. Photo by John Carter

Max and I wished each other best of luck on the beach and stepped into the Sylt shorebreak a good 30 minutes before our heat. We’ve both been here before, and knew it’s best to be conservative when estimating the time needed to make it out through the onshore conditions. The wind and waves push you back at the beach. The white water which we’ve nick named “cappuccino” is so full of air our 90l freestyle boards feel like 45l kids models.

Sylt. Photo by John Carter.
Sylt. Photo by John Carter.

15 minutes before my heat I was still trying to make it out. Drifting around in the foamy “cappuccino” and at the mercy of every wave. I told myself “just keep going, you’ll get a lucky break between the waves and somehow squeeze out there”.

The Sylt PWA Grand Slam from above. Photo by John Carter.
The Sylt PWA Grand Slam from above. Photo by John Carter.

20 minutes later I emerge from the cappuccino of a big wave that broke directly on my head. I’m out of breath, disoriented, but I convince myself I’ve made progress and I’m nearly past the shore break. As I clear my sail to water start my knees hit sand and reality sets in, I’m washed up on the beach 1.5km North of the competition area, and only minutes remain until my heat starts.

Phil Soltysiak coming out of the water in Sylt. Photo by John Carter.
Coming out of the water in Sylt. Photo by John Carter.

I windsurf along the beach headed back towards the competition area, catch a gust, a break in the waves, I pump and manoeuvre my gear over the cappuccino somehow emerging beyond the breaking waves. I made it!

I sailed a pretty good heat considering the conditions, scoring 95 points with 3 moves counting on each tack. Max wasn’t so lucky with the waves and spent the heat getting washed up on the beach. I easily advanced into the round of 16.

Phil Soltysiak windsurfing mid-heat in Sylt, Germany. Photo by John Carter
Backloop in Sylt. Photo by John Carter.

In the round of 16 my competitor was Frenchman Sam Esteve, who sailed smartly at the outside sandbar catching decent ramps and smoother water created by the breaking waves. My strategy of staying closer to the beach between the outside sandbar and inside breaking waves left me with messy water and no ramps. That left me with only mediocre moves on my score sheet, not enough against a talented rider like Sam.

We got to my round in the double elimination 2 days later. It was ripping windy leading up to the heats. I tired my 4.2 and was completely overpowered, so changed down to my 4.0. By the time my heat began the wind completely backed away, leaving me underpowered against my Italian opponent Francesco Cappuzzo. Cappuzzo, sometimes known as “Cappuccino” among the riders didn’t let that affect his heat as he put together a solid performance. With only 8 minute heats and an unpredictable shore break I didn’t think changing sails mid-heat was a good call. I was leading the heat with less than a minute to go, but Francesco landed an Air Chachoo which made the difference in his favour. This was the 1% of being “Cappuccinoed” that wasn’t fun.

Rainy times in Sylt Germany for the PWA event. Photo by John Carter.
Rainy times in Sylt Germany for the PWA event. Photo by John Carter.

This loss left me in 17th position for the contest, and ranked 16th at the end of the 2017 PWA World Tour rankings.

Luckily this year Sylt delivered nearly an entire week of wind, so I drowned my sorrows in the North Sea having fun windsurfing the remainder of the days.

The next 2 weeks I’ll be chasing wind around the Great Lakes, getting organized for my fall training in Brazil and doing some mountain biking.