112kgs it said on my luggage sticker. That should be enough to cover any wind and weather Podersdorf throws at me I thought. Podersdorf is a small town on Lake Neusiedl, not far from the capital Vienna, and host of the annual “Surf World Cup”; the first PWA World Tour event of 2016. I windsurfed well enough to finish in 9th place out of the world’s best 48 freestyle windsurfers. But my story from the competition is not as simple as the results show:
Landing at the Vienna airport, I used American Airlines new bag tracking service to quickly learn that not one piece of my luggage arrived. For some reason it routed through London, and was on a trip of it’s own. This was May 2nd.
The forecast for May 4th, the first possible competition day, was 35 knots, rain, and 13 degrees celsius. It was the kind of day my jackets, boots, wetsuits, and most importantly my windsurfing equipment would come in handy.
I spent the evening after my arrival on May 2nd placing many calls to the luggage handling services and airlines, making them well aware of the importance of my suitcase and boardbags arriving the next day, and no later.
Thankfully on the morning of May 3rd, my call was answered with positive news. The bags were waiting to be delivered from the airport to Podersdorf. Not taking any chances I told them to hold the bags, and that I will pick them up myself.
With the gear finally making it, it was time to rig. I brought my Sailworks Revolutions from 4.0m to 5.7m for this competition, so with May 4th’s forecast looking so epic, I fully rigged the 4.0, 4.2 and 4.5 with the 3 Streamlined booms I brought. I also downhauled the 4.7 and 5.0 on my Nolimitz masts for when the wind was a bit lighter than forecast. I screwed in footstraps on both my Starboard Flare 93, and 103, and prepared them with the 18cm Makani Koi and the Streamlined mast base all the way back. I hung my wetsuits and harness over my sails in the equipment tent, and knowing that I already checked all my lines and bases at home, I was finally ready to compete, but not so fast…
Firstly I got together with the freestyle committee, a representative group of PWA freestyle competitors voted upon by the riders, where we discussed and made last-minute adjustments to the move list for the brand new live scoring system, which I’ve been working on together with the programmer (and slalom racer) Kurosh Kiani for the last 2 years. As the freestyle committee was meeting, the judges were doing last-minute testing, and everything was coming together to finally put this project to good use. I’ll explain this system in more detail in the coming months with a dedicated blog post.
The morning of May 4th was howling windy, and as we registered for the competition it was obvious we would be on our smallest sails. Riders hitting the water for an early warm-up were often humbled with epic catapults and crashes. The wind gusts were cold and measured at over 35 knots all day long.
Due to my 10th place rank in 2015, I was seeded in the 2nd round, meaning I could wait until the best 16 of the bottom 32 riders advanced from the first round to sail against me. Advancing to my heat was the German rider and good friend of mine Marco Lufen. Sailing on my 4.0, I advanced over Marco putting myself into the top 16.
Advancing alongside me was the Bonairean Tonky Frans, my next competitor. After another good showing I knocked out Tonky to move myself into the top 8. My next competitor was Adrien Bosson from France, but he sailed a better heat than me, leaving me in 5th place, and moving himself into the top 4, and later into 2nd place in this elimination. Well done Adrien!
After the completion of the single elimination, which the Venezuelan Gollito Estredo won, the organization made the most of the wind and continued into the double elimination, a chance for riders who were knocked out to fight back. They completed as many of the early rounds as they could until the sun went down and it was too dark to judge.
The following day at 6am skippers meeting was called and by 6:30 the competition was on. The wind was much lighter than the previous day, and I went on the water with my Starboard Flare 103 and Sailworks Revo 5.0. Even though I sailed a good heat, my Bonairean competitor today, Amado Vrieswijk, got the better of me and knocked me out of the competition. I was one of Amado’s many casualties, as he had a sensational day fighting back through 10 heats in the double elimination, moving himself all the way to 2nd place in the contest. And there I was, left in 9th place.
The rest of the days there was no wind, but beautiful weather. The crowds came out to Podersdorf to enjoy the event, get a signed poster from the riders, and watch a few tow-in moves.
Although I’ve had better results in the past, and I would have obviously preferred to finish higher, I would summarize the event as a success for me. Starting off the season with a 9th place among the world’s best windsurfers feels good, and I’m also stoked to see results from all the work being put into the live scoring system. At the next PWA World Tour freestyle event, the system will be synchronized and displayed with the live stream and website so you will be able to not only watch the heats live, but also know exactly who’s ahead during every heat! I promise you, it will be exciting!
I’m writing this blog post from my flight home, where I will only be 1 night before heading to Corpus Christi, Texas, for the 2016 US Windsurfing Nationals where I will compete in both freestyle and slalom. Check back soon for more…