The opening event of the PWA Freestyle World Tour has followed script, with the defending champions Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic/North Sails) and Sara-Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde) kick starting their year with conviction, winning the event with style. An action packed battle for the remaining positions saw tempers rise and battle commence, as competitors gave their all in a highly charged competition.
This year’s showdown was a grueling affair. Thunderous winds and thumping swells pummeled the Eastern shores of Costa Teguise, whilst plumes of sand whipped through the stifling air. 40-knot gusts reduced flags to bare threads whist the world’s elite prepared themselves for en epic showdown that spanned over three rounds of double elimination competition.
All three rounds were completed under immense pressure, with men and women forced to throw caution to the wind, in an effort to tame the tempestuous conditions. Coherent, clinical performances by Andy Chambers (JP/NeilPryde), Anthony Ruenes (Tabou), Philip Soltysiak (Starboard/Dakine) and Nicolas Akgazciyan (Starboard/Gun Sails) were enough to consistently elevate them to the top end of the elimination ladders, and into the upper echelons of windsurfing’s elite.
Much focus has deservedly fallen upon the humble shoulders of Belgium’s Steven Van Broeckhoven (F2/MauiSails) this week, after successive, outstanding performances on the European stage have rocketed him into the limelight. A sense of anticipation and an aura of excitement descended onto the beach each time he took to the water, where he stunned the world with his explosive style.
Attention also centered on Antxon Otaegui (JP/NeilPryde/MFC), who made his loyal supporters proud, sailing like a man possessed and dominating the contest with fearless double-forwards. A true crowd pleaser, Otaegui looked wonderfully comfortable in the harsh environment, raising the standard of the competition each time he took to the water.
Tonky Frans (F2/Gaastra) and Taty Frans (Starboard/MauiSails) also eclipsed their opponents throughout the contest, combining their sleek style with aerial power throughout every stage of the event. Luck was to be the brothers’ only demise, as they faced each other in every stage, competing in incredible encounters laced with a very personal twist.
Estredo’s dominance was tested just once via the hands of the magnificent Kiri Thode (Starboard/Gaastra), who sailed two flawless heats against the World Champion, eventually winning the final of the third round. On the ultimate day of the contest, Thode was simply outstanding; completing the most challenging freestyle moves possible, often in double or triple combinations. Thode embodies so many amazing maneuvers, often completing a full score-sheet of fourteen tricks in just three and a half minutes, with a style that leaves competitors gazing in astonishment.
Despite this glimmer of class by Thode, nothing could take the shine from Gollito’s crown. Estredo had won the event after just three days, and he was untouchable at the top, as his sailing drew gasps of disbelief from all those who were lucky enough to glimpse such a brilliant performance. He has not only proved to the world that he is deserved of his adulation; but also that a fire within him still burns ferociously as he goes in search of this year’s World Title.
The level of sailing in the Women’s fleet at Lanzarote has been unlike any that has gone before it. If the conditions were deemed challenging for the men, then praise should be exalted on the women who were courageous, determined and skilful.
Immediate honors will of course fall to Sarah-Quita Offringa (Starboard/NeilPryde), who has proven herself to be the most outstanding competitor in women’s Freestyle, raising the level of competition exponentially. Offringa barely broke her stride as she won every heat that she sailed, officially taking the event on her eighteenth birthday.
Junko Nagoshi (Tabou/Simmer Style/Dakine) looked on fine form, reaping the rewards of a dedicated training regime, and boosting through the ranks to second overall. She was superb in the harrowing winds, never flinching, and pulling off complicated moves with style and confidence.
Both Daida Ruano Moreno (North Sails) and Iballa Ruano Moreno (North Sails) excelled in the demanding conditions, demonstrating experience and courage as they charged through the reef with intent. Their preference for big wave stunts gave them an intimidating edge, both often nailing huge backloops in the opening minutes of a heat, with Daida pulling off vast double forwards that delighted the crowd.
Yolanda de Brendt (Fanatic/North Sails) Laure Treboux (Fanatic/North Sails), Silvia Alba Orozco (MFC) and Nayra Alonso (Fanatic/Severne) all sailed with inspiration, the strong winds having no effect as they planed through flakas, esliders and punetas with ease. Olga Raskina (JP/NeilPryde/MFC) and Xenia Kessler (MauiSails) also looked impressive, sailing consistently well for the duration of the contest.
Offringa was, however, in a class of her own for the entirety of the event, proving that she has the talent to win in even the most arduous conditions.
As the dust settles at the close of the first epic event of the year, the World Champions hold fast in familiar territory. Whilst the two lie in waiting upon the summit of windsurfing’s elite, we are left to wonder how much more this incredible pair will be able to offer to the discipline. Together, they are continuing to redefine the sport, and their presence alone is enough to inspire the best from anyone they face.
The PWA World Tour now heads to Gran Canaria, where the infamous Pozo beach awaits. Notorious for it’s harrowing conditions, this brutal event is certain to provide incredible entertainment. All of the astonishing action can now be seen in High Definition via the PWA TV service on our home page, so make sure you check out the unbelievable daily footage and photos from Lanzarote, and the action from Pozo as it unfolds. RESULTS: MEN 1 Jose Estredo 2 Kiri Thode 3 Antxon Otaegui 4 Marcillo Browne WOMEN 1 Sara-Quita Offringa 2 Junk Nagoshi 3 Daida Ruano Moreno 4 Laure Treboux