Words: Paul Griffiths / PWA…
The atmosphere around Lake Neusiedl heated up yesterday as the PWA’s hottest freestylers rocked up and tuned in. However, after waiting patiently all afternoon in soaring temperatures, light winds halted any form of competition from taking place.
The competitors were greeted with a relaxing first day on tour, giving them the opportunity to prepare their gear and acclimatize to the Austrian lakeside lifestyle. A total of 46 sailors registered their intention to compete, including the current world champion, Jose ‘Gollito’ Estredo (Fanatic, North), Kiri Thode (Starboard, Gaastra), and Tonky Frans (F2, Gaastra), amongst many new comers including British born rider Max Rowe (Mistral, Simmer), and the young Belgian Dieter Van der Eyken (Starboard, Severne).
During the opening ceremony the organizers unveiled another exciting activity. The competitors have been given the opportunity to win themselves a further €1,000 by launching themselves off an indoor style jump ramp. Qualification for the finals of this mini competition will take place tomorrow, and on Sunday those that make it through the initial heats will battle it out with the best. If the wind fails to show up on cue, the competitors will be towed towards the ramp at full tilt, which will ensure a crowd-pleasing spectacle occurs!
Whilst the sailors were on standby we took the opportunity to chat to the current world champ, Estredo, to find out what he’s been up to, and see if he’s nervous about all the newcomers that have turned up here in Podersdorf.
PWA: How have you been preparing for the 2010 freestyle tour?
JE: “I’ve been at home in Venezuela for quite a while, but I’ve also been to a spot in Columbia which is really good for freestyle with Diony Guadagnino (Hot Sails Maui, MFC).”
PWA: What were you working on?
JE: “Instead of learning anything new, I’ve been concentrating on improving my style, and also the consistency of the moves that I can already land.”
PWA: Having trained without the other key players on the tour, and not learnt anything new, aren’t you a bit scared that there might be a few people who have overtaken you?
JE: “There’s definitely a chance that there could be people that not only surprise me, but also the judges, and everyone else. We’ll just have to wait and see when the competition starts.”
PWA: What’s the most difficult move to land in freestyle at the moment?
JE: “It’s got to be the Escudo which is Davy Scheffer’s (Tabou, Gaastra) move. It’s a bit like a kono into a flaka, which makes it really difficult to land. It’s a crazy move.”
PWA: Can we expect to see Scheffers and yourself landing such moves here on the lake?
JE: “If we get some strong winds then we will be able to give it a go, but in lighter winds it is virtually impossible. I think it will be a move that you’ll see later in the year at venues like Fuerteventura.”
PWA: How does it feel when you land such a complex and difficult move?
JE: “It feels great when I land one in training, but to land one in competition would feel really special. To land something like that in front of the judges, all the crowds, and the media, just feels amazing, I can’t really explain how good it feels.”
PWA: How do you feel right now? Are you nervous or more excited because it’s the start of the season?
JE: “At the moment I just want to get on the water as quickly as possible so that I can assess everyone else’s level. Once this has happened, I will know what I need to do myself in order to finish where I want to.
PWA: So you’re worried about the current level then?
JE: “I’m not so worried here because it’s difficult for everyone to pull off the newest moves in the lighter winds, but as I said before, if the conditions get really good, the level will be extremely high. I’ve been practicing in these lighter conditions quite a lot though, so I’m confident that I’ll be able to land plenty of technical moves here.”
PWA: Having won a world title under both the old format and the new, are you still a fan of the best move concept?
JE: “I much prefer the new one to the old. It not only makes freestyle much easier to follow for both the spectators and the judges, but it also means we can show off more complex moves in each heat, without having to worry about getting more moves in over the opponent.”
PWA: What’s your game plan now then? Do you still do a few safe moves first and then bust out the more complex ones? Or do you go all out as soon as the green flag goes up?
JE: “I still start with moves I know I will land because we can only fall twice in a heat. But, after the first four moves, I start to up my game and try complex moves which I can’t land quite as consistently. The second half of a heat definitely starts to get more interesting!”
PWA: What goes through your mind when you’re in a heat?
JE: “It depends who I’m up against. If it’s someone who’s not quite at the top level yet then I’m fairly relaxed and don’t worry too much. However, if I’m in a heat against someone like Kiri Thode (Starboard, Gaastra) I have to think about what I’m doing much more because I do get a little bit nervous. In those situations I just go out and sail the heat for myself, and try to forget that I’m sailing against someone else and just do my best.”
With or without wind, it looks like the action will definitely begin to unfold today.
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