Freestyle was confirmed as the chosen discipline, and after a brief hailstorm, the first round competitors were summoned to compete in the ominous waters off the Sylt coast.
Head high breaking waves, chop from all angles, marginal to howling wind and the mother of all shore breaks provided a challenging backdrop for freestyle’s first outing.
From the outset, it became clear that the rider’s routines were going to limited to the confines of the super tricky conditions. However, this didn’t stop them from putting on a show of epic proportions for the loyal German fans.
The more tactical sailors were opting to start their heats far out to sea, where the onshore wind was strongest and the currents weakest. However, regardless of tactics, at some point all of the sailors had to work their way back towards the beach, where the only way to get planning was with the assistance of the dumping shore break.
After a fairly conservative first round of heats, the higher ranked sailors started to raise their games and in turn the magnitude of their moves.
Highlight of the second round was Taty Frans (Starboard, North Sails) versus Antxon Otaegui (JP, NeilPryde, MFC). Otaegui threw down a comprehensive mix of sliding and aerial moves, leaving the flamboyant Frans to counter in his typically gung-ho style. A spirited performance reached its crescendo when Frans opted to attempt a move on the face of a churning monster.
The gamble resulted in him being washed all the way to the feet of the on looking crowd, and effectively extinguished any hope of him advancing, despite winning over the spectators.
The quarter finals saw the lighter sailors reign supreme, with both Marcilio Browne (Mistral, Gaastra) and Ricardo Campello (JP, NeilPryde, MFC) exiting the elimination at the hands of their lighter rivals, Otaegui and Kiri Thode (Starboard, Gaastra). This paved the way for a Tonky Frans (F2, Gaastra) versus Otaegui and Thode versus Jose Estredo semi final.
A huge shaka and near perfect kono from Frans still weren’t enough to topple Otaegui, who was pushing the level up with each heat he sailed. His semi final routine included a towering air chachoo off a chunky breaker, a clear crowd pleaser.
Joining Otaegui in the final was Estredo, who toppled Thode with the help of a devastating pushloop and a varied mix of switch and regular stance trickery.
Moving into the losers final, Frans fell victim to his overzealous approach, which saw him unable to resist the urge to throw massive forward loops off the biggest and best waves the heat had to offer. Despite treating the crowd to a hugely popular aerial display, Thode stole the heat thanks to his more savvy approach.
Crunch time came when seasoned finalist Estredo dueled with underdog Otaegui in the elimination decider. Both sailors kicked off with a healthy quota of moves, but unpredictably, as the wind dropped it was Otaegui that made the most of the marginal conditions.
The Lanzarote local bided his time, waiting for the biggest swells to execute smooth sliding moves, while Estredo wallowed the last two minutes of the heat off the plane.
In a landslide judging decision, Otaegui claimed the first single elimination as his, leaving Estredo to contemplate his actions in second.