The biggest windsurfing event of the World Cup happens each year on the island of Gran Canaria. Not only does it tout the biggest prize money ($180,000) it’s also the home of the strongest and nastiest wind and wave of the tour. American Windsurfer went in search of the Grand Slam and found an island filled with windmills, beautiful natives, and friendly windsurfers. Rob Bryant, gave us a day-by-day report from Pozo Beach while a team of AW photographers roamed the beach and took to the sky for grand pictures.
12th July: Preparation and Anticipation
As the PWA World Tour reached Gran Canaria, sailors prepared small sails and large amounts of strength teamed with determination. Pozo provides some of the toughest windsurfing conditions and best competition on the PWA circuit. Relentless wind blasts through the town, making Gran Canaria is an ideal windsurfing location, explaining why many of the PWA World Tour sailors call it home. The event has two competition disciplines, meaning double the fight for positions and limitless action! At the home beach of the reigning race and wave champion, Bjorn Dunkerbeck E-11, there arrived plenty of riders keen to push him off his winner’s podium.
In wave competition, Brit Nik Baker K-66 put everything into dislodging Bjorn’s top spot. After winning last years’ Aloha Classic, the PWA World Tour’s most prestigious wave sailing contest, he knew the Wave Championship was within grasp. Last year Bjorn slipped down to sixth in Pozo ‘s wave contest. No doubt he fought to improve that result. The presence of windsurfing legend Robby Naish US-1111 along with Josh Stone USA-6, Francisco “Cisco” Goya A-211, winner of last year’s wave contest at Pozo, and Australian Jason Polakow KA-1111, confirmed heavy competition. These latter three represent the PWA Wave competition’s most exciting and innovative sailors.
HIGH ACTION ONLY A BIRD COULD SEE: Slalom racing dominated the Gran Canaria event. At the first jibe mark, Micah Buzianis and Robert Teriitehau, led the field with Kevin Pritchard and Bjorn Dunkerbeck within striking distance. This year’s event brought surprisingly low winds. Winds blew in the range of 25-30 mph instead of the 40-50 mph normal wind conditions. With the low winds, waves were hard to find and slalom racing became the focus of the competitors.
In the women’s competition local twins Iballa E-63 and Daida Ruano Moreno E-64 defended their respective first and second places in Overall PWA Wave, sailing at their Pozo home beach. With Karin Jaggi Z-14 present, the overall women’s champion then, action and fierce contest from the women’s camp reigned.
PWA sailors’ exceptional standard and intense battle for top positions meant Gran Canaria 2000 offered exceptional radical action and adrenaline pumping competition.
The men’s race competition scene was equally exciting. Snapping at Bjorn’s heels was Matt Pritchard US-10 who has consistently improved his PWA race ranking over the last few years, and Finian Maynard KV-11 whose passion for speed and strength in high wind conditions made him a strong contender for the race title. Frenchman Antoine Albeau F-192 was also on a mission to move up the rankings.
For the first time in PWA history, a new electronic scoring system relayed results direct from the judges’ palm pilots to a central computer and display board for the sailors and public on the Gran Canaria beach—just one innovation indicating the pace and commitment present in developing world-class windsurfing competition.
Pozo provided a fantastic showcase of PWA windsurfing action, with many high-performance sailors and the sport’s biggest characters. The 2000 Gran Canaria PWA Grand Slam guaranteed sensational sailing and attention grabbing action!
POZO BEACH: One of the most famous beaches in Europe, Pozo Izquierdo Beach is the site of the annual Gran Canaria Grand Slam. Three disciplines—racing, slalom, and waves—are held here. The best windsufers from around the world gather on Pozo to face the brutal conditions they love so much. (above) Phil McGain and Scott Fenton of the “Team” head out in moderate shorebreak.
13th July: Competition Begins!
The first day of competition Pozo Izquierdo’s action showed the world why it earned a
reputation as one of the best windsurfing venues for the PWA competition.
The water was flatter than the previous day although there was still a large amount of swell sweeping in creating a challenging shore break. With a solid 25 knot wind blowing onshore, the conditions were suited to race competition.
Sailors arrived early to learn which competition discipline the judges selected, race or wave. Ant Baker K-77 had his entire quiver of slalom race sails ready on the water’s edge, leaving the judges no doubt about his preferred discipline. The judges agreed with him and announced the start of the race. Adding to the atmosphere, crowds appeared to see the action.
A fantastic attendance of the world’s top race sailors showed to compete for the title in this first PWA race contest of the season. The sailors were happy to be back on the water, battling for position as they hurtled between the marks on the downwind slalom course.
PWA Race world champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck was present to defend his home beach and explained that the slalom course was particularly hard. Said Bjorn, “It’s a very fast course and there is no room for mistakes. One slip and you can lose it.” Indeed, the world champion was pushed to the limit. In the semi-final, Thomas Larsen beat him across the line.
In the day’s first final, America’s Kevin Pritchard and Micah Buzianis were hot on Bjorn’s heels from the start. By the second mark, Micah had a good lead and Kevin followed Bjorn. By the final mark, Micah opened a gap between himself and the world champion, crossing the line with Bjorn second and Kevin third.
The second round of slalom competition began with increased wind and tension. Any rustiness in the sailors’ race tactics was blown away along with close heats during which sailors forced each other out on the jibe marks and the finish line.
FREE SAILING dominated the scene as the inconsistent wind kept the racers on the beach. Recreational sailors and wave competitors took to the sea in search of the illusive wave. As usual, the waves and the wind disappeared during the competition and returned with a vengeance, the day after the event.
In the first semi-final of round 2 Ant Baker and fellow Brit, Jamie Hawkins K-96, battled it out right to the line. Jamie squeezed in ahead of Ant, both going to the final.
The final was a close contest from start to finish. Kevin Pritchard had a great start, leading from the first jibe mark. The rest of the fleet fought for position with tight jibes and aggressive sailing.
Holding his lead, Kevin extended the gap between himself and Finian Maynard in second place, keeping Bjorn back all the way to the line.
The winner was Kevin who then held second place behind Bjorn in the overall PWA Race ranking. After the injury of his brother Matt, who was unable to compete, Kevin remained focused on the Race title.
Finian Maynard entered the contest at a serious disadvantage, losing all of his prototype slalom sails in transit from Maui. Despite this he put on a good show, keeping Bjorn from moving up the fleet.
Following the final, Finian said, “That was a supercharged race! It was full power all the way. I kept seeing the nose of Bjorn’s board but managed to hold him off. Everyone has been working really hard and I reckon we’re doing an extra couple of knots this year. The sailing is really tight so we’re in for a good week.”
Between races, the wave sailors blasted in the afternoon, swell practicing wave and freestyle moves. With loops and dynamic moves happening along the beach parallel to the finish line, there was no shortage of spectacular sailing at Pozo.
The race contest began with real excitement. The next few rounds told if Bjorn faced a serious challenge to his number one position. The action would continue the next day with more dramatic race action or the start of wave competition.
DAY 3, 14th July: The Heat Is On World Champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck was under increasing pressure on Day 3 with Micah Buzianis and Kevin Pritchard chasing him for the event title.
Conditions were similar to Day 2. Again Pozo Izquierdo offered plenty of wind, blowing onshore between 20 and 25 knots. The new facilities added to the event’s enjoyment for everyone. A strong crowd watched the world’s best sailors in action. Picking up where they left off, the sailors were keen to get out early to continue the intense battle for the top race positions in PWA competition.
The sailors pushed even harder with more aggressive gybes at the marks. The water was a little rougher, making it harder for them to hold their line as they charged towards the marks. Micah Buzianis, with an excellent start, led going into the first turn. From there he utilized the clean wind and water, keeping his lead to the end. Commented Micah, “I had good speed and my starts were on fire! After the first mark, I saw Finian catching up. I just kicked in and held onto the edge all the way to the finish.”
Finian Maynard might have caught Micah if he hadn’t spun out at the first mark. Knowing that he needed to improve his current performance Bjorn chased but was unable to move past Finian. Kevin Pritchard, leading the event from the day before, was disqualified for dangerous sailing, which took him out of the final.
In the second round, the competition got tougher. After a recall, the race began. Finian crossed the line early with Dutchman Peter Volwater H-24, causing both disqualifications. Micah, inspired by his earlier performance, kept a good position after another excellent start. His win won him first place in the event ranking and the leader’s blue vest from Kevin. The leader’s vest is a new element of PWA competition, helping spectators and the media identify the lead.
At the end of the day’s sailing, four rounds were completed, allowing for one discard. Micah held first place with a consistent performance. Kevin was second and Bjorn third, with a disappointing seventh in the fourth round.
Finian Maynard and Antoine Albeau were there to pounce on any slip by the top three; Scott Fenton KZ-1, Robert Teriitehau F-2000, and Phil McGain KA-7 were close behind.
With such strong competition, the event title remained open. If Bjorn had found form, he could have reclaimed the top spot. A new victor was on the way for PWA racing at the Gran Canaria Grand Slam!
Some fully charged and focused young wave sailors waited to fire up their displays and challenge the established competitors. As soon as conditions allowed, dynamic world-class windsurfing was again witnessed at the famous Pozo Izquierdo beach.
THE CONTENDERS: Americans Micah Buzianis US-34 and Kevin Pritchard US-3 looked strong as heirs apparent to Bjorn Dunkerbeck. Quietly in the shadow is Frenchman Antoine Albeau F-192, who showed moments of brilliance in the week-long affair.
DAY 4, 15th July: Event title chase cracked wide open!
Tension built while action continued at Pozo Izquierdo. The race rattled on and the pressure mounted on world champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck.
Micah Buzianis and Kevin Pritchard continued their chase in the men’s race contest followed closely by some strong competition from around the world.
In round five Kevin recorded another first, and Micah came in second. Bjorn had yet another disappointing result, finishing seventh. The lighter winds (light for Pozo) did not suit all the competitors, including Bjorn.
Bjorn explained what happened to him on the race course: “I was under-powered. My sail was too small. I had a bad start and after that, it was difficult to move up. A good start is critical.”
The contest was wide open, making this one of the most exciting PWA Grand Slam events ever.
As the tension built on the water, the sailors fought for positions, leading to a crash on one of the jibe marks in round five. Robert Teriiteau had a lucky escape as a fin scraped across his board, slashing his footstrap and gouging his board, narrowly missing his foot. The same crash took out Finian Maynard who was pushing hard to stay within the top ranks.
Round six delivered intense competition. The early rounds contained close finishes and tight sailing at the jibe marks. Micah Buzianis fell in his first heat, removing him from the round, leaving the door wide open for Kevin to claim another victory. At the start of the final, Bjorn demonstrated his ability to remain focused and unflustered by his contest track record. After a good start, he held the lead and recorded his first win of the event. Kevin finished third, as Antoine Albeau stormed through to claim second.
Bjorn’s comments after the final reflect his approach to race sailing: “I try to sail every heat as a final. I had a good start and held the line to the end.”
French racing star Antoine Albeau remained a live element of the race action, trying to break into the top three. After the day’s result, he moved into fourth place and demonstrated his ability to perform in mixed conditions.
At the close of Day 4’s competition, Bjorn showed he should never be ruled out and held onto third place overall, despite recording several bad results. With points so close, the contest remained open.
Racing conditions were superb in Pozo Izquierdo. Crowds arrived in force to see the action and be part of the beach’s excited heat. There was plenty more action yet and the biggest news in worldwide windsurfing competition took place in Gran Canaria over the next few days.
All waited for improved wave sailing conditions to give the other sailors a chance to thrill the crowds.
Race results up to Day 4:
1st Micah Buzianis US-34
2nd Kevin Pritchard US-3
3rd Bjorn Dunkerbeck E-11
4th Antoine Albeau F-192
HEADS OVER HEELS FOR THE CAMERA AND THE CANARIES: The wayward waves forced an impromptu freestyle event to the crowd’s delight. Lovely tropical girls looked on during the freestyle awards presentation at the newly constructed windsurf center on Pozo Beach. From the helicopter, Jonas Ceballos Sanchez E-40, a wild card entry for Spain, displayed the elegance and proficiency of a future star. He landed fully planing out of this remarkable forward loop sequence.
DAY 5, 16th July: The Heat Is On
After four days of intense competition, the sailors recharged their batteries, due to exceptionally light winds for Pozo Izquierdo making competition impossible. Wind arrived briefly at about 13.00 hrs and the sailors took to the water, beginning round seven. However, within twenty minutes the wind dropped again and some sailors were brought back to the beach by crew boats.
It was strange to walk the beach without being blown backwards or sideways. This time of year, it is a rare event to have less than 40 knots, plus!
At least, Bjorn had a chance to relax on his birthday. With a strong field chasing him for the overall PWA Race title this year, Gran Canaria 2000 looked set to be one of the most exciting and toughest contests in the calendar. It was an encouraging sign for the remainder of the PWA racing season and, clearly, all the sailors’ hard work was paying off.
Part of that hard work was in the form of team sailing. In fact, the top two sailors in this race contest were both members of training teams. Kevin Pritchard is part of The Team, which is led by Phil McGain and includes Kevin’s brother Matt and Scott Fenton. Micah Buzianis is a member of MPG (Maximum Performance Group) coached by Scott Sanchez, whose other members include Francisco Goya, Jimmy Diaz, and Daida Moreno.
Team sailing has its advantages, including the pooling of skills and techniques. It will be interesting to see how team sailing develops and the contribution that it brings to PWA competition.
The crowd was bigger Day 5 and PWA Gran Canaria Grand Slam interest was building as the race for the top spot intensified. The next few rounds were critical in determining a Pozo Izquierdo winner.
Everyone was confident that the wind would blow again within the next few days, returning the spectacular wave sailing and race action in force!
DRAMATIC START FOR COURSE RACING: The final race on day 6 sealed the fate of the overall title. Kevin Pritchard, sailing effortlessly, dominated the race, held the event title, and moved into first overall in the PWA.
DAY 6, 17th July: Course Racing
Lighter winds Day 6 in Pozo Izquierdo led to a change in race competition from slalom to course racing. With only three rounds left to sail, the day anticipated tense competition with the beach full of sailors eager to either improve or maintain their positions.
The prospect of course racing drew the sailors to the beach early. After four days of slalom racing, they needed to spend time rigging race sails and tuning their equipment. The sight of course racing boards and huge sails on the beach at Pozo verged on the surreal. Just a week ago 3.5-metre wave sails littered the beach.
When the course was set, the sailors waited for the flag sequence. It was a long wait for the wind to fill in and racing eventually began just before 14.00 hrs.
Drama filled the air as the sailors fought their way through the heavy Pozo shore break. One casualty was Peter Volwater who trashed a sail and fought his way back in for a quick sail change with less than five minutes to get to the start line.
Kevin Pritchard dominated the first race of the day. He led by five minutes at the second mark and passed the finish line well ahead of Thomas Larsen who had a chance to show his course racing ability. Christoffer Rappe S-39 was another accomplished racer who seized the opportunity to move up the rankings in extraordinary conditions for Pozo Izquierdo. Micah Buzianis came seventh and Bjorn Dunkerbeck managed only fifteenth.
In round eight the action continued. Results of the previous race increased tension. Micah picked up his performance to take the lead. Kevin kept up his challenge and followed Micah over the line. Again Thomas Larsen showed excellent form taking third. Antoine Albeau sustained his last few days’ performance, maintaining his bid for a podium position. Again Bjorn failed to record a position inside the top ten, passing the finish line in eleventh place.
By round nine’s start positions were closer than at any other time during the contest. Both Micah and Kevin sailed out to the start line knowing that the first one back to the beach would take the event title. After two disappointing rounds, Bjorn had to put everything into improving his position and maintain his overall position in PWA Racing.
All EYES OUT TO SEA in search for wind, waves, and high expectations. The Gran Canaria event historically, (like Dunkerbeck’s sky-high loop from last year), has been the most dramatic aerial exhibition in the world. This year’s light winds brought the event down to sea while wave contestants sat in their cars or pushed flat water acrobatics. A new computerized wave scoring
After a slight course change, the race began with a good start by Kevin while Bjorn moved up quickly, stronger than during previous rounds. Kevin held the lead at the midway point and remained cool in his bid for victory. Determined, Micah focused on snatching the top spot from Kevin’s grasp.
At the line, Micah watched from behind as Kevin took first place and Bjorn third. With consistency Antoine Albeau claimed fourth place.
Despite the unusual conditions Pozo provided a fantastic Day 6 contest. Kevin Pritchard held the event title and moved into first overall in PWA Race rankings. Micah gained second place and Bjorn managed to hold third, recording a broad mix of results in the last few days.
Kevin was obviously happy to win. Big grins and smiles showed all round in The Team. One member of The Team though missing from Pozo, Kevin’s brother Matt, was not forgotten at the beachside celebrations. Kevin exclaimed victoriously, “I’m real happy to have won. This one’s for Matt!”
Bjorn acknowledged the strong competition hot on his heels in the chase for the overall title. He remarked, “I know that some of the others have been training hard. It’s clear they are getting closer to me now.” With an impressive record and respect for his ability still strong amongst the other sailors on the PWA tour, Bjorn was hungrier than ever to bounce back.
The racing climax provided an afternoon full of intensity. Some very interesting results were created by the shifting conditions, making significant changes to overall rankings. Antoine Albeau’s consistency proved itself with his fourth place overall. After an excellent day in Pozo, Thomas Larsen moved up five places to seventh overall. With two race events to follow in the next few weeks PWA Racing was exhilarating.
DAY 7, 18th July: An Uncommon day on the shores of Pozo IZQUIERDO
With the completion of Day 6, racing sailors packed their race kits, ready to move on to the next leg of the PWA tour. It was a fantastic few days and the sponsors provided a terrific level of support, making the event possible.
However, plenty of sailors remained poised for competition at Pozo. The local forecast called for the wind to return the next day in time to provide a high-flying climax to the 2000 Gran Canaria Grand Slam.
Lacking competition, sailors relaxed in Pozo’s town. As the local venue for sailors to meet and eat, Bar Ola has done some brilliant trade.
Day 7 was a chance for repairs and recreation. Jason Stone, Levi Siver, and friends enjoyed a few rounds of mini golf on the local course. “It was epic mini golf all the way,” was Jason’s cool comment.
Others, including Robby Naish, Jason Polakow, and Josh Stone recounted previous Pozo events’ best moments: the big finals, dramatic heats, double loops, and days when the smallest sails were too big!
In the words of Mr. Stone, “Last year was the best I remember. It was the windiest ever. It’s all karma, man.”
Pozo has never been about a natural balance with its high winds and challenging conditions. With Pozo’s fifty-plus windmills, the local power station is a testament to that! The beach has evolved to withstand the constant pounding from the wind and waves. Sand could never last; pebbles would be blown away. Boulders remain, weighing between 3 and 300kgs.
The new car park and windsurfing center provide shelter and increase everyone’s chances of remaining upright for more than twenty seconds upon leaving their cars. In Gran Canaria car doors have extra hinges or extra large windows.
For the first time in several years, the event flags stayed the same size since the event started. They are usually reduced to tiny shreds in no time.
A quiet day here is dangerously deceptive. Within 48 hours nuclear winds could return, returning life to normal on the shores of Pozo Izquierdo.
THE GRAN FINALE
After a week packed with race action, all were treated to a spectacular finale at the 2000 PWA Gran Canaria Grand Slam. The last few days’ wind was relatively light for Pozo. As a result, the waves were surprisingly smaller than required for the wave contest. At Pozo Izquierdo, it is normal to see a mountain of wrecked equipment from the shore break and sailors narrowly avoiding aircraft flying above Pozo’s town.
Lacking waves, a freestyle contest was held. Many top names entered and warmed up for the following week’s freestyle world championship event in Fuerteventura. The men’s and women’s contests were held simultaneously, keeping the crowd happy and judges busy!
Opening with the men’s contest, the first round casualties included Francisco “Cisco” Goya and Michi Schweiger AUT-54. Cisco went out to Nik Baker and Ben Van Der Steen H-57 went through to the second round with Brian Talma KBA-8 and Eric Troothseide H-90.
Another round brought an energetic contest between Josh Stone and Dionicio Guadagnino with Jason Polakow and one of the racing sensations from Pozo 2000, Antoine Albeau. The last time Dionicio and Josh met was in the final at King of the Lake when Dionicio took first place. This time, they went through together, knocking out Jason and Antoine.
Yet another electrifying heat with the Stone brothers, Dionicio, and Jonas Ceballos Sanchez E-40 awed onlookers.
Just before, Josh had encouragement for his younger brother. “It’ll all be over soon, bro. In about ten minutes, you will feel no pain.” Josh was pleased to have his brother so far through in the heats and Jason was happy with his performance. “This is the furthest I’ve ever gone in a freestyle contest. I’m lovin’ it out there today.”
As the semi-finals began, the sailors felt over powered with Pozo returning to usual. After a quick sail change, Josh, Jason, Dionicio, and Jonas hit the water for the showdown. Both Dionicio and Josh landed plenty of forward loops, Jason matching their moves. For Josh, it was spock, spock, spock bringing him closer and closer to the shore break every time. Dionicio put on a fine display of fluid moves which gave him the title in Italy. With a solid performance, Jason convinced the judges of his improving freestyle position, following his brother through to the final.
In the second semi–final, Nik Baker met with Vidar Jensen N-44. Before the final, the wind picked up, leaving Nik overpowered with a 5.8. Vidar pushed with one-handed forward loops and clean clew-firsts off the chop. Josh and Jason kept up the style, each Stone family member airborne at any one moment during the heat.
Nik landed several clean loops and fit fluid transitions between moves. In the end overpowered Nik fought his way through the final, finishing ahead of both Josh and Jason. Vidar took first place, comfortable on a beach that is home most of the year. His sentiments: “It’s been a good day. At least, we got to complete some competition. I would rather have won a wave contest but I’m obviously happy to have won today.”
Josh was pleased to have his brother with him in the final. The pair looked relaxed facing each other in a freestyle event. Josh intimated, “Hey, it was great to have my brother sailing with me in the final and even better to whop his ass! I’m happy that we managed to sail a contest here today. Over time, all event venues suffer from lack of wind. At least, we’ve had a good sail here today. It’s been a great warm up for Fuerte where the freestyle world championship will be taking place.”
The women’s freestyle contest gave them a chance to show their skill and style to the crowd and warm up their routines ready for the freestyle world championships too.
With two rounds the contest was close, drawing on all resources early to get to the final. In the first heat, Iballa Moreno had a convincing performance together with the then overall women’s champion Karin Jaggi. Both Iballa and her sister Daida looked comfortable sailing on their home beach and in the next heat, Daida joined her sister in the final with Antonia Frey GR-1.
During the final heat, forward loops and willy skippers happened thick and fast. Daida put on a slick show whilst Iballa sailed well, using every wave and moment of airtime.
In the end, the sisters’ performance convinced the judges. Daida took first place ahead of Iballa. Karin was third and Antonia fourth.
After the announcement, Daida was clearly pleased. “This is the first time I sailed freestyle since breaking my foot. I’m really happy to have won today.” Karin was surprised to have been given third place and didn’t feel she sailed that well. The judges disagreed with her self-criticism.
After the day’s impromptu performance, many of the sailors met again the next week for a supercharged event in Fuerteventura with hardcore action and everything to gain. The race for top positions in PWA Racing continued and the overall freestyle titleholders decided.
Britain’s Rob Bryant is the Media Director for the Professional Windsurfer’s Association. He flew all over the world, covering the World Cup events.