The long awaited return of the EFPT to Brouwersdam was finally ON. The first day of the on-forecast finals event which decides the 2023 European Freestyle Champions saw enough wind to get to the semi-finals in both the men’s and women’s fleet. Ran both in and outside of the legendary pool that has brought forth countless champions, the first day of competition delivered the final 4 men and women that will battle it out in the finals on Friday. Read all about the exciting conclusion to the 2023 season below.
With the green light given only 72 hours ago, all crew and riders got a baptism by fire at the legendary freestyle spot of Brouwersdam this morning. Straight into the action, the 32 signed up men and 6 women from all over Europe rigged up with the promise of 30 knot+ winds and flat water in the “poeltje”. However, with the wind taking a bit of time to fire up, the decision was made to run the first round outside of the Zeil- en Surfcentrum Brouwersdam.
The first to attempt climbing the ladder were local Bodhi Kempen (Severne) and tour newcomer Kiril Kirilov. Coming all the way from Bulgaria for this event, Kiril impressed on his debut but unfortunately could not match Kempen’s local expertise. Kempen went on to win with Danish Mathias Vingaard (Starboard/Severne) who is making a comeback from injury. He was then up against Lennart Neubauer (Starboard/Severne/Maui Ultra Fins). Despite a good heat, he lost out to the on-form EFPT tour leader. Neubauer had had a good warmup as he drew local Nick van Ingen (Duotone) in the first round. Van Ingen was tipped as a bit of a dark horse at this event, and he did not make it easy for the young greek.
Posting a 30+ point heatscore, the dutchman gave Lennart a run for his money landing an impressive Kabikuchi in the process. Neubauer was not in safe waters yet though. Coming straight from a GFB Surffestival final resail with Julian Wiemar (Starboard/Severne), Felix Volkhardt (Severne/Maui Ultra Fins) now got the chance to deprive Neubauer of his title hopes. If not for a crashed Spock Culo, Volkhardt could have potentially made it. The german rider has found his competitive groove this year and we are excited to see more from him in the double elimination!
Another German Freestyle Battles regular present at this event is Sebastian Gux (GA-Sails/Tabou). Taking it up against George Grisley (Duotone), this matchup was surely one of the more exciting ones in the first round. The wind wasn’t completely there yet, which favoured Gux. Grisley struggled to fill his scoresheet and hence had to yield to the rider from Kiel. Gux then had to face flat water specialist Sam Esteve (JP/NeilPryde). Despite the heat still being sailed out on the chop, he couldn’t quite match Esteve’s style and had to settle for a comeback in the double. Esteve, who has a good position in the overall rankings, then faced another title hungry competitor. Steven Van Broeckhoven (Starboard/Gunsails) put in the second highest heat score of the day with a flurry of double moves to show that he means business. In the process he eliminated Esteve and secured himself a spot in the semi finals.
The other side of the draw saw two riders storm up. Niclas Nebelung (Duotone/Maui Ultra Fins) and Jacopo Testa (AV-Boards) were on a roll. Performing in his favourite conditions, Nebelung took out Stefan de Bell and Tim Gerdes (Severne) to then face Testa in the quarter final. At this point the competition had moved into the pool, and the gathering crowds got treated to an insane heat. Both riders utilised the flat water to speed up and pop into multiple rotations. A clean Air Funnel Burner 360, Double Burner and Double Air Funnel all made it onto Nebelung’s scorecard, while Testa was opting for all possible Culo variations. By the time the heat was over, both riders had zigzagged across the pool countless times only to be separated by a quarter of a point. It was a diversity fine on the 2022 European Champion’s starboard score that made the difference. Uncharacteristic of him, the Italian crashed a Chachoo which left him with three Culo variations on one tack. Nebelung now made it into the top 4, his highest ever position at a continental EFPT event. After winning the GFB in Meldorf earlier this year, let’s see if he can shake up the 2023 title fight on Friday, where he will be up against Steven Van Broeckhoven.
With Neubauer, Van Broeckhoven and Nebelung with a spot in the semi’s, the last one to join them was Yentel Caers (JP/NeilPryde). Yentel cruised through the single, for once not setting himself up for a comeback in the double. When the competition moved to the pool, he opted to start his heat just outside of it and use a bit of chop to fill his scoresheet. He then moved into the pool to deliver the final blow to local Tigo Kort (JP/NeilPryde).
In the women, the opening heats saw Janika Reyers (JP/Gunsails), Maud de Bruijn, Yvet van der Molen and Arriane Aukes (Duotone/Maui Ultra Fins) fight it out in the first round. Aukes was dominating and put together a solid score head-speared with an impressive Kono and Shaka. In the other matchup, de Bruijn gained the edge with a Semi-Puneta. It was then between Aukes and Lisa Kloster (MB-Boards/Sailloft) to fight it out for a spot in the final. Aukes realised the deteriorating wind conditions and swapped her sail size at the start of the heat. Now in the pool, she was able to enjoy the flat water and quickly raked in some good scores. Kloster was struggling to get planing, and by the time she also rigged up, it was already too late to fight back. With the wind steadily decreasing, the heat between the other semifinalists de Bruijn and Maaike Huvermann (Severne/Maui Ultra Fins) got cancelled. Just after, competition was called off for the day. Everyone was now anxiously checking the forecast for Friday, the backup day for this event.
With just 4 riders left in each fleet, the 2023 mens title race is still very much on. It’s between Lennart Neubauer and Steven Van Broeckhoven. Will Lennart take his maiden European title, or will Steven write a 6th one to his name? In terms of points, Neubauer would need to loose his heat against Caers in the single for Van Broeckhoven to still have a shot at the championship. If the double elimination gets completed things can get shaken up as well. Jacopo Testa and Yentel Caers are both in contention for the 3rd podium spot, and Testa has shown great skill in the pool with the 3rd highest heat score of the day. He could just make his way up and split the title contenders. Stay tuned for all the storylines on our livestream!
Rewatch the stream from the first day: