To truly understand European windsurfing, you have to attend an event like 'Le Defi' with 800+ windsurfers on the water for a long distance marathon or The Mission- which was held last w-end in Brouersdam, on the Dutch- North Sea coast. Both events attract industry sponsors for a carnival like event- showcasing the multi disciplines of the sport- from beginner instruction, pro-freestyle and slalom racing, plus a semi-trade show of new products for windsurfing enthusiast to try.
The emphasis of The Mission event was on the juniors and having fun!
With 400+ participants- over 55 slalom heats were run over 2 days and the hundreds of spectators lining the shores got to see some of the worlds best freestyle talent in an extravaganza billed as the 'Battle of the Giants.' With an announcers booth towering overhead, the judges scored the young energetic international free-stylers with point based on audience approval. The juniors on the beach were really getting into it, seeing their idols perform willie-skippers, e-sliders and vulcans just meters from the shore- sometimes crashing into the rocks!
The big show, however was the RED BULL ramp which riders got towed into from a rigid inflatable dinghy - rocketing them up the ramp for some spectacular crashes but finally later in the weekend for an event winning double forward loop performed by Kevin 'Meev' Mevissen, local dutch free-styler.
Day 1 racing photos from Jan deJong
The pure beauty of the event was seeing so many people having fun on what ever gear they had.
With marginal slalom conditions, the old school longboards found themselves at the top of several heats on the slalom course. Others in the pro fleet were racing formula boards and 12 meter sails while the light wind slalom enthusiasts- such as myself- were struggling even with large and Xl slalom gear through out the w-end. Other heats, we were lit up around the 4 mark downwind slalom course finishing 10m from the shoreline and crowd! In the 36 man pro- fleet, I finished 8th overall using the north warp 9.0 and F2 SX Large slalom board in all the races. More importantly, I spend my birthday -Saturday- on the water doing what I love best with hundreds of other people enjoying the same moment!
Saturdays BBQ and party were well attended with dutch juniors charging the dance floor till 4 am!
Breakfast was served on Sunday morning at the event site- with most rolling out of their campers spread across the natural harbor of Brouwersdam groggy eyed form the night before.
Sundays forecast of more suitable slalom conditions never arrived despite several rain squalls, and typical dutch gusty, shifty lake sailing. Nonetheless 2 more heats of downwind were run for all the divisions- including a final of the top 50% in each fleet.
Day 2 racing photos from Robert Hardholt
In mid afternoon, the Battle of the Giants continued with the rigid inflatables pushing the pro riders up and over the ramp . Others were getting towed and lauched into a freestle smorsgasburg of moves.- just in front of the crowd. The red bulled infused juniors were still wide eyed on day 2 for an autograph session with posters of the pro riders.
(I can remember my bedroom as a 13 year old filled with posters and magazine cut outs from WIND RIDER and WIND TRACKS magazines. To have them signed by the pros would be the icing on the cake for any young windsurfer.)
Battle of the Giant photos form Robert Hardholt
All in all, a great event for the sport of windsurfing showcasing its diverse talent and all around fun for the juniors. We need more events like this in the US to keep the enthusiasm alive.
Check out the online magazine the event organizer put up- just one day after the event: