Update: As of 10:47am Hawaiian time Nov 1st, Ricardo is out of the title race. Thomas will place no worse than 5th in the event, meaning the race is down to Thomas and Victor.
In 4 days, the Aloha Classic will decide the wave world title for 2014 at Hookipa Beach Park on Maui’s North Shore. Hookipa is the Pipeline of windsurfing, Hookipa is the beach where wavesailing started, Hookipa is the point of pilgrimage for sailors both professional and amateur, and Hookipa for me is home. The waves that break over that reef made stars of Naish, the Angulos, Levi Siver, Polakow, etc.
Only 3 sailors can win the title of “best wave sailor of 2014 according to the PWA”. They are Thomas Traversa, Victor Fernandez Lopez, and Ricardo Campello.
Sailing with momentum and currently ranked 1st is Thomas Traversa. He won the Red Bull storm chase at the start of this year, and he went on to win the PWA jumping indoor in Poland as well as the PWA world cup in Klitmoller. He backs up his wins with two 2nd places (Tenerife and La Torche).
For years, I’ve thought Thomas’s talent under appreciated in the general media. He is a windsurfer’s windsurfer, and I think most other pros would place him in their personal top 3. And this year, going into the last event of the season, he is in first place.
But actually Victor Fernandez Lopez has the best shot at winning the title despite currently being in 2nd place. Why? In a word: discards. After 3 events, each sailor discards his worst result. This year saw 5 events, so 4 will count. Thomas has a 9th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, and Victor has 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 5th.
Victor loves the podium. I think Victor has more podium finishes than any other wave sailor in the last 8 years. And he is the only one of the three title contenders to have a previous wave world title (2010).
Ricardo is no stranger to the podium either (currently 3rd). He dominated freestyle in the early naughts, winning 3 world titles and almost every single event. He was unstoppable. And then he turned his focus to waves. Many people in the wave sailing community laughed, thinking he wouldn’t be able to do well. And at first, Ricardo struggled. But only at first. Now, he has proved himself to be one of the best wave riders in the world– and also one of the most progressive!
I brought out my calculator to see the math on what results at the Aloha each contender needs to win the overall.
Ricardo needs to finish on the Aloha Classic podium to have a shot at the title. Here are all all possibilities:
Ricardo in 1st at the Aloha:
Rico will pass Thomas in the overall unless Thomas places 5th (or better); and pass Victor unless Victor places 4th (or better).
Rico in 2nd:
Rico will pass Thomas unless Thomas places 6th (or better); and pass Victor unless Victor places 5th (or better).
Rico in 3rd:
Rico will pass Thomas unless Thomas places 7th (or better); and will pass Victor unless Victor places (6th or better).
For Thomas, the math is much easier. To win the title he needs both to place 7th (or better) and to finish ahead of Victor (and so long as Rico does not win [see above]). Or, if there’s no wind, he wins with his current points.
ALL OTHER SCENARIOS: Victor wins the overall. This is why Victor has the advantage.
Is the past Aloha Classic prologue to the future? Probably not. But let’s look at it anyway.
Last year, Ricardo scored the best of the 3– finishing 11th (eliminated by your author). Thomas and Victor tied for 15th.
And if we want to look two events back, we go all the way back in time to 2006. Ricardo was 5th, Victor 7th, and Thomas 21st.
What does that mean? Not much. Maui is a gamble. Polakow could come out the trials and win the whole event. In fact, if the waves are really big, he’s an easy bet for the podium. Ricardo’s overall maui performance is the best of the three. But Thomas shows the most improvement.
What do I think?
Well, Ricardo and Victor spend a lot more time on Maui than Thomas does. In fact, Thomas doesn’t really like Maui. Whereas Rico and Victor come twice a year, Thomas comes once every few years. How ironic that now Maui means the title for him!
Victor looked really good in the spring. His Hookipa sailing is better than ever. Ricardo is always fun to watch. But I don’t see either winning the event unless the waves are small– in big surf, the Maui local advantage amplifies.
The forecast (as it stands right now) is for medium-size waves and strong (for Maui) wind. This means jumping might count. Now, Hookipa is not a jumping spot, and the contest often is only about wave riding. But, if the judges count jumps, both Ricardo and Victor have a much larger advantage than they normally would have.
Thomas is more of an unknown. He impressed me a lot at last year’s Aloha. Is he good enough to place at least 7th– hell yeah.
Maui locals have a significant advantage at Hookipa making it harder for some of the elite riders to break into the top 10. Last year’s top 10 was all Maui locals except for Alex Mussolini and Kauli Seadi. Should be noted that Mussolini went to high school on Maui and spent months on island every year since graduation.
Last years’s locals:
Levi Siver (1)
Bernd Roediger (2)
Morgan Noireaux (4)
Marcilio Browne (5)
Josh Angulo (6)
Robby Swift (8)
Graham Ezzy (9)
Kevin Pritchard (9)
The local advantage makes it harder for non-locals like the three title contenders to get the top positions they normally get. This is why Victor Fernandez Lopez is in the best position mathematically for the world title– he wins by default if either Ricardo or Thomas doesn’t do well. That said, both Thomas Traversa and Ricardo Campello seem fired up this year– both seem more motivated than previously. Victor already has a world title, but Rico and Thomas don’t. Will this desire for a maiden world title be enough to motivate either Thomas Traversa or Ricardo Campello to step it up at the Aloha? Both would need to do better than they have ever done before on Maui.
What do you think? Who will win the overall? And why? Give your predictions in the comments.