By Jane Peel
The 2023 Waterski Pro Tour launched in style on Sunday 23rd April with the best in the world competing at the first tricks-only competition to be organised under the WPT banner. The inaugural Swiss Pro Tricks, held at the Swiss Waterski Resort in Florida, was also the first pro event of the season in the northern hemisphere. It did not disappoint: there were huge scores, a world record equalled and a couple of PBs.
“We just had the craziest and best tricks tournament of all time,” said Dorien Llewellyn. And that was before the finals!
The one-day format encouraged big scores. Each of the 13 women and 13 men had two chances to make the final. In round two they went in reverse order with the top scorer from round one last off the dock. The best six scorers from the two rounds progressed to the finals which were held straight after the prelims. It made for an exciting, fast-moving spectacle.
In the women’s competition, the top six all exceeded 9,000 points to make it to the final, though Canadians Neilly Ross and Paige Rini had to pull it out of the bag in round two after disappointing first rounds. Kennedy Hansen of the USA set a personal best of 9,370 in round one to make the final as fourth seed.
The podium places went to familiar names. Neilly Ross (CAN) was third with 9,950. The current World Champion, Anna Gay (USA), was second with 10,530. Erika Lang (USA) saved her best score for last, taking the win with 11,030 points, just 230 points off her own world record. Had it not been for one missed trick, she would have smashed that record.
If the women’s scores were impressive, the men’s were positively stratospheric.
The Under 17 World Tricks Champion, Matias Gonzales (CHI) didn’t make it to the six-man final, despite scoring 11,130. The lowest score to make it through came from the two-time World Champion, Adam Pickos (USA) with 11,270. Incredibly, the top three finalists exceeded 12,000 points in the prelims. Joel Poland (GBR) was third seed with 12,100. Louis Duplan-Fribourg (FRA) stormed round two with a PB of 12,300. Pato Font (MEX) needed only one round to secure top spot in the final and he did it in style, equalling his own world record of 12,590.
The men’s final was a perfect illustration of the jeopardy of the tricks event where one fall can be the difference between glory and disaster. When Joel Poland landed both his two runs in impressive (and classic Poland) style, the pressure was on. Duplan-Fribourg and Font knew they would have to go big to win but both fell, leaving them down in fifth and sixth place respectively. It would be unfair to Poland to say he was gifted the victory. He won with 12,010 points – his second 12,000+ of the day. The reigning World Tricks Champion, Dorien Llewellyn (CAN) was second with 11,230. Martin Labra (CHI), the Under 17 Overall World Champion, was third with 10,780.
It was, for sure, a spectacular debut for the Swiss Pro Tricks.