Competitors shine at 2015 Master of the Ocean
Text by Renée Brautigam/DreamBuz Media
Beautiful waves, good winds in the afternoon and the amazing Caribbean sun were all present during the four days of intensive competition at the 2015 edition of the Master of the Ocean. Thirteen of the best wave riders from all over the world travelled to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic to compete in the world’s most complete watersports competition.
At Encuentro Beach, located about six kilometers west of Cabarete, these world-class water athletes competed against each other over the course of three exhausting days in all four wave disciplines: surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddle surfing to win the Master of the Ocean title. For the first time this year, the event also had six teams of four athletes each competing against each other with one athlete representing the team in one particular discipline.
World-renowned surf photographer Tony Roberts, who among many other press people covered this event, called the weather conditions: “Fantastic and riders looking good”. 2014 female Master of the Ocean title holder Fiona Wylde said: “The waves have been really good and very rippable; it has been absolutely amazing to be out there.”
Both the international and local riders were supported by a tireless crowd who came to support their favorite athletes early in the morning and would usually stay until the end. Caribbean Reggae beats and other good vibe music blasted out over the palm tree lined beach to keep both riders and fans motivated. “The locals have been so great, letting us invade their beach for the last few days and embracing all the participants with so much love and respect”, Race Director JJ Walsh highlighted.
“A place is only special because of its people, and Cabarete is one of those special places.”
Joining the crazy amount of amateur cameras in all forms and sizes, the media was also out in numbers all vying each other for the best shot. ESPN also had two drones flying over competitors to get amazing footage. Local beach dogs went crazy every time a drone took off or returned to the beach causing much hilarity.
Even before the start of the competition some athletes had sustained minor injuries in earlier practice sessions. Diego Anta, overall competitor from Spain and 2014 Master of the Ocean finalist, featured a big black eye which had to be stitched after his board hit him during practice the day before. But that did not stop him from happily joining his peers in the waves throughout the event and aiming for another finalist place. He explained that one of the main reasons why he loved this particular watersports event is the fact that riders are super supportive of each other. “I guess it’s because no one is really good at all four sports at the same time so we’re all just out there to mainly have fun, and we really do have a lot of fun.”
By day three, the heavy toll of the event was starting to show. First time competitor in the Master of the Ocean Omri Hazor, who was full of energy at the beginning of the event highlighted that even though he thought he was in good shape he was having a hard time trying to keep up with the intensive eleven hour days. The sports material was also showing signs of tiredness with Canadian athlete Gordon Gannon breaking his mast in the windsurf competition, and fins needing regular replacement. Some competitors had to be inventive with Olympic windsurfer medalist Michael Gebhardt adapting the fin box on his windsurf board MacGyver style with a Swiss army knife to make the fin fit. But that didn’t stop the competitors from giving their all that last day of the overall competition.
Local athlete Samuel “Sammy” Perez Hults highlighted that the level of athletes this year is very high and even though the competition has been super friendly athletes have been pushing themselves to the limit and beyond.
On Friday, the second part of the event took place with mostly local athletes participating in the all popular Expression Sessions. Groups of normally eight riders make up the sessions where riders compete against each other in just one category during twenty minutes and the best trick wins.
In the morning a group of eleven surfers, spread over two heats, showed a lot of skill and perseverance in the small but powerful waves. A third surf heat was organized for kids with the youngest one participating being five years old. The stand-up paddle expression sessions included in the line-up a lot of overall competitors Bahamas windsurf legend Brian Talma, team SUP second runner-up Dauri Reinoso and 2014 female Master of the Ocean title holder Fiona Wylde.
The breeze that created less than ideal conditions in the morning picked up beautifully in the afternoon, creating perfect conditions for the Freestyle Kite and Windsurf Expression Sessions. An enthusiastic crowd at the competition area, which had moved from Encuentro to Cabarete Bay for the freestyle sessions grooved to chill-out beats surrounded by kites and windsurf equipment scattered along the beach. Just before, a number of international riders, who were trying to get back from Encuentro to Cabarete Bay, were offered a ride by two Kiteboarder Magazine representatives who were covering the event. In no time the rented Kia Picanto was covered in seven or more paddle and surf boards strapped to the roof with surf leashes, and five riders were lining up to pile into the back. “Feels like a road trip in the old days”, smiled windsurfing legend Brian Talma.
The end of the day finally brought the moment everyone had been waiting for: the award ceremony where fans would find out who had won the different Expression Sessions, which team came first in the team Master of the Ocean effort and which world class water athlete would be crowned the true Master of the Ocean.
Among loud applause and whoops 2014 female Master of the Ocean title holder was awarded third place in the winner line-up. “It’s been great to compete with the guys, which is something that doesn’t happen every day”, said Fiona. “It feels really good and it shows that girls can rip it too, although the most important part is to all have fun and we definitely had that these last few days.”
The local crowd went crazy when local boy Samuel “Sammy” Perez Hults was announced to be second in the winner runner-up. “It wasn’t easy getting into the finals, so I’m really proud to be second”, Sammy highlighted. “Next year I’ll come again, and the next and the one after that, for as long as I can.”
More applause and definite good vibes surrounded the final announcement of the 2015 Master of the Ocean. Amazing stand-up paddler, surfer and windsurfer Zane Schweitzer hauled in the title for the second consecutive year, highlighting the extremely high level of this water athlete. Zane congratulated both Sammy and Fiona on their achievements and emphasized how “this is what it’s all about: being passionate about what you do and enjoying it with everyone.”
Background information on Master of the Ocean:
Created by German waterman Marcus Bohm in 2003, the Master of the Ocean was originally conceived as the “Ironman of Water Sports”. The competition features a maximum of 12 teams of four athletes per team (one for every discipline) and a maximum of 16 overall athletes who master all four disciplines, with all competing for the Master of the Ocean title.
The idea behind the event is to provide an opportunity for Dominican and Dominican resident athletes to compete side by side with international professionals.
Cabarete was chosen as the best playground for this event as it boasts ideal conditions almost year-round for watersports.
More information about this event on www.masteroftheocean.com
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