SurfSlam 2010 Artikel english

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Jet Ski Surf Slam 2010 - Marc Sickerling

Pacific City, Oregon/USA

Sponsoring and Organisation: Blowsion

Last year, Marc Sickerling had already participated in the first event organized by Blowsion and finished fives in a field of 92 participants from 22 countries. A member of the Blowsion factory team, he had left his ski in the US for this current year’s event.

Insiders are well aware that one of Marc’s friends, Norbert Weber, has been manufacturing a carbon ski named “Light Weight“ for years which is, indeed, a lightweight that withstands even the highest waves. Having been technologically upgraded twice in the meantime, the ski is now ideally suited for “free riding“, a slam in the surf.

Nonetheless, there is an increasing trend towards “competition skis“ only. Four different jet ski free style world champions are manufacturing their own ski for selected pilots joining the jet ski world championships on the Colorado River in Lake Havasu, Arizona, in early October. Just a short reminder: Marc has been focussing on free riding in the surf since 2002 and does not participate in the world championships in Lake Havasu.

On September 4, 2010 the four of us were finally sitting in a Boeing 777 on our way to Portland, the capital of Oregon: Marc Sickerling, Norbert Weber, Alex Federmeyer from Luxemburg and myself. Alex participates in the expert category and would have the chance of riding Marc’s ski.

Oregon is close to the Canadian border but the long journey is worth every effort because of the wonderful landscape with a spectacular nature, endless woods and very few inhabitants.

John Dady is the owner of Blowsion. He and his family picked us up at Portland airport in the evening. We fetched our rental cars, went to his company for a short visit and then enjoyed our Oregon steak which became a “daily routine” from now on and is absolutely impossible to beat. After that, we almost dropped dead into our beds.

Back to the company the next morning to replace major parts on the ski and pick up spares. In no time at all, the day was over and we stayed another night in Portland.

The scene of the action is about 200 km away in Pacific City, a very small place at the waterfront. A 100 km ride took us through a natural forest and when we were just starting to doubt that we would ever see the Pacific at all it was suddenly right there. Part of the small city brought back memories of the time of the early settlers and is difficult to describe with its gigantic beach, the pelicans and deer that are tame enough to come very close to the house. And the surf – a true paradise indeed.

We had rented the same house as last year: 4 rooms, 4 bathrooms, air conditioning and an absolutely amazing kitchen. The panorama windows allow a spectacular view of the environment. The house is built on a dune with a flight of stairs leading directly down to the waterfront. The setting beats everything. After purchasing all necessary supplies in the drugstore to fill the freezer we went to the Riverhouse restaurant to have our Oregon steak.

On Tuesday morning, the beach called. What a beach – as far as the eye can see. The tidal current has left visible traces. Marc’s ski works just fine and without fault. Living in Bergneustadt, Germany, 1,300 km off the Atlantic, Marc has no chance of regularly training in the surf so that he is always happy to have a few days shy of an event to warm up. A true disadvantage, really, because almost all other pilots live near the coast and can train every day.

On Thursday we allowed ourselves a few hours off to ride up the coast road and enjoy the marvellous landscape with the gigantic ocean, picturesque bays, woods reaching up to 1,500 elevation and absolutely unique timber houses on the slopes offering a totally unforgettable view.

Friday brought the first trucks, pickups and pilots – and gasoline (100 octanes in the US) to Pacific City. All of a sudden, the place came alive. We filled the tank and Marc started off for his first rounds. Obviously, however, his ski did not run at full capacity so that we decided to replace the ignition box. No change at all. In a telephone call to Martin Schaub, Marc’s mechanic in Germany he advised to adjust the ignition. Guess what happened? The ski ran smoothly and at full speed!

The ideal watercraft for the surf are “Standups“, practically all of them Yamahas. However, it is not only the hull that has been modified (now featuring a shorter foot space), the motor capacity has been improved as well. The American “DASA“ is a very strong engine which, comparing to the 100 PS series, renders twice the capacity with no effort at all. Consequently, the price of a good ski (with top varnish) can easily range between 35,000 to 40,000 EUR. But, given ideal circumstances, this is how you secure yourself a podium position.

Two terms go together and are absolutely inseparable: “free ride“ and ”surf slam“. Each pilot has 10 minutes. The competition is based on knockout rounds which means that two pilots line up and only one advances to the next round. The score is based on two criteria: presentation of jumps with a view to level of difficulty and precision as well as how the pilot is able to ride the surf, i.e. do his manoeuvres while the surf is rolling until it breaks. The jury consists of 5 jurors with an independent vote.

Saturday saw the qualification rounds for the final on Sunday. Once again, it became obvious that it is always the same 5 or 6 pilots fighting at the top – both due to their experience and courage to ride even the highest surf at full speed.

I almost forgot to mention that Saturday was also the day of the experts’ heat – and something almost unbelievable happened: Alex Federmeier won the experts’ contest.

The free ride slam started early Saturday morning at 8 a.m., with a fabulous sunrise as every day so far and a promising start into the event. It is definitely absolutely exciting and exhilarating for all the participants to watch the qualifying rounds, especially if they are part of the game themselves, of course. When the starting numbers for the qualification rounds of the professionals were assigned it turned out that Marc’s first combatant was one of the top 3 pilots. Everybody knew that Marc would have almost no chance of beating him but he triggered and released all his skills and made the very best of it. At the end he showed a clean and perfect double barrel roll. And guess what? He scored well and won the round! Meanwhile, the tide had come in and the surf was getting even stronger.

After winning the quarter final and sailing into the semi final Marc finally fought for rank 3. I guess I was even more excited than Marc himself although I have been on tour with him for 25 years now. But it was worth every effort: he made rank 3! It really couldn’t have been better. In the total score, Marc is now just one tenth behind the leading pilot which is quite a good starting position for the finals in Brazil in 4 weeks.

The following award ceremony showed an almost familiar sight: #1 Ross Champion, USA, # 2 Taylor Curtis, USA and #3 Marc Sickerling from Germany.

Although “an almost familiar sight“, we should be aware that this #3 position in jet ski free riding is an achievement for Marc that ranks almost as high as a #1 in jet ski free style especially with a view to his jeansware business in Germany requiring increasing attendance and responsibility because times have become tougher, his obligations as a father, and the fact that he is 40 years old and does not have any chance of regular training. But his enthusiasm for jet skiing has never ceased, not at all! And he still keeps up friendly contact to pilots all over the world who have set a trend in this sport.

Also, he is a committed co-designer of the carbon ski which is definitely competitive in today’s industry and can rely on the unwavering assistance of his sponsor, John Dady, the owner of Blowsion in Portland, Oregon, USA, who has become a friend indeed and really helps a lot.

When asked how long he intends to take an active part in this sport, Marc says: “As long as I have fun and can play a role in the world top positions!”

Let’s all wish him the very best for the years to come.

Ulrich Sickerling