During this year’s Easter weekend, sailing enthusiasts in Curaçao were commuting between Spanish Waters and the Sea Aquarium Beach, watching or participating in the Curaçao Regatta and the Curaçao Challenge International windsurf competition. The latter in particular attracted many spectators, an extra value for many tourists and local visitors at Curaçao’s most famous beach.
It was a colorful spectacle, especially on Saturday and Sunday when the rookies, age seven to fourteen, sailed their own slalom course in the nearby breakwaters. Besides the colorful sails, the surfers’ bright yellow jerseys created a happy Easter scene on the beach. Spectators saw talented kids in action from the ABC Islands, the Netherlands, the United States, Denmark and the Dominican Republic.
The more experienced surfers went out at sea for their four 500 meters down wind slalom tracks. On Saturday, they sailed a hefty (more than six miles) long-distance race from the event site to the beach of the Marriott hotel. The double scores count and the spectacular finish on the beach made the race even more exciting.
On Monday, participants and supporters moved to the home of Windsurfing Curaçao at Spanish Waters for the challenging second part: the first round of the Freestyle double elimination heats, which continued on Tuesday.
The last evening, a dinner awaited the surfers at Wet and Wild where winners were announced as well as the winner of the Insel Air ticket to Miami, at stake in the raffle held on the beach.
The Challenge Curaçao could rejoice in the presence of the Belgian ISAF (International Sailing Federation) consultant and IFCA (International Funboard Class Association) President Bruno Wannemaeker. His presence confirmed the grand comeback of windsurfing in Curaçao in recent years, thanks to the efforts of the recently married Hilde & Ingmar Schnitzler, owners of the windsurfing school at Caracas Bay. The participation of 24 rookies confirmed that windsurfing is the “in” thing again in Curaçao.
At the lively prize giving ceremony on Tuesday, the organization of Curaçao Challenge concluded a successful second edition of the five-day international windsurfing event. While the unpredictable weather sometimes fooled the slalom windsurfers, the freestylers were blessed with strong wind gusts during the last two days of the competition.
The last heats, mostly fought out by young windsurfers from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, created a lively atmosphere on Windsurfing Curaçao’s headquarters.
Xenia Kessler’s skills, achieved in the cold water around her homeland of Denmark, triumphed over the ladies from the ABC islands. She finished in first place, while Bonairean Bjorn Saragoza took the win in the male over 18 category – the entire category was a Bonairean affaire for the top three.
Under 18 it was Youp Schmit, also from Bonaire, who took the win, closely followed by Felix Martina from Curaçao. Under 14 Ethan Westera took the first prize to Aruba, while the well-performing Kai van der Lubbe from Curaçao came in second. Youp Schmit, competing in the Under 18’s also tried to keep up in the 18+ category. Surprisingly he managed to do even better between big boys reaching the finals in the first round in this category. But his no-handed shove-it didn’t prove big enough to defeat the wide variety of moves by Bjorn Saragoza in the final.
In the slalom a few surprising final results came out due to the double count of the long distance race. Victor Wederfoort from Curaçao won the most competitive Open Class and Ed de Groot (Curaçao) was first in the Sports Class. Amado Vrieswijk (Bonaire) was the best in the Under 18 class, Jürgen Saragoza (Bonaire) in the Under 14 class and Monique Meijer (Bonaire) in the women’s category. Rookies Indigo Kooij, Jean Paul Da Silva Gois and Andre Da Silva Gois climbed the stage to be honored in their peer group.
The event travelled all over the world via the website. It was closely followed by over 1500 fans on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Webmaster Sebastian Opschoor updated the site several times a day with reports, photos and film. Through the webcam at Windsurfing Curaçao, the Freestyle competition could be followed live. On the website www.curacaochallenge.com all results can be downloaded.
IFCA’s President Wannemaeker positively reviewed the competition and its site at the beach, seriously considering the location for the IFCA slalom and freestyle Worlds to possibly take place in Curaçao next year.
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curaçao.