“O’Neill Wake The Line” Friday was out of the way with the event’s first ever Quarter Pipe and Kicker contest champions crowned. Back to normal proceedings with anything but normal wakeskating and wakeboarding in store. With the athletes having already drawn their head to head rivals for the first rounds of skating and boarding, got some final practice on this testing UNIT Parktech setup, the Stadionbad gates were opened, the thousands flocked in and the worlds biggest obstacle riding spectacle was underway.
Eight of the best wakeskaters in the world made up athletes repping the US, Germany and South Africa started proceedings. The tried and tested head to head format remained the same for all the action. The one coming up best out of three runs moves through to the next round. It was a case of big guns against newbie, the only testing result for the German crowds was seeing local hero Lukas Suss fall foul of some solid riding from Yan Lacomte, taking on “O’Neill Wake The Line” for the very first time. A four man super final was made up of former winners and podium placers, REED HANSEN and JAN KISSMANN, going toe to toe against those in Cologne at their first ever “O’Neill Wake The Line”, DIETER HUMPSCH and Mr YAN LECOMTE.
With the arena seating full to bursting and these masses keen for more, there was no time to waste and the wakeboarding was underway, 10 head to head heats of 20 riders. Although the format has always made this event seriously full on in the pressure department, it’s beauty is in it’s simplicity with commentary teams able to clearly explain which man has bested the other. The one reprieve this year being that in round one and two of the wakeboarding there would be two “Lucky Losers” chosen by the judges for their stand out riding despite not making it through. So, the good news early on was that even though the DEROME brothers drew each other in the first round and RAPH took first blood in a close fought battle, OLI had done enough to prove to the judges that he needed to be kept in the contest. MITCH LANGFIELD grabbed that second “Lucky Losers” spot giving round two’s line-up of 12 of the planets most progressive obstacle masters fight it out again. Both MITCH and OLI made full use of their second chance knocking out KAESEN SUYDERHOUD and MARC ROSSITER respectively but the closest call by far, going down to the wire and needing a third run decider was the match up between SHANE BONIFAY and DOMINIK HERNLER. DOMINIK taking down SHANE in his first run with his immutable smooth style and that banging melon half cab roll off the kicker. So, SHANE had to lay it down second time round and he held nothing back, launching at the kicker after a series of high end rail maneuvers, to stomp this toeside double half cab roll, the trick that had been evading him all week in practice. Showcasing the form that saw him to the top spot at FISE just two weeks ago, HERNLER came back hard boosting the biggest melon cab back roll to which BONIFAY could not find a response.
The day moved at a rapid pace as always and with a smattering of rain, a few gusty high winds that came and went, the Cologne skies just about held out for us. Come round three and the last of the head to head pairings, the umbrellas were put away, the freebie ponchos discarded and the crowd were on their feet and ready for more. It was looking as though we were going to get the battle that many were anticipating between Germany’s own NICO VON LERCHENFELD and Canada’s RAPH DEROME, both seemingly in possession of the runs that would be hard to beat by anyone else. Round three was all she wrote for NICO however in a shocking early exit for the former “O’Neill Wake The Line” champ, popping the handle so uncharacteristically after not really finding his true form all day. OLI DEROME’s solid pressing in every direction and an unreal, stomped, backside 540 late indy meant his rags to riches story was complete, making it through to the final after an initial early exit. The HENSHAW vs. VOLLERT battle will be one to remember. Both old hats when it comes to the “O’Neill Wake The Line” pressure cooker and this couldn’t have been more obvious, the pairing taking it to the wire and a third run decider that gave the judges the hardest decision of the day. It went HENSHAW’s way making for an all out Candadian take over of the final with just the Austrian, HERNLER, standing in between our transatlantic friends and a clean sweep of the podium.
Super final time, a packed house, the most insane days riding ever seen and still more to come. The technicality of all the wakeskaters was something to behold, all manner of shoves and flips in and out of pools, on and off rails were getting dropped. It was a one / two for the riding compadre’s of REED HANSEN and DIETER HUMPSCH, both dropping varial flips out of the spillway pool, REED’s locked in moves edging him ahead of the South African. It was not to be another podium experience for local JAN KISSMANN much to the crowd and his dismay, having shown such poise, control and dominance every time he took to the water up to this point, fluffing his first run and YAN LECOMTE using this to put the squeeze on with his second run. KISSMANN just couldn’t fight his was back into the top three, making it two first timers on the podium and KISSMANN settling for fourth.
In the blink of an eye the day was almost over and our minds were already wondering what could possibly surpass the action witnessed today. Well, the super final surpassed all previous climaxes to “O’Neill Wake The Line” with RAPH DEROME further enhancing his dominance of the the wake world taking down the other three finalists with not even the slightest waiver. Surprisingly, where double flips have seemingly been the flavour of the past year it was a spin, grab, tech fest off the kickers, RAPH’s monumental heel side cab 900 melon grab half way through, sealing his title off the back of the biggest presses of the day. HENSHAW’s unique use of the set-up separating him from the rest was surely what secured him his second place, followed by the consistency of OLI DEROME taking down third. Having fallen on the quarter pipe in his first run, DOMINIK hadn’t made it easy for himself and despite his insane tail press backside 180 to nose press, pretzel backside 180 out on the first rail and more goodness to follow, the second shock popping of the handle after NICO was his undoing and with the handle went his chance of a podium position.
A betting man would not have made much money if he’d put a money on RAPH at the start of this year’s “O’Neill Wake The Line” simply because the buzz always had RAPH coming up with the goods. Who’ll be able to take him down if anyone? Well there are plenty of riders here that will be back in 2014 to give it a good go along with yet more newcomers and the best of the wakeskating fraternity hungry for the prestige, honour and bragging rights that come with owning the top spot at the one and only “O’Neill Wake The Line presented by Relentless Energy Drink”!
1st RAPH DEROME (CAN)
2nd KEVIN HENSHAW (CAN)
3rd OLI DEROME (CAN)
1st REED HANSEN (USA)
2nd DIETER HUMPSCH (SA)
3rd YAN LECOMTE (CAN)