The jet ski freeride season was officially started with the 2016 Daytona Freeride just held on Daytona Beach in Florida from Thursday, January 14 to Sunday, January 17. The Daytona Freeride is the largest event of its kind in the world and it continues to grow each year. There were over 300 skis registered to ride during the event with many more coming without their own rides to demo the new skis on display, test others’ skis, or just to spectate and enjoy the party.
This year the title sponsor was Blacktip/Watercraft Superstore and presenting sponsors included Aquamoto, Super Freak, La Playa Resort & Suites, Exotic Signs, JetManiac, Jet Renu, MotoOption, Rad Dudes, Thrust Innovations, Braap Werks, Extreem Throttle, Huck It Brand by Racu, Fast Elements, and Rickter/RRP.
Riders came from all over the US as usual, with many international riders flying in for the ride as well. Blowsion, Krash, and TC Freeride drove cross country to represent the West Coast freeriders. RRP had a bunch of riders including Jose Leger down from Canada to ride as well. Pro riders included Zach and Jake Bright, Brandon and Randy Lawlor, Nick Barton, Mark Gomez, Abraham Ho from Mexico, and others. Many top amateur freeriders were there as well. Stephen Foot from the UK was there lining up and meeting sponsors for the UK freeride championship “The Battle of the Pilots.” Arno Olbricht from Hydro-Turf was in attendance as well.
The “Freeride Pre-ride” started the weekend before the official event and it is popular time to ride for those who come for a week vacation. Also it is a good time to ride without as many skis in the water and to tune skis before the main event. This year, the surf conditions were big before the event with several days of overhead conditions on Friday and Saturday.
The weather was relatively warm for the event and the surf was much better than last year as well. There was considerable rain on Friday as a storm blew through, but once it cleared out, the surf and weather were great. Friday night was the second annual JetManiac party in the La Playa Hotel ballroom. The aftermarket hull show at the party is always popular and this year featured new hulls from TigerCraft, Free Form Factory, Krash, and SuperFreak. Also there was a screening of a new freeride video by Spectrum Innovations as well.
The main day of the event is on Saturday and it was sunny and warm. There were lots of vendors selling and displaying freeride skis and parts including Jettribe, Thrust Innovations, MotoOption, and of course, the Watercraft Superstore. Everything from complete skis to hulls and parts were available behind the La Playa host hotel. JetManiac even converted the beachside gazebo into a full beachside parts store.
The Surf ‘n Style competition sponsored by MotoOption was held on Saturday. Hydro-Turf’s Mark Gomez wrote: “After a crazy rough, scattered-condition 4-minute surf-only heat, I pulled off the win against some of the greatest surf riders at the event. These guys all shred and I’m humbled to have been able to pull off the win and get my title back here at Daytona. Such a great event. Family, friends, riders, good waves and good vibes! This is the best event to start the year!”
Gomez was followed by Zack Bright in second, and Ken Cupo in third. After Saturday’s riding was finished was the freeride raffle with lots of great products from all of the sponsors. Saturday night brought another “back flipping in the pool” show. This time Mark Gomez did three flips in a row. Then he was joined by Chris Langlais and they did simultaneous back flips from each direction that had the crowd roaring!
Langlais said, “Last night Mark Gomez and I did the best pool show [the] Daytona [Freeride] has ever seen! We had so much fun!” Gomez added, “With my ski in the pool and everyone going nuts with cameras flashing, I pulled off 3 flips in a row. Then, a last minute guest Chris from X-metal joined in, and we pulled off two sync’ed backflips together in that pool.” It was another awesome freeride in Daytona, see you all next year!