This year marked the 15th anniversary of the original party that ultimately became the Daytona Freeride, a jet ski surf riding event started by Nick Foederer. The official 2015 Daytona Freeride event, presented by Thrust Innovations, started on Thursday, January the 15th, and ran through Sunday, January the 18th.
The weekend before the freeride (January 10th through the 11th) is the unofficial start of the “Freeride PreRide.” The weekend before the freeride has grown every year into an event itself as many come to Daytona for a week of riding. It is a great time to ride and hang out without the hectic pace of the main freeride weekend. Many are just finishing or tuning freshly built or rebuilt skis at this time.
As mentioned, the title sponsor for this year’s freeride was Thrust Innovations with presenting sponsors including Aquamoto, Watercraft Superstore, SuperFreak Skis, Pro Rider, Exotic Signs, Hydro-Turf, Wamiltons Customs, Jet Renu, and MotoOption. Supporting sponsors included JetManiac, Rad Dudes Freestyle, Blowsion, and Jettribe.
The event started on Thursday with some gnarly weather. A cold front settled in, bringing some wet and cooler weather. The weather began to improve on Friday and the freeride picked up with better surf as well. It is amazing to see how the freeride has changed over the years.
Just a few years ago, most skis were made by Yamaha and Kawasaki. Now there are so many aftermarket and modded hulls it is hard to keep track of them all. Similarly, inverts were mainly seen during expression sessions by the pro riders in attendance. Now you see backflips, barrel rolls, underflips, and other invert variations everyday of the ride performed by pros and amateur riders alike.
Friday also brought Flatwater Friday. This is an unofficial part of the event held on Friday at Lake Dias, which is about a 30 minute ride from Daytona Beach. Riders who prefer lake riding to surf gather to show off their freestyle skills here. This event is also popular with those who want try different skis. Rage Composite Works, XScream, SuperFreak, Rickter, TriXStar all had hulls on display or skis for demo. BOB, Trinity and Hydrospace were among the other skis at the lake.
JetManiac hosted a Meet and Greet after party at the host LaPlaya Hotel’s ballroom after the riding concluded on Friday evening. This event was cosponsored by Rad Dudes, who are always down to party. They sponsored some free libations for the thirsty freeriders. Other sponsors included Rage Composite Works who sponsored the DJ and lights and Tigercraft for more drinks.
The aftermarket hull display area was a big hit at the party as well. Rage Composite Works featured their new Havoc hull and Tigercraft had a new Aquabot hull on display. Thrust Innovations displayed a Rickter Edge as well as several Superfreak hulls. The party was well attended with over 300 freeriders at the event.
Saturday was the biggest day for the freeride. All of the vendors had set up their booths on the pool deck behind the hosting LaPlaya Resort Hotel and had all the latest in freeride skis and parts on hand as well as repair parts for freeriders whose skis would inevitably breakdown while riding in the surf.
New to the Daytona Freeride was the inclusion of the “King of Daytona Beach” Aquamoto race organized and ran by racing legend Chris “The Flyin’ Fish” Fischetti Saturday afternoon.
The race was a closed course surf race featuring a dead engine (LeMans style) start. Race classes included 800cc and GP Standup, and Sport/X2 Class Open. The racing was expectantly hectic as racers maneuvered around the tetrahedron buoys in and around the crashing waves, and provided a great show for those watching.
The 800 Ski results concluded with Bill Haig in first place, second place to Trevor Allred, and Shawn Mayo in third place. GP Ski resulted with Mark Gomez in first place, second place to Jordan Carroll, and third place Johnny Smith.
Sport class results were in first place Mark Gomez on a new Wammerjet, second place to normally-RIVA/Yamaha racer Brian Baldwin on a Kawasaki X2, and third place to David Gone on his Kawasaki X2. The Overall Top 3 were first place Mark Gomez, second place Bill Haig, and third place Trevor Allred, with the “King of Daytona” overall title awarded to Mark Gomez.
Next was the Moto Option Surf and Style competition, and was the third year for the competition. This is a event where the main goal is to surf the waves and do tricks that you land back in the wave. No tricks out the back of the wave were counted. No “cockroach style,” no nose-high reentries. Riders must maintain speed and exhibit style and rip the hell out of the wave for 4 minutes.
The best and most fluid riders win it. There are no cue times between riders. You ride your 4 minutes, and the next rider hits the surf and you come in when you see the next rider go. No head-to-head riding, either. The winners were as follows: first place went to JD Hunt on a modded Yamaha FX1, second place Mark Gomez on a Rickter edge, and third place Carter Brackett on a chopped and modded Yamaha SuperJet.
The freeride raffle was Saturday evening after the day’s riding and featured lots of great prizes donated by all the sponsors of the ride. This is always a good time and kicks off the partying that goes on well past Saturday night into Sunday morning. Sunday was the last day of the ride and was understandably a far more mellow time with many packing up for their long drives home. As luck would have it, the best surf conditions of the event were Sunday morning with glassy conditions and beautiful sunny weather.