The New Year is off to a warm awakening after the amazing conditions that fell upon this year’s Hydro-Turf/Hot Products Pro Watercross Daytona Freeride. Due to the recent hurricane that pummeled the shores of Daytona Beach, the venue was forced to move from the La Playa Hotel, which is under massive renovation. Not only was the location effected, but local event promoter Nick Foederer and his wife Sarah, had setbacks from it at their home as well. Fortunately, some friends helped Nick delegate some of the tasks to lock in the host hotel this year, which was the Ocean Breeze Club Hotel; the new venue’s beach location, just north of the Daytona Beach boardwalk was amazing.
A great addition this year was the added support of Pro Watercross promoter AJ Handler taking interest in the event to support with event insurance, promotion, and registration. Hydro-Turf and Hot Products joined forces to share the title sponsorship of this year’s event. Hydro-Turf had bow flags flying proud, and signature yellow banners strung about the venue. They shipped out a pallet of turf, gear and other goods to be sold at great event discounts by Chris Williams at Jetmaniac. Jetmaniac was on-site all weekend having his ear to the ground as a rider who caters to all the needs of the riders from the top pros to the up and coming. He had all of his unique parts for sale keeping skis running all weekend and his wife Pavlina had the JetManiac girls strolling up and down the beach promoting the brand with style and class.
Hot Products’ unsung industry hero Tom Perry tirelessly wrangled the support and logistics of multiple west coast companies to get them all packed up with products and booth goods to become a presence by 48-hour road trip transit in the TC Freeride Trailer. WORX Racing/DASA Kyle Kennedy and TC Freeride/ Rickter Representative Jericho Keiser made the round trip effort this year to bring over TC Freeride, Rickter, Hot Products, Hydro-Turf, Skat-Trak, WORX, DASA, and Kommander Industries S1. Additional event sponsors included Exocitc Signs, Jet Renu, RacuWerx, MotoOption, Ormond Brewing Company,Tigercraft, and more companies who came to participate.
Friday set the standard for the rest of the weekend with sunshine all day, warm upper 70’s temperature, and most of all, constant big clean surf! The half mile stretch of beach was double parked full of over 250 registered riders hitting the surf kept safe by the thankful supervision of the Volusia County Lifeguards. I personally enjoyed the weekend to the fullest extent by riding as much as I could feeling like a possessed wave destroying monster after being separated from my Rickter for 2 months as it returned from the IFWA World Championship in Japan last November.
My teammate from Mexico, Abraham Hochstrasser, took to the sky on his Monster Energy, TC Freeride built Rickter, and put on a show airing out the new Rickter MX1 sport class ski. Jake Bright and Chris Grace displayed their unique style on their Krash Industries skis. The team from Blowsion made the long haul over from the northwest bringing Freeform brothers Brandon and Randy Lawlor out, who put on a show all weekend. TigerCraft came in deep this year by making a statement on the beach with a long line up of all their customers and sponsored rider’s Skis that participated. Their riders also took to the sky all weekend, Tom Scaccianoce, James Juvet, Brazilian Bruno Jacob, Australian Mick Anthony, Tom Robinson, and many more.
Eric Malone showed up to the party with his new EME Roid hull and hit the water. Chris MacCluggage, who now lives in Florida, came to re-establish his legendary status as one of the sports original well-rounded athletes, surf riding and airing out the new hull from Wamilton’s Customs. Thrust Innovations was on the beach with their trailer and sponsored rider DJ Graham showing off their unique line of Superfreak titan hulls. To put on the ultimate show of the weekend with the best wave conditions on Friday, a big air contest was thrown together with many of the top pilots gunning it for big air glory.
After multiple explosive jumps one-upping each other. It would be Jake Bright and Tom Scaccianoce who would end up with very similar ballistic jumps with the winner to be announced later at the awards. On Saturday the traditional MotoOption Surf n’ Style contest kicked off with windy static wave conditions on the inside competition zone sets. Riders went out two at a time for three minutes being judged on only surf riding ability and energy within the run. I fought hard to defend my reclaimed title last year but was equally matched by many riders. Immediately following that event the backflip “Cherry Popper” event returned with three pilots, Brian Sawyer, Hunter Gaskins, and Nicholas Covert who had the support of the entire beach rallying for these guys to run 20 yards down the beach into the water where their skis were waiting in waste deep water. The rule is simple, the first to flip for their first time takes the title.
It was a beach full of cheers and groans as skis hurled into the air and for the most part kind of made it around. Immediately Nicholas quickly locked in his flip on his built up Tigercraft hull, and Brian tried time and time again getting 85 percent there on his Yamaha Superjet. Hunter Gaskins took the show going the biggest on his SuperJet getting myself and the entire audience jumping up and down in excitement when he finally nosed one of them in, bringing his ski back in bashed, broken and fulfilled.
Saturday evening was the much anticipated Daytona raffle full of sponsored gear with surprise Hydro-Turf Piranha keychain blast among the audience frothing over nearly a hundred prizes that were able to be won. Later that night, Jetmaniac hosted the Daytona Party in the hotel banquet room, where many hull sponsors had their hulls on display. A DJ provided awesome music for people to attempt to talk over and meet everyone who was spaced out across the beach all day. Eventually, Nick Foederer got on the mic and presented the awards for the contests throughout the weekend.
Nicholas Covert walked away with the Cherry Popper award and Tom Scaccianoce would take the win for the big air title by inches. The coolest part of the night was the MotoOption Surf n’ Style awards. Brandon Lawlor would take 3rd place for his huge re-entries in his heat. I put my aggression to the water and made the best that I could out of the three minutes. It wasn’t good enough this year because the up and coming Surfslam AM Freeride Champion, TC Freeride/ Salty Investments sponsored Sean Starr from Costa Mesa, CA, knocked me down to second as he claimed this year’s title. Smooth fluid surf riding, re-entries and riding the sets from the back all the way to shore, impressed the judges to land him this top spot at his first trip out to Daytona winning the awesome MotoOption Wave piston trophy and a huge care package bucket from Jet Renu!
Sunday morning was as always, a slow starting one from the big night before. Great weather continued to flourish with great morning waves for photographers and riders to reward each other with shot after shot after shot. As the afternoon drug on swell began to fade and riders began to leave the beach as they checked out of their hotels to head back to their colder destinations. On behalf of Hydro-Turf and Hot Products we thank every single person who came out to enjoy the nation’s biggest freeride and best kick off to the new year! I know I personally had a blast being there seeing everyone. It means the world for me to be able to connect with all the riders and fans from all over the world who come there to enjoy the great vibes. Thank you for making this trip such a great one; it’s my 8th Daytona in a row and I hope to see you at the next one!
Due to this hotel closing for renovation, next year’s location is going to be changing once again to dial in the events full potential for the magnitude of the freeride. Speaking more with Nick Foederer, his goal with the help of Pro Watercross, is to provide a safe, clean, more accessible venue for all riders to participate and enjoy the event. Mark your calendars for the same MLK weekend in 2018, and stay tuned to www.DaytonaFreeride.com for more updates and information.