Last weekend was the final tour stop of the IFWA JetSki Freeride World Championships at the Motor And Surf Scramble in Kamisu Beach, Japan. Pilots like Mark Gomez, Pierre Maixent, Brandon Lawlor, Abraham Hochstrasser, Ryan Savage, Tom Scaccianoce, Bruno Jacob, Takaaki Murao, Jeremy Bosser, and Hugo Goirre to name a few, warmed up, getting their bearings back on their skis, or their borrowed skis, making the best of it all.
Vibes on the beach we’re definitely high, enjoying the Japanese waves and the “Scramble” part of the “Motor and Surf Scramble” with Toyota Racing Development Trucks, Custom Sand Trucks, Polaris RZR’s, and a radical Tuk-Tuk style vehicle all ripping up the sand track. What makes this event different than others is that the Japanese are trying to blend Powersports with Watersports. Trucks, Motorcycles, and JetSki all on the same stage ripping throughout the day. It’s really something to be seen in person! Complemented with their humongous big screen TV and two dedicated film crews filming each pilot showing them professionally on a big screen live at the event for spectators and Facebook Live. This allows spectators to take a break from the weather and the beach, sit back, relax near the stage and get almost a better view of what’s happening on the water in comfort.
We arrived on the day of the Final with gloomy weather with swell diminishing. Things improved giving us what we needed. Notable rounds were Tom Scaccianoce for Krash Industries versus Mark Gomez for Rickter in the quarters. Tom is a talented pilot from Long Island, New York. Mark Gomez is the current World Champion in the sport. When we get to these parts of the competition, it really could be a final every single round. These riders are so good now you have to pay attention the entire time every round. Coming down to final points deciding who wins and who loses. Unfortunately Tom had to ride against the Champ early on a ski he was just getting comfortable with. Mark riding his personal ski, Tom was eliminated but, Tom is a force to be reckoned with and will do great things in this sport.
Next was Ryan Savage out of Australia for Krash Industries against Abraham Hochstrasser out of Mexico for Rickter. Savage wasted no time busting out a Super Flip as soon as the horn blew. He definitely was hungry! Abraham was going to the moon per usual and included his surf style that he is getting more known for. Unfortunately, Abraham encountered ski dramas and his ski unable to restart after taking a bit of water. Savage tried to capitalize on the situation throwing big tricks left and right while Abraham was rescued to the beach. Thankfully for him his fellow TC Freeride teammate Gomez was already in the water with his personal Rickter ready for Abraham to use. That’s sportsmanship. That’s freerde! Luckily for Abraham, he had done enough to take the win against Savage and move on to the next round.
We got to witness firsthand the risks of Freeride in Japan. Ryan “Rhino” Clark from Oz attempted a Super Flip and, unfortunately, didn’t get back in the tray completely. He was rushed to beach in a lot of pain and refused to step off of the ski. Ryan was taken to the hospital. The verdict; a broken leg in three places, a spiral fracture and a broken ankle. This is the dark side of Freeride that nobody witnesses or really talks about. The realness was felt. We wish Ryan a speedy recovery! He was flown to Australia to receive a rod in his leg and a cast from his ankle to his hip. He has six months until he will be fit to ride again. Luckily youth is on Ryan’s side being the young age of 19, we know he will come back stronger than before and we look forward seeing what he can do to progress the sport.
The American Brandon Lawlor for Freeform Factory versus the Samurai Takaaki Murao for Krash Industries came after that. It was an exciting heat that was down to the absolute wire! Takaaki was doing what he’s always done for over 25 years. The Samurai knows what and when to do what and where. Brandon rode also very well with very big tricks and great surf style but it just wasn’t enough to hold off the Samurai who was on a mission. Brazil’s Bruno Jacob was riding amazing the entire weekend went up against the champ Gomez. Bruno was riding spectacular with big tricks like Scarecrow Barrel Rolls, No Handed Back Flips…all the big stuff. Gomez knew he would have to throwdown a stellar run and did exactly that. Gomez got the win and moved on to the final.
Next came Pierre Maixent against Jeremy Bosser. RRP versus RRP. An amazing round with pilots throwing hammers left and right, each completing Madonna Flips, One Handed Barrel Rolls, etc. It was a very tight round and hard to say who was the clear winner until the end of the rounds, when we saw Pierre throw a textbook Super Flip, yet, we also saw Bosser rise to the occasion and throw out his very first Super Flips and doing it fantastically! It was definitely one for the judges. They awarded Maixent with the win to the Final.
Towro Capbreton went up against myself, Zack Bright. It was an exciting round with Capbreton on a chopped up WaveBlaster throwing flips rolls spins and good surf riding. I was on a mission to make the final. Just one month before I had dislocated my right knee and tore my ACL. For a moment it looked like I wasn’t even going to make the competition, let alone ride at a competitive state. I did what I had to do, Barrel Roll combinations and big backflips but, I think what pushed me through was surf riding. I’ve been doing a lot of “progressive” stuff meaning, reentries, landing backwards into the wave, surfing down in reverse then pivoting out, heading straight again. Slashes that throw me into reverse then surfing backwards. Stalled out floaters. Just surfing really. Stuff nobody really does currently and, I think that’s what got me ahead.
For the finals it was Mark Gomez versus “The Samurai” Takaaki Murao for Stand Up class. Pierre Maixent for Rickter versus me for Krash Industries in the final for the Fixed Steer class. In the Stand Up final; Takaaki wasted no time throwing out a lot of tricks in his bag, really giving it his all. Gomez showed that he is the champion for reason throwing out almost every single trick in his bag making one heck of a final! The kid can do literally every trick in the book and threw almost all of them out in the final mixed with his intense Surfing, he went on to take the win.
In Fixed Final, Pierre went out and did exactly what Pierre does with huge tricks, huge airs. The guy’s amplitude is borderline unmatchable. There’s a reason he’s a seven-time world champion. I went and threw a decent Barrel Roll to start off the run and then sent a big backflip trying to bring it to him. Unfortunately upon landing, I knew my left knee was broken. I rode toward shore holding my knee. I was in pain and upset that I was forced to stop jumping. I didn’t hesitate to keep the show going though! I was following Pierre and riding directly underneath Pierre while he jumped like a bowl jam in skateboarding with the riders jumping over each other.
When I got back onto the beach I realized that I probably tore my ACL or something. Lack of stability in my left knee forced me to seek medical attention. Definitely a bummer. I went out with one good knee but, now I have two bad knees leaving Japan in a wheelchair. Don’t worry about me guys, my knees will get some new top ends and I’ll be back hungrier than ever.
The Sickest Trick winner was Masao Ueki. He rides his fixed ski backwards and threw off some kind of Reverse 720 Helicopter Upside-down Flippity Flop thing that I want no part of! The guy is insane. Big Air winner was Tamiyasu Iemura who went out on a borrowed ski, pinned from probably 50 feet back, hit a wave, and pulled one of the biggest Backflips of the weekend winning Big Air rightfully so. The guy is nothing short of a comedian giving everybody the show of a lifetime on the water and at the award ceremony dressed as a Disney princess!
Mark Gomez locked down his third world Championship in a row! Mark is currently your reigning World Champion in Flatwater Freestyle and IFWA World Champion in Freeride. This man has set himself into a ranking all alone. He is the one of maybe two riders this planet (Jeff Jacobs) that can say that they’ve won a World Championship in all three disciplines of our sport. Racing, Freestyle, and Freeride. We are all very lucky to have somebody like Gomez in our sport. Nothing short of a professional, pushing the boundaries, and an absolute living legend.
After the awards, everybody celebrated with a traditional Japanese dinner, followed by a Karaoke party all night long. It was one for the books. We look forward to seeing the Motor And Surf Scramble next year! Japan is a major asset in the sport and we’re happy to have them involved make one amazing event.
Pro Standup: 1. Mark Gomez, 2. Takaaki Murao 3. Bruno Jacob; Pro Fixed Steer: 1. Pierre Maixent, 2. Zack Bright, 3. Jeremy Bosser; Fixed Steer: 1. Towro Capbreton; Standup: 1. Mark Gomez, 2. Abraham Hochstrasser, 3. Brandon Lawlor