Swiss Pro Tricks

April 21st 2024

Clermont, Florida

The Waterski Pro Tour returned for its fourth season with a trick event in which the female ‘old guard’ underlined, capitalized and circled their dominance while a new generation took flight in the men’s. After a wait of just under 7 months between Tour events, the Swiss Pro Tricks was just the barnstorming opener we were looking for.

In the mens tricks, Pato Font, the undoubted dominant force with 11 pro titles, let his crown slip just a touch to allow a pair of 16 year olds onto the podium above him. Jake Abelson started well and improved in each round, culminating in a finals performance of 12,230 that is not only his best ever but a pending USA record. However, 1st place went to Mati Gonzalez as he paired his trademark toes with a huge hand pass that incorporated some exceptional ski line tricks. His 12,440 tied his best as he broke the 12k barrier for the third but certainly most important time in his career. He joins Font, Joel Poland (disappointed with an oh-so-close final run), Dorien Llewellyn and Adam Pickos as only the fifth pro event winner amongst the currently competing pack. Font, clearly devastated after a fall on his toe run that he put down to an uncharacteristic lapse on focus, still managed to finish third with 11,610. 

That Gonzalez and Abelson were able to put together their best runs in the final in front of the eyes of the world at such a young age suggests pro trick skiing is in for a huge next decade or so. Martin Labra, another 16 year old with a 12k+ score but unlucky to fall in the final, will no doubt share in this future. Font, a seasoned veteran of men’s trick skiing at just 21, no doubt has many more moments of history to make despite his disappointment yesterday. He can take consolation from the pending World Record he set in Round 1 of 12,770.

Martin Labra
The ToYou Skier of the Day
2024 Skiers of the Day
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The trio of teenagers emerging to take on the slightly older field in the mens would no doubt have reminded trick ski fans of the same nearly a decade ago in the womens field. In 2015 Anna Gay upset the odds by defeating the seemingly indomitable Erika Lang at the US Open and World Championships back to back at age 15. Two years later Neilly Ross swept all before her at the same age. Since then Lang, Gay and Ross have become an outrageously dominant triumvirate that has taken every pro victory between them to date except one (US Open 2021 – Giannina Bonnemann). Any hope that this dominance would end with the start of a new season on the Tour was extinguished vigorously as they once again finished on the podium together. Ultimately, perhaps, the only real question was the order.

One would think that the outrageously high standard of women’s tricks in the last decade wouldn’t allow for any spell of dominance from one skier. Since the start of last season, however, Erika Lang has found a way, with 5 victories in 6 events and yesterday she won once again, and frankly, with some style. She took 3 of the 4 best scores of the event, including a rare glimpse of 11k in the final. She credited the modification of her toe run prior to last season as the basis of her hot streak but all told she has rarely looked so balanced and in tune with her ski.

Ross will feel disappointed as an unusually off balance landing from a Front Flip 180 midway through her final hand run lost her some time as she salvaged a still incredibly respectable 10,370. Now two years since her last victory in tricks, she looks back to top form and her time will come soon enough. Anna Gay finished third after being disappointed with some heavy judicial cutting on her toe pass. Her slower start to the year after a January wedding will not have a bearing on where she ends up in 2024. From the top, the ages of those on the podium are 28, 22 and 24. Trick ski fans can look forward to many years of these ladies continuing to grow trick skiing going forward also.

Trick skiing has long been the least represented discipline of the three that make up tournament waterskiing. Consistently slalom and jump have had more events and more money at them. Yesterday’s Swiss Pro Tricks, however, showed just how unjust this is; the level of competition is up there with any in competitive towed watersports and the youthful glow is unmatched anywhere. These athletes deserve to be recognised as among the best in the sport and, thankfully, events such as the still fairly new Swiss Pro Tricks give them the place to demonstrate that. Hopefully more events will follow and we can see them do so on a more frequent basis.






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