At the recent PWA Slalom competition in Alacati, many were surprised to see Arrianne Aukes, third in the world on the freestyle tour, on the start line. Boardseeker caught up with Arrianne to discover why she decided to compete, how the event went and what she has learned from her first slalom experience.
Name: Arrianne Aukes
DOB: 1st of October 1986
Windsurfing history: I started windsurfing when I was really young, as my parents are both windsurfers and always loved it. I begun with freestyle in 2008 when I went to Brazil for a few months, I then made my debut at the PWA freestyle tour in 2010 and finished third place overall in the PWA this year.
Previous racing? This was my first experience ever!
Why did you decide to enter the PWA racing? I always thought it would be great fun, but it never really happened and I never had equipment to train. Since I began in freestyle people always ask me why I don’t do slalom, as I’m quite strong and taller than most freestyle girls, so it was always at the back of my mind. Then in Alacati our friend Lena, who is a slalom sailor, persuaded me to enter and that was five minutes before registration finished!
How did you prepare? I think it was the worst preparation you can ever have, as I didn’t plan to compete and signed up in the last minute. I had no equipment I could use and I had never tried to sail with cambers before. But it might have been an advantage that I have experience in competing in PWA events with freestyle, so I knew what a week of competing looks like and I knew what it’s like to compete under pressure. So preparation involved fruit, yoghurt, good rest and some help and tips from friends and the other sailors.
What equipment did you use? I was really lucky that there were so many nice people helping me out as I had not the opportunity to sail with my sponsors equipment (Simmer/RRD/AL360/MUF). I could borrow a 90 and a 102 RRD board, a 5,9 and 7,6 Maui sails and a 6,9 Avanti sails.
What was the atmosphere like and who helped you out? The atmosphere was great. Everyone was so friendly and so many people were keen to help me out! TUR 907, a Turkish slalom sailor who was injured lent me his sails and masts. I could borrow Peter Volwater’s 6,9, a RRD distributor from Alacati lent me the boards, Pieter Bijl lent me his watch, a Turkish friend gave me lots of fins to use and my friends Lena, Simon, Andy and James really helped me out with small gear and...rigging up!
What advice were you given before your first race? Don’t crash into anyone else! Which made me pretty nervous and a bit wary, but I sailed well and the more I raced the more I got into it as it really is about being aggressive at the mark. I did get a lot of good advice! Sarah-Quita told me I had to change my stance as I was standing like a freestyler and not pushing on my back leg, and I got some good advice about the start tactics too.
How was the first race? It was so much fun. I did not get the best start as I had no stopwatch, and fell at the first mark because I got a bit nervous gybing with so many people at one buoy. I didn’t expect to get so competitive, as I didn’t have that high expectations, but as soon as the race started the adrenaline kicked in and my competitive side came through! By the end I was determined to make the top 16 which happened only just on the last day, which really made my week.
What did you struggle with at the beginning? I think my gybes were not so good yet and I gave way to a lot of girls if we were at the buoy at the same time, which is not such a good tactic if you want to win.
What did you progress in and learn? I learnt so much! I think there is no better way to learn so much in one week. My gybes improved a lot, I learned a lot about slalom equipment and the relevance of different fins (not just my 17cm MUF that I always use in freestyle), and my starts were going better every race.
How was your speed and racing by the end of the week? The last four races that we did, I advanced into the semi finals every time. It felt like every race went better than the one before and that is a great feeling.
What's harder, racing or freestyle? It’s very hard to compare those disciplines with each other, I think slalom sailing in general is more accessible to enter than freestyle but to be in the top of the game of slalom is definitely as hard as being in the top of freestyle, it just takes different skills.
What did you enjoy more and why? I really love freestyle and that’s my main discipline, and to be honest while I was competing in slalom I was a bit envious watching all the freestylers freestyling. But at the same time, I think a slalom race is more exciting in a way than a freestyle heat, because you’re actually sailing against others, whilst with freestyle it’s more your own battle.
Will you be racing again? Yes I really liked it and would love to race again if I can combine it with freestyle and if I can sort out some equipment.
26 women raced, the best turn out at an event ever, would you encourage more women (and men!) to race too? Definitely. It’s nice to meet other windsurfers, it’s so motivating you learn a lot from it and besides that it’s great fun!