Come one, come all to one of wakeboarding's sickest contests to ever be held…FISE 2011! This series of sports events have taken place in Montpellier, France for a few years now providing the people of France with some of the best showcasing from each action sport all packed into one major festival.
The set up this year for the wake course was even better than year's past with ledge transfers, kinked hand rails, a long flat bar, giant battleship, double-sided kicker and even a massive kicker to wall ride. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that there was going to be some gnarly things done just by looking at the set up. Pros from all over the world were there to impress the judges and compete in front of thousands for a prize payout of 3,500 Euros for first.
Riders such as Shane Bonifay, Shawn Watson, Mitch Langfield, Nate Perry, Kevin Henshaw, Nico Von Lerchenfeld, Scotty Broome, Marc Rossiter, Dillon Miller, Stephen Vollert, Freddy Von Osten, Keith Lidberg, Brian Reeder, Mike Ennen, Quinn Silvernale, Trevor Brashire, Felix Georgii, Yann Thibbault and myself are just a few of the shredders that were all there. As soon as everyone got to see the course for the first time, our eyes lit up like a kid in a toy store at Christmas time. Everyone was ready to start practicing right away.
As days started to wind down and the practicing started coming to an end, it seemed like all the riders had the course down to a T. The event was started at a very specific time since it was broadcasted online with a live stream for the audience to watch from all over the world. The contest portion was very simple; four riders in each heat and the top two go through to the next round. Each rider was given one pass down and one pass back on each of the two System 2.0's. Each cable gave different lines for the rider to choose from and it was up to the rider to make his run stand out more than the others to get through to the next round.
Standouts from the first round included, Felix Georgii with his unique lines and steady composure throughout the entire round, as well as Australian rail rider of the year, Mitch Langfield, destroying the flat bar and gapping down the kink rail to take the top spots in their heat. Georgia local Quinn Silvernale really impressed the judges, along with all the riders, when he destroyed the flat bar and launched to the top of the wall ride with a back lip same way 270 out off the huge drop. It was huge! Others like Kevin Henshaw, Marc Rossiter and Shane 'Danger' Bonifay weren’t shy with their shredding either as they clearly took the top spots from their heats making everything difficult look so smooth and easy. Things were definitely heating up for an interesting semifinal.
When the afternoon rain decided to finally pass, it was time to get semifinals going! It may not have been the most sunny and perfect conditions, but that didn’t really seem to stop all the guys from throwing everything they had. Mitch Langfield stood out once again with an amazing stand up run showing everyone that he really came to play in France. Mitch wasn’t the only one on the play list though as veteran Keith Lidberg put on a show with a massive Pete Rose off the kicker, difficult hubba transfers, and good looking presses on the flat bar. It was clear as day that Keith was heading to the finals after that run.
Next up was another veteran, Kevin Henshaw. Despite a knee injury that took Kevin out of the last few days of practice, he continued to remind everyone that he is a force to be reckoned with and you shouldn’t ever count him out of anything. Kevin put on a clinic for every set of eyes that got to watch him. Not only was he taking very unique lines though the course, but he was taking the gnarly hard ones and making them look like a walk in the park. With big kicker hits and massive wall rides, it was another obvious call that Henshaw was heading to the finals.
But with who else? How about England's own Marc Rossiter! Marc had been killing it all weekend and proving his spot in every round, so it came as no surprise that he moved on to the finals to face the Australian, Mitch Langfield, America's own Keith Lidberg and, of course, the Canadian, Kevin Henshaw.
With finals starting shortly after the semis, it was a real tough one on the riders since they were cold and wet from being in the crazy French weather all day. And to top it off, they were exhausted from doing three rounds straight in a row. But to stop these guys from doing what they love, especially during a competition, you would be out of your mind to think you were going to see anything less from them.
Finals started off heavy just as any final should with Marc Rossiter setting the pace and the bar for the rest to come and catch up. But with Mitch Langfield riding right after, the top spot was quickly taken over with his stand up run. The only problem for Mitch, though, was that there was still Keith and Kevin to go next. It was a battle royale between the two, both with hubba transfers and both with big kicker hits. It wasn’t until Kevin's last hit on the wall ride, where he nearly fell over the backside he went so big, that he separated himself from the pack. As soon as that happened everyone knew Kevin was going to take the W.
As the awards came, it was no surprise that Kevin took the title of FISE 2011. From being injured during practice and barely able to walk to FISE champion four days later, there is a lot of credit that is due to Kevin for that win.
FISE was a major success and it will only continue to grow larger every year as the sport and course grows more and more. So hope to see you in France next year, but if you can't make it, we will see you live on the web!
1. Kevin Henshaw
2. Keith Lidberg
3. Mitch Langfield
4. Marc Rossiter
Best Trick - Kicker
Best Trick - Rail
Best Rail Trick Contest
Three Bangers from Kevin Henshaw