The Arica Chilean Challenge is days away

The APB World Tour machine whirs to life again this Friday, with HUGE World Title implications.
Above: The APB’s event teaser should get you more than oiled for Friday.

After a monster gap between drinks following February’s Pipeline event, the APB World Tour kicked off again in Brazil last month with the Itacoatiara Pro. And for all the internet commenter vitriol (which there was much less of compared to previous years/events) you’d have to say it was a success. The webcast was half-decent, bigwigs arrived en masse, and the competition itself was filled with the drama and intrigue that only a World Tour comp can provide. After the dust had settled, however, it was South Africa’s Jared Houston well and truly shaking the monkey off his back to hold aloft his first World Tour trophy, besting good mate and sparring partner Pierre Louis Costes (France) in the final. He also springboarded into number one on the rankings after Ben Player could only manage a Round 6 finish.

With only a few weeks to grasp the contest’s implications, we’re straight into stop #3 with the Arica Chilean Challenge (August 15-24) – and the contest’s results will likely have a HUGE impact on who takes out this year’s World Title. It’s the third of this year’s four five-star rated contests (which garner riders the most points) and with the fourth (Fronton) yet to be confirmed it really is crunch-time for those in the hunt (see the full rankings here). We spoke to ratings leader Jared Houston and APB CEO Alex Leon to get the lowdown on Arica and all things World Tour.

If Jerry’s 2013 Chilean form’s anything to go on, he’s in with a roaring chance of a win.

Jared Houston, current world number one

RIPTIDE: How does it feel to be atop the rankings and having your name on the Itacoatiara Pro winners list?
JARED: It feels awesome. I’ve never been at number one before, nor have I won an event, so I’m just enjoying the feeling, soaking it up.

How’d you celebrate your win?
I ran straight home after to ceremony to call Natasha [Jerry’s partner]. Hearing her so excited was what really made it for me, and on top of that she had a professional breakthrough on that same day so it was really special. I then cruised down to one of the beach bars to have a few beers with the fellas. Quiet and enjoyable, just how I like it!

Are you in Chile now? What have you been up to since Itacoatiara and how have your preparations been for the Chile contest?
I’m actually watching my daughter crawl across the living room floor right now. I came home the day after the period ended in Brazil and am leaving for Chile on Wednesday. I’ll arrive the day before the comp. Right now, a week with my family is the best form of prep out there. They make me feel on top of the world!

What’s the vibe like now being just days away and how are you feeling? Confident?
I’m feeling confident, relaxed and happy. I’m surfing for myself this year and so far it’s been working out great! I imagine things are heating up in the lineup in Chile already, which is why I’m so glad that I’m not there. The crowd there is HECTIC.

I know a few riders have come out in the past and said they’re not the biggest fan of El Gringo – mainly because of those rocks! What’s your take on the wave?
No one can deny it’s a sick wave. It is dangerous and maybe the danger factor can outweigh the good sometimes, but I’m looking really forward to hitting some big lips and getting a couple long pipes on the lefts.

What’s it going to take to win this contest and who do you think will be the biggest threats?
A balls to the wall approach. Ben Player and Amaury [Lavernhe] are amazing out there. Pierre and Mike [Stewart]… bloody hell. When the waves are good everyone is on! Let’s see!

Thanks Jerry.

Above: Alex Leon, post-event Itacoatiara selfie earlier this month.

Alex Leon, APB World Tour CEO

RIPTIDE: How are preparations going for the contest?

ALEX: Things are busy but all on track for a great event. Event preparation is all about checklists and making sure you have all elements covered because once we start it becomes very difficult to change something if needed. Our major hurdle is testing of broadcast and delivering the web stream. We’re working with a new webcast team from Chile. So there has been numerous training and preparation taking place to shoot as action sports are quite hard to shoot, especially in the ocean, compared to shooting a live band on stage or a corporate event.

Was the organisation stoked with how the Itacoatiara Pro played out? Being just two events – about to be three – in to the new tour, what do you still think you need to work on?
The post-event feedback has been positive from the association committee. Of course we’re still working on many issues that need improving, but our major concern was athlete’s response and views and they’ve been very positive and stoked on the new tour format that we created for them. We still have a number of development and business-related issues that we’re working through this year as we rebuild, but we’ve gained a lot of momentum with the success of Pipe and Brazil and now Chile, so our audience is growing again, which is paramount for our sport to be successful in the future.

How is the competitors field looking for this contest? Do you have a list of competitors you can provide us, or let us know the big names who’ll be competing?
We have a similar field to Brazil with the inclusion of few more top riders. PLC, Houston, [Ben] Player, Stewart, [Jacob] Romero, Tanner [McDaniel], Amaury, Alan Munoz, [Guilherme] Tamega and the strong Brazil riders – Uri [Valadao], Magno [Passos] – and a few more Australians I believe are coming – George Humphreys and Lewy Finnegan.

We still on track for a webcast of the comp?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve been working close with the team here on technical issues to make sure we can deliver a great broadcast. There has been an ASP Surfing event here in Arica the past week, which the team has broadcast, so we’ve been lucky to use this as a test and iron out most issues and be ready for Friday when we commence.

What is the forecast looking like for waves?
The forecast is showing solid waves for the entire first few days we can see. Arica’s a strange location, there always seems to swell here. The major concern for this time of year is the wind. This wave becomes onshore around midday most days and we’ll need to run half days to avoid this. El Gringo is too dangerous to surf when it’s onshore and I won’t let our athletes compete in those conditions if we can avoid it. 

How are the other events looking down the track for the rest of the year?
We’re headed to Portugal in September, Venezuela in October and Panama in November, which seems to be all on track. We’ve been working with the local team in Canaries regarding Fronton and seeking sponsorship for them. The European market is difficult to find sponsorship and the local government doesn’t support any bodyboarding events in Canary Islands in terms of funding. We do have a few different agents working on this so hopefully we can secure a deal with a major brand or corporation soon and confirm the Fronton event for December.