2023 RSL Milano PRO/AM Recap
Watch the Highlight Video
Written By: Jessica O’Leary
This was the first year that the Rapid Surf League allowed both professionals and amateurs to compete together throughout the season. This brought a whole new level of excitement and anticipation to the competitive series. To qualify for the coveted season Final at Wakeparadise in Milan, Italy the top 12 women and men were ranked from their performance in the first three PRO/AM events this year.
Wakeparadise’s 10-meter UNIT Surf Pool wave was chosen as the venue for the Pro Finals because it is considered one of the best and most beautiful rapid waves in the world. Known for its width, which allows more room for tricks and speed, for its intensity, which increases the degree of difficulty and competition, and for its breathtaking backdrop and sunsets on the lake.
And what a spectacular day it was.
Despite the rain on the forecast for days leading up to the event, the sun was shining bright and early, the air was crisp, the water was warm, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight! It was the perfect day on Lake Idrascalo for the Milano PRO/AM Final.
The day commenced with early training laps as each surfer dialed in their technique, closed the gaps on their preferred tricks, and got loose in preparation for the competition to start. You could see the excitement on their faces and the proficiency in their turns. “The starter list was packed with top surfers and newcomers and reflected exactly what prompted the RSL to schedule the 2023 season as a Pro/Am season,” writes Christian Bach cofounder of the RSL. Eager to get started, the contest began at 1 pm. For everyone else 1 pm was a perfect time to grab a cool beverage, load up on sunscreen, and grab a good spot around the wave to watch the action.
Heat after heat, we saw the level of surfing kick up and up and up! Tighter turns, deeper lines, bigger airs, sharper laybacks, yards of spray… the crowd was there for all of it and the vibe was electric.
“The season final was in RSL’s own CUT: 2 CALL contest format, which provided intense action all the way to the final” reported Quirin Rohleder, an RSL founder and judge. It was a spectacular display of surfing capability and excitement on the wave through the semi-finals, that brought us to our final rounds.
Competing in the Women’s Final, were Anika Weizel, Jana Wessels, Maya Sauer, and Valeska Schneider. Both seasoned pro, Valeska, and recently crowned German Champion, Maya, had been absolutely dominating their heats all day. While Anika and Jana both displayed impressive athleticism and capability, it was clear that these two were taking it to the final. After 3 runs and 2 evaluations, Maya led the charge by a 2.66 point lead on Valeska, which put her in the leader position for the CUT: 2 CALL final round.
The Final Call consists of 3 ‘called’ maneuvers that both the leader and challenger must attempt. Once completed by both surfers, it is up to the judges to decide by comparison who wins the point for that round.
Maya began the 3-maneuver head-to-head match with a conservative yet stylish line she was sure to nail. And nail it she certainly did… but so did Valeska, and in such a fashion that she took the point for the first call round in astonishment. So began the nail-biting… now Valeska had a chance to turn the game around with the second call in this best 2 out of 3 battle. Valeska proceeded to make a classic surf call: backside carve, frontside hack, frontside 360. It was good, it was actually quite terrific. And in the blink of an eye, the judges concluded that Valeska also won the second point, making Valeska the Milano PRO/AM female Champion. Valeska cheered triumphantly as she had changed what felt to be sure odds and snatched the win in the final moments of the day. It was an incredible display of surfing from both women, who surely gleaned many new fans that day.
“The wave was super fun to surf! My mind was blown by how powerful the wave is throughout the whole face and its perfect shape. Not too steep and not too flat- perfectly balanced! This really enabled everyone to showcase their best surfing and took the competition to a whole new level!” stated Maya Sauer in response to being asked how she felt about competing in the RSL Finals on the UNIT Surf Pool.
Competing in the Men’s final were Durby Castillo, Vincent Schneider, Marius Gerlach, and Nicolas Marusa. Nici Marusa arrived in Milano as the clear reigning champion. He had taken home the German Champion title just one week prior and had won all 3 previous RSL events this season. He was on top of the world and ready to defend his undefeated position, and the level of his surfing during this event displayed just that. The true anticipation was for who would make it to the Final Call with Nici.
Durby Castillo, an experienced ocean surfer from Costa Rica, went head-to-head with Vincent Schneider an impressive rapid surfer with an array of technical skills and tricks. It was a close contest but Vincent secured the 3rd position on the podium, while Durby secured the people’s choice by many in the crowd that day. He has an undeniable style that did not get lost on the fans.
At last, we entered the Final Call between Nici Marusa and Marius Gerlach, both avid Eisbach surfers from Munich. The two had put on an incredible display of surfing throughout the day and kept the crowd on their toes into the final sunset rounds. The Leading call began with Nici, a highly technical call to end the 3 maneuvers in a backside alley-oop. He completed the call with grace and next up was Marius. He landed trick 1, landed trick 2, landed trick… oh no he fell and did not complete trick 3. The first point was awarded to Nici. Marius gritted his teeth. He had to throw it all on the line for this next call: frontside hack, frontside snap, backside air reverse, a highly technical rail-to-rail call. He pulled off this line of maneuvers without a hitch. His clear display of athleticism sent a roar throughout the crowd, and the second point was awarded to Marius. With the score 1 to 1, the suspense was thick. The women’s final had just displayed that the Final Call round could change the whole trajectory of the competition. In the blink of an eye, the leader could quickly lose it all.
It was time for Nici to make the final call. He presented an impressive line of tricks and a call for an impossible final maneuver- the 360 shuvit. Both surfers gave everything they had on that final line, but neither successfully landed the shuvit. It was a neck-and-neck competition with an extremely close call to give the final point to Nici for the grab he achieved in the second maneuver. The crowd went wild as the announcement was made and Nici jumped into the wave with enthusiasm and sheer stoke! It had been a spectacular day of competition and community on the water!
“I had the best experience ever in Milano. The wave really is something else. For me, there is no better wave. We had such a great day with perfect weather and amazing people. I could not be happier to walk away with the W!” exclaimed Nici Marusa, 3x German Champion and 2023 RSL Champion.
With 16 competing surfers and over 200 cheering fans surrounding the perimeter of the Surf Pool, the competition quickly turned to celebration. The first-ever Milano PRO/AM was a great success and a truly phenomenal moment of innovation and progress for the sport of rapid surfing! We can’t wait for next year!
This event would not have been possible if it weren’t for the Rapid Surf League’s dedication to the advancement of the sport of Rapid Surfing, the phenomenal surfers who train immensely for these competitions, and for UNIT Surf Pool’s first-ever innovative floating surf pool. Thank you Wakeparadise Milano for creating an incredible atmosphere and hosting the party of the year!