Extreme Windsurfers Chase Cornish Storms
Four of the world’s most extreme windsurfers battled it out in epic conditions as part of the Red Bull Storm Chase which hit Cornwall recently.
As some of the largest waves and highest winds ever battered mainland Britain, the four international sailors zoned in on Cornwall for some legendary windsurfing at Gwithian and Hayle Bluff in early February.
If you haven’t see the action from this highly original windsurf competition which stormed into Cornwall, check out the highlights video.
The top prize went to France’s Thomas Traversa who proved himself to be the ultimate storm windsurfer, upon winning the Red Bull Storm Chase after a thrilling third and final mission to Cornwall. Brazil’s Marcilio Browne secured the runner-up spot, with Germany’s Leon Jamaer in third place and Dany Bruch, also from Germany, in fourth position.
Red Bull Storm Chase has delivered a new era of windsurfing performance. Previously, nobody thought it was possible to even sail in the strength of storm-force winds that each mission delivered. But after seeing just how radical the world’s best sailors are, how high they could jump – and the quality and style of the waveriding on display, a totally new standard has been set. Neither cold water, wind in excess of 70 knots or giant, bone-crunching swell has deterred any of the superhero sailors on each mission.
A mighty winter low-pressure system kicked-off the contest in Ireland back in January 2013. Ten publically nominated pro sailors competed in 70-knot winds in County Kerry and redefined what was previously thought possible that windsurfers could achieve in such strong wind. After sessions at two spots in Brandon Bay, four were eliminated and six advanced, when the call came to Mission 2 in Tasmania.
There, the austral winter served-up a fierce Great Southern Ocean cyclone that sent double-mast-high waves and seriously strong wind towards the North West Coast near Marrawah. Two days of non-stop competition, in a range of hard-core reef setups, allowed the judging panel – lead by PWA World Tour Head Judge Duncan Coombs – to fully examine the fleet and decide which four storm chasers would advance to the third and final mission.
Then, England’s West Country, exposed to the full force of the powerful Atlantic Ocean weather, supplied near Hurricane-force wind and 10-metre waves that fully tested the world’s best windsurfers, including the current World Champion, Marcilio Browne. After summoning the entrants from their training bases in South Africa, Hawai’i and the Canary islands, five rounds were run over the weekend of February 8-9th at two locations in St Ives Bay.
OFF THE SCALE
On Saturday, a grueling onshore-wind session at Gwithian saw two rounds of competition completed in massive swell. It was no surprise then, following some more conservative starts by his rivals in the relentless walls of whitewater, to see Traversa the first to scream straight out the back, launch himself into a range of stratospheric jumps, including some seriously delayed forward loops – and then drop into a 35-foot wave coming in. Competition was restricted to just two rounds due to the powerful storm surge pushing the tide in fast, before a move to nearby spot The Bluff, which offered side to side-off, port-tack conditions with surf peaking at well over mast-high.
This time however, the 28-year-old from the South of France had stiffer competition from his rivals to contend with. A barrage of jaw-dropping, late hits from all four finalists under the dredging sandbank closeouts ensued, the daring smacks resulting in both stunning success and a pile of destroyed equipment.
On Sunday the wind levels were lower, but the powerful surf remained and a full round completed in the morning delighted fans of jumping moves, such as the perfect, high, pushloop-forward completed by ‘Brawzinho’ Browne and a host of other super-high jumps launched off 20-foot-high ramps. The judges calculated the points – counting each sailor’s best five wave and jumping scores from throughout the mission – and added their bonus points for the highest jumps and most radical wave rides before declaring Traversa victorious.
Always well known as a radical free sailor and adventurer, the prestigious Red Bull Storm Chase title rewards Traversa’s progress in all competition in recent seasons. Many pro windsurfers pursue perfect waves in warm, tropical water, yet Traversa is a genuine storm chaser that revels in tracking and conquering the heaviest conditions possible.
Runner-up Brawzinho commented: “I was already stoked just to be in the final mission and so to finish second for me is unreal and I’m really happy but super happy for Thomas as well – he’s so skinny and light – but he’s been sailing in the strong winds like a mad man, it’s so good for him!”
Successful End to the Storm Chase
Klaas’ colleague for the Ireland and Cornwall events, Timo Mullen, is a regular sailor at The Bluff and claims “this was about as good as it gets” after watching the world’s best tear it up at one of his favourite spots.
But nobody can sum it up better than Head Judge Duncan Coombs: “So that’s it, the end of the final Mission, here in Cornwall, an epic way to end it, with conditions equal to, if not better than the setups we scored in Ireland and Tasmania – the perfect three missions really, nobody got hurt and I think the best man won. Thomas Traversa seems to have something special when it comes to storm chasing, in both jumping and wave riding skill. I think he’s completely nuts really!”
RED BULL STORM CHASE, FINAL RESULTS
1. Thomas Traversa (F-3)
2. Marcilio Browne (BRA-105)
3. Leon Jamaer (G-208)
4. Dany Bruch (G-1181)