Dinner with the pros.
We were woken at 5am by some of the organisers who were staying in the house who had to help set up the circus at the event site for day 2. Phil decided since we were here he would have to have a sail so wanted to get to the location before the event started to allow some time to try the conditions. After staggering around in the freezing dark (power was still out) we eventually piled back into crazy. After missing the turnoff twice we finally made it in the dark and rain to the event site - Back of Lighthouse which is a reef break tucked in a rocky bay that delivers a heavy peeling left hander with nice cross to cross off winds allowing some epic riding for those brave enough to tackle it and skilled enough to get upwind against the strong cross current sucking you downwind up the coast towards rocks that bare the full brunt of the massive swell. This was a very intimidating site and I was somewhat glad my foot was injured so I had an excuse not to go out. I have sailed here once in the past in conditions not as extreme and it was still super intimidating - one wrong move here and there could be serious consequences. This wasn't going to stop Phil though who saw it as an adventure and gallantly rigged his gear and headed out into conditions that the worlds best had traveled the globe for because they were the most extreme conditions the world has to offer.
The road to BOL
Meanwhile Pete and I had positioned ourselves in the perfect location to catch the days events right between the red bull camera crew and the 3 judges, PWA sailor Klass Voget, PWA head coach Duncan Coombs and Australias own Scott McKercher. Scott commented that the wave looked "interesting" with some pretty critical sections begging to be hit by those who had the courage.
Perfect spot to catch the action but warm waterproof clothing was a must Pete even went to the extent of wearing an NP Dry Suit
Phil headed out the back and after initially looking like he was being sucked into the death zone where waves close to the size of Jaws were breaking onto rocks with teeth he managed to get upwind and into the action. Scotty was relaying back to the pros what sail size he was using and he proved to be a valuable guinea pig with most of the pros changing from their 3.6's to 4.0s based on Phil's selection of 4.2.
Phil had a few words about the experience -"Hailing, dark, freezing, 6am and ridiculously windy! Why was I doing this, why was I lugging my gear down the rough track to ‘Back of Lighthouse’ to try and get a sail before the pros went out for the Red Bull Storm Chase? Why? Because it was an experience I would never forget. After floating out through the channel of black water and swirling kelp I was soon surrounded by churning 10m swells breaking ruthlessly onto the ominous and unforgiving coastline. The entire surface was white with foam chopped up by unrelenting storm force winds. I caught a couple of the famous BOL waves and turned to look back into the hollow pit behind me. It threatened to swallow me whole like the jaws of an enormous beast. Today I windsurfed not to try moves or to ride waves. I windsurfed to experience the most extreme conditions Mother Nature can serve up. And she sure delivered!!"
The judges shelter
Once the action finally started it was insane - words can't really describe the spectacle. Some of the waves were well over double mast high and these guys were busting double forwards, huge back loops and tweaked push loops on the way out. What sorted the men from the boys was the riding though - a couple of the riders either couldn't or didn't want to get up to the peak and instead opted for the shoulder while others especially Gaastra Tabou rider Thomas Traversa opted to back door massive double mast high pitching lips then bust huge aerials over curtains of white water landing back on the clean face at breakneck speeds only to bottom turn into another aerial. It was an amazing display and although the conditions were completely different to day one, Thomas Traversa still left all the competition way behind taking out the event as a clear winner unanimous amongst the judges. The trip was definitely worth while - we overheard Duncan Coombs say in an interview that it was the best windsurfing that he had ever seen - coming from the head judge of the PWA who has been to all the events for over a decade including Cabo Verde this was a very big call.
That's a big wave - just the white water section that Thomas had to get through was over mast high
Thomas Traversa was in a league of his own