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Fletch & Phil report from the Red Bull Storm Chase - Tasmania!

Video 1 - A taste of the action

With a 40ft swell and 50knots forecast the conditions were lining up for the perfect storm on the West Coast of Tasmania - so good infact that the International windsurfing event the Red Bull Storm Chase made the call to pack up 6 of the best windsurfers in the world along with a support crew in excess of 50 from the other side of the globe with 4 days notice  It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss seeing the best windsurfers tackling the most extreme conditions so close to home so myself, Pete Stevenson and Phil Vaudrey made the call to catch the Spirit of Tasmania down and check out the action. 

The boat ride down was destined to be an adventure in itself with the forecast swell but after dosing up on seasick tablets to the point of having double vision we soon found ourselves in Tasmania.  Now if the sight of three guys squeezing into the front of Pete's somewhat worse for ware van "Crazy" wasn't comical enough we managed to get lost in a McDonalds car park that had a big entry off the freeway but was new and there was no exit back onto the freeway built yet, then we got saturated fitting new wiper blades to the van just so we could see the road through the storm and then we proceeded to drive down the highway with the side door open letting all our bags and tents sprawl themselves over the highway.  Not a good start but after these few delays which meant we missed the first heat between Julien Taboulet and Leon Jamaer we finally managed to make it to the event site for day 1 - Temma.
At Temma the sea is too rough to moor your fishing boat in the water
 While Temma on it's day can offer epic long clean waves this day was a gnarly onshore wave breaking onto rocks location that really wasn't appealing to any of the riders but one of the first people we met in Temma was Gaastra Tabou rider Thomas Traversa who didn't seem fazed at all.  He suggested it was not a lot different to the conditions he is used to sailing in back on the coast of France.  His confidence and attitude really shone through as he managed to be the only one really tacking the waves and getting any sort of impressive rides and jumps.
Thomas Traversa popping a front side aerial in full onshore conditions.
Thomas was riding the Tabou DaCurve and Gaastra Manic - both available at SHQ.
Given the rush we had been in to get down there we had somewhat neglected to organise accommodation deciding that we'd either find something when we got there or just camp - well camping was well and truly out of the question as winds were touching 80 knots with driving rain turning hills into rivers.  We did manage to find ourselves some floor to sleep on at what is probably one of the worst houses in Tasmania - there was no water, the toilet bowl was black, the windows didn't really close and the electricity cut out early in the evening but at least there was a roof over our heads - although it sounded like it might blow off.
Fletch, Thomas Traversa, Phil, Julien Taboulet and Pete.
We headed to the pub for dinner were we had a good chat with Julien Taboulet and Thomas Traversa about the days sailing and their impressions so far in Tasmania.  Then we were lucky enough to eat dinner with Victor Fernandez, Marcillo Browne (Brawzinho), Klass Voget and Leon Jamear.  It was really interesting to hear about the life of a pro - although we'd all love to live it the amount of travel and time away from home seemed like it was a bit of a burden.  We couldnt' get back to the house due to the massive trees that had fallen down blocking the road so we reluctantly stayed at the pub for a few more drinks with the pros.

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


Congratulating the winner Gaastra/Tabou Rider Thomas Traversa
Great memories, great friends and a great time. If you get the chance you should get to Tasmania and check it out for yourself - it has conditions to suit any level and always has wind somewhere. Come on in to SHQ to check out the gear that the winner Thomas Traversa rides.  We have the new Tabou boards instore and the sails are on the way.


Check out the 'Best Of' Action clip!

2 Responses


July 07, 2015

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Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston

August 31, 2013

The full sequence of the 4th last pic is on seabreeze windsurfing Tasmania If anyone wants the full resolution contact me.

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