The adage may be 'only the strong survive' but what does it take to tackle the perfect Storm? Ireland whipped the Atlantic Ocean into a frenzy and these ten heroes not only managed to push the limits of storm sailing, but actually put on a mesmerising show of sky-high jumps and thrilling wave rides as well. Let's meet them and see what's required to make it such a spectacle.
The heroes of Red Bull Storm Chase on arrival at Brandon Bay in Ireland. (Bouj arrived shortly after.)
Thomas Traversa (F-3)
No Doubting Thomas
Weighing just 60 kg Thomas Traversa brought his do-it-all 65L Tabou board and Gaastra IQ sails ranging from 3.6 to 4.2 sqm. Until the Mission was green-lighted, the Frenchman was training in South Africa and, although struggling with a fever, motivated himself away from his sickbed to tackle the ferocious Irish storm. Despite being a featherweight, he scored some of the longest hang-time during Mission 1. The Judges loved that and so you’ll see more of Thomas in the second Storm Chase Mission.
Dany Bruch (G-1181)
Germany’s Dany Bruch, who competed at the last PWA World Tour event in Brandon Bay in 2002, was frothing about his return to Ireland. The Tenerife-based pro, currently fifth in the PWA wave rankings, is heavier than some so only packed a 3.7 sqm sail as his smallest size to cope with the 60-knot plus winds. Big-wave expert Dany wisely packed a floatier 87L board to help him maintain board speed in the strong currents at Hell’s Gate. That was a smart move as Dany impressed in all three rounds of Mission 1 and was one of the first to secure a space on Mission 2.
Julien Taboulet (F-100)
Taboulet's Tools of Choice
Julien Taboulet’s home on the Med in Leucate is generally flat with offshore wind. But ‘Wesh Wesh’ is no stranger to enormous surf and wild stormy days, be it fluky wind on a giant Cabo Verdian reef break, macking days on Maui or howling sessions in Brittany’s big wave spot l'ile aux Vaches. For Mission 1 in Ireland, Julien stuck with the two-board trend of most of the 10 entrants, with 80 and 85L Naish boards and six sails ranging from 3.6 sqm up to 5.4. Of course Taboulet sported his trademark shorts-over-wetsuit style and also competed without wetsuit boots. Those low-hanging boardies must’ve helped because you’ll see them again during Mission 2.
Marcilio Browne (BRA-105)
What was in Brawzinho’s Bag?
You’d think for storm conditions riders might have a few sub-3.0m sails in their quivers? Well Marcilio ‘Brawzinho’ Browne rocked up to registration with the smallest – a custom 3.0 sqm sail - and production Goya Banzais from 3.4 up to 4.2 sqm and 72 and 78L Goya boards. Of course, a toasty 5/3 mm ION wetsuit, boots and hood helped as well! Moves such as a flawless goiter helped Brawzinho qualify as one of the six riders to go on Mission 2.
Victor Fernandez (E-42)
2012 Vice-World Champion Victor Fernandez touched down from Chile with North Hero sails from 3.4 sqm up to 4.7 and two Fanatic Quad fin boards of 75 and 86L plus a stash of his sponsor ION’s neoprene and on-land clothing. Victor was one of two riders who sailed in bare feet, but that didn’t hold him back from making the top-6 that’ll now hunt down a second storm.
Robby Swift (K-89)
Robby Swift selected 82 and 72L JP Australia Single Thruster windsurfing boards and a mix of NeilPryde Fly and Combat sails from 3.4 to 4.7 sqm. Local sail maker Rob Jones lent Swifty one of his 2.5 custom sails for the first round before changing-up to 3.4 for that epic, highest-scoring-jump-of-the-contest pushloop-forward. Sadly the 72L snapped on landing from that jaw-dropping move, but naturally Swift will have a replacement now he’s secured a seat on the plane to Mission 2.
Boujmaa Guilloul (M-3)
The Mighty Bouj
Aerial stuntman Boujmaa Guilloul would make every windsurfers wish list for a contest where strong winds and steep ramps are involved. And that’s why he was voted in by so many Red Bull Storm Chase followers. With nerves of steel he sent his Starboard Kode 71 and 3.0 sqm Severne Blade into orbit. Who knows what would’ve happened if Ireland had delivered Bouj’s favoured starboard tack jumping conditions, so it’s shame that we won’t see him on Mission 2.
Josh Angulo (CV-1)
Angulo Versus the Atlantic
2009 PWA Wave Champion Josh Angulo did a last-minute packing job and managed to stuff two Angulo Chango boards (75 and 88L) and NeilPryde sails ranging from 3.2 sqm to 5.6 into his bag. Luckily he also scored a First Class seat from his home in Boston to Dublin to help keep his legs stretched before the workout they received in the angry Atlantic Ocean. Josh impressed most at the second sailing spot on Mission 1 in Ireland but sadly it wasn’t even to help him advance to Mission 2.
Leon Jamaer (G-208)
Leon Lights up Mission 1
Leon Jamaer kicked the competition off to a perfect start by posting the first landed move. Just prior to the opening heat against Josh Angulo, the other eight competitors stood in fear on the beach, fascinated to see if the two ‘wind dummies’ would even be able to launch. No problems for Jamaer who really got things rocking with a massive, cleanly-landed Backloop. After that, well let’s just say things got even wilder! Leon, recently signed to the Fanatic International team, used a 75 L Quad and Hot Sails Maui 3.3 sqm Smack throughout. Leon shone brightly at the first of two sailing spots in Ireland, but lost momentum and just missed-out on making it to Mission 2.
Kenneth Danielsen (D-38)
Denmark’s Kenneth Danielsen shot over to Ireland from sunny Cape Town and had to borrow a winter wetsuit en-route. Kenneth’s favourite F2 Barracuda boards never arrived but a plea for help via the Storm Chase Social Media channels brought him the loan of a production board from the previous season thanks to a Red Bull Storm Chase fan! Everyone would agree that, without any of his specialist equipment, Kenneth couldn’t perform to his usually high standard in such extreme conditions. Kenneth didn’t make the cut this time but watch out for him on the PWA Tour later this year.
Red Bull Storm Chase website