No storm! Red Bull Storm Chase returns next winter

A warm and dry winter means no wind and wave action for Red Bull Storm Chase. But it will be back!
By Josh Sampiero

If you’re a windsurfer, you know how it goes: sometimes the wind shows up, other times it doesn’t.

Winter 2017 failed to provide the necessary storm to run Red Bull Storm Chase in the conditions the competitors, organisers and audience envisioned. While the team went on internal alert four times during the period from January 9 to March 13, none of the potential storms fulfilled all the strict requirements to green-light the contest.

Classic conditions look like this

Pro windsurfer Klaas Voget – one of the key organisers – expresses his thoughts. "Red Bull Storm Chase is known to be THE most radical windsurfing event out there. For our contest we’re not looking for average storms or just windy days, we’re the looking for a big storm system creating truly radical conditions with gale-force winds and huge waves." Need more specifics? Let’s get into it.

Oh, the fun we could’ve had


It needs to be a big – and long – storm…

Klaas continues: "Stable forecasts and wind directions, size and duration of the system, temperatures, daylight, infrastructure – all these are factors we're looking at for Red Bull Storm Chase. There have been several storms this winter and we’ve been tracking them all – none of them delivered what we’re looking for.” 

Infrastructure, logistics, safety

What happens on the water isn’t the only concern – the crew has to make sure the storm is in a location everyone can actually get to, sail reasonably safely, allow for medical or emergency support.

The waves were too small

While numerous high-wind events hit the coast of Ireland, England and France, none of them brought significant swell – at least not the 10m swell Red Bull Storm Chase was looking for. (We would have settled for eight, or maybe even six!) The storm tracks didn’t leave waves enough time and distance to develop in size and organisation – meaning fewer of the huge jumps and epic wave riders that define the event.

Plenty of wind, not enough waves

Storms went the wrong way…

Official forecaster Dr Meeno Schrader tells us: "The waiting period was marked by two predominant weather traits. Firstly, reappearing storm lows over the North Atlantic, which often had the potential, but never were able to keep that potential until they hit the coasts. More than once it happened that these lows with optimal conditions drifted past possible locations and unleashed their power over the open ocean.”

…high pressure blocked the storms…

Stratosperic warming events moved the high pressure that is supposed to sit over the North Pole region in winter, powering the storms around it. Instead, it moved further south, disturbing potential storm systems. End result? No good action.

Spend too long staring and you might get dizzy…  

But that’s part of the game!

"We can’t force nature to come up with that big day when we want it badly – that’s part of our sport," says Klaas. "We have to be patient and then be ready when it comes. That can be frustrating at times, but that's what makes our sport and these big days so special.”

Finally – don’t worry, we’ll be back

Worry not – it’s not all bad news. The waiting period will be on again next winter – stay tuned as the season approaches for updates on the 2018 Red Bull Storm Chase weather window.