“Forget windsurfing in a hurricane,” says the warm-blooded Brazilian. “There was ice coming down from the sky. We were windsurfing in a hail storm!”
Marcilio "Brawzinho" Browne – along with six other world-class windsurfers – had just arrived in Tasmania after 2.5 days of travel from various locations around the world. Why? Four words: Red Bull Storm Chase. A simple concept. Wait for a major storm to develop almost anywhere in the world – then track it down for a epic, balls-to-the-wall wavesailing competition.
But forget the cold — these guys were there for the wind, and the waves. And there were plenty. The sailors rigged their gear as 60-knot gusts whipped up smoke on the water and giant waves rumbled through the surf zone.
And we're not talking about clean, peeling Tahitian beauties – this was storm surf, and the conditions were, to say the least, a little bit different.
“If we weren't here for the contest, I'm not sure I'd go out in these conditons,” says Brawzinho. “It was almost impossible to rig the right sail – you were either underpowered or overpowered – and there was a lot of current. You really didn't know what was going to happen out there – it's an adventure.”
Despite sailing well enough to move on to the next round of competition, Brawzinho says he was sailing a bit conservatively. “You're so overpowered, it's hard to do tricks cleanly and consistently. The video makes it look a lot easier than it was – we were swimming out over rocks to get into the surf, dodging kelp on the wave face, and there were so many close-out waves that went nowhere.”
While the athletes – who were at times more than a kilometre from shore in the hectic and unpredictable conditions – kept their bodies safe, much of their gear was not. Half of them had masts and sails destroy in the heaving surf.
But amongst the rough, there was the occasional jewel. “Every once in a while, you'd get this big, clean wave with a really nice wall,” says Brawzinho. “It's all about picking the biggest sets.”
Stay tuned to redbullstormchase.com, as the remaining competitors stay on watch for the next major storm to hit.
“I just hope it's not in Iceland,” says Brawzinho. “Tasmania was cold enough!”