All over the world, there are beaches and breaks famous for big waves and big storms like Bell's Beach in Australia, Belharra in Basque country or Teahu'upo in Tahiiti. But this weekend, for the windsurfers of the Red Bull Storm Chase, it's Cornwall, England.
If you're anyone but a British windsurfer, you're probably saying 'Corn-where?!'
Situated on the southwest tip of England, Cornwall will bear the brunt of the fourth major storm of a very active Atlantic season – and one that has the biggest waves forecasted yet. The 'Hercules' storm from earlier this year saw waves of 28ft [8.5m] @ 21s. This beast has a swell forecasted of 35ft [10m] @ 19s. Translation? Bigger, meaner.
For the athletes taking part in Storm Chase, it promises an incredible weekend of adventure. For non-surfers, the event is a last-minute get-together of the world's top windsurfers. The location is only revealed a few days before the event and only determined after the meteorologists and organisers have figured where the storm will hit.
Cornwall, better known for its cutesy charms and cream teas, is a surprise choice for Storm Chase athletes and crew, who hadn't originally had the location on their list of potential storm destinations. The location change is truly within the spirit of the Storm Chase competition: go wherever the winds blow you.
After scoring in Ireland, and chasing a storm all the way to Tasmania, the grand finale is happening right in Britain's backyard. “We're expecting one of the strongest storms of the season, with windspeeds up to 60 knots with stronger gusts, and waves over 10m with a 19-20 second period,” says Klaas Voget, professional windsurfer and Red Bull Storm Chase Sport Director (and participant in the original Red Bull Storm Chase back in 2006).
“From what I hear from the locals, this is one of the biggest storms and swells they had in years.” The normally somewhat-tranquil coast will be transformed into 'victory-at-sea' conditions.
Government agencies and newscasters are warning coastal residences of heavy surf and high winds, which have already caused widespread flooding and coastal devastation in the country.
With such strong winds, the seasoned competitors – Thomas Traversa from France, Dany Bruch from Spain, Leon Jamaer from Germany, and Marcilio Browne from Brazil will be on their smallest sails – necessary to stay in control. Despite weighing in considerably lighter than the other competitors, Traversa has dominated the first two locations at Storm Chase.
Coming the furthest – in both distance and temperature – is competitor Marcilio Browne, who will be travelling from Hawaii to compete against the other Europe-based sailors. While that may be a disadvantage, his status as current Wave World Champion leaves him a force to be contended with. “I'm just going to try my best,” he says. “Hopefully, we'll find a spot where there will be some decent wave-riding in addition to insane jumping.”
While the general area of Cornwall has been decided upon, which break the competitors will actually go to is yet to be determined. Says Voget: “We'll have to see the actual wave size on that day, but I think it will be pretty big and in some spots it might be just out of control and closing out. The good news is, that we have an excellent local expert crew, with head judge Duncan Coombs being a local, and our weather advisers, the Mullen brothers, knowing the place very well. So we can be sure to be on the best possible spot.”
No matter what, insane windsurfing action is all but guaranteed this weekend – so tune in later this week for photos and a video recap.