Tasmania really turned it on with a mind-blowing day of action for Mission #2 of Red Bull Storm Chase. After a night of 85-knot gusts, an awe-inspiring day's action in storm-force winds and double mast-high surf ensued.
After three rounds of competition Thomas Traversa, Dany Bruch, Leon Jamaer and Marcilio Browne qualified for the third and final mission, where the Red Bull Storm Chase Champion will be crowned.
Arriving at ‘Back of Lighthouse' (BOL) - near Marrawah on the North West coast - after an incredible night of super strength wind, first light revealed a gnarly, squally Great Southern Ocean with surf in the nine-metre range. It's true to say everyone was apprehensive before hitting the water.
After assessing the magnitude of the conditions, Red Bull Storm Chase Head Judge Duncan Coombs opted for three-man heats of 30-minute duration at the thumping left-hand reefbreak. As soon as the first round kicked-off, it became clear that something special was going to happen.
The seemingly fearless Frenchman Thomas Traversa, who led the Mission #2 scoring overnight, immediately tore into the huge, hollow walls that BOL served-up. Smacking the heaving sections with such ferocity, the 27-yr-old from Marseille set a new standard in windsurfing with the aerials that he subsequently soared into. Despite weighing just 60 kilos, Traversa showed that he is a true heavyweight contender.
Seeing Traversa's go-for-it attitude in the heavy conditions set off a wave of daring manoeuvres from the rest of the fleet. They then unleashed a barrage of crazy double forward loops, back loops and heroic punts off-the-lip from double-mast-high waves. After joining Mission #2 as an injury replacement for Robby Swift and fellow alternate Boujmaa Guilloul, Germany's Leon Jamaer impressed by taking-off deeper than anyone else and riding in the most critical sections of each wave. After wrecking his gear on the rocks on day one, Jamaer's compatriot Dany Bruch launched into insanely high, stalled forward loops and sliced into the surf with incredible energy.
Blown-away by the standard on the water, Head Judge Duncan Coombs immediately sent the sailors out for a second round. While Traversa continued to excite the onlookers, the rest began to up their game as well with huge double-forward loops coming from the likes of Brazil's Marcilio Browne and Spain's 2010 World Champion Victor Fernandez. Julien Taboulet of France also joined in with a jaw-dropping back loop off a double-mast-high face. As the show of one-upmanship escalated, for each heroic move landed there were at least three spectacular wipeouts as rivals fell out of the sky or were pummelled onto the savage BOL reef.
A third and final round of storm-force conditions - often with bright sunshine as the icing on the cake - saw the battle to qualify for the third and final mission intensify. Wrecked gear and harsh poundings were the evidence of everyone's effort in windsurfing's most-challenging contest.
Speaking of the level on the water Duncan Coombs said, "For storm conditions, this was as good as it gets. It's the best windsurfing I've ever seen. We came to Tasmania for a full-on 'out there' experience and the North West coast was always going to be about waves in the XXL range with some of the largest surf I've ever seen, which definitely made the journey more than worth it."
After tabulating their overall scores of the best waves and jumps from the two days - including bonus points for the highest jumps - the judging panel consisting of former World Champion Scott McKercher and Sports & Athletes Manager Klaas Voget delivered their verdict. At the finalists' announcement Duncan Coombs mentioned how close the struggle for the final four tickets to Mission #3 had been.
Elated to be the highest scorer on Mission #2, Thomas Traversa said "I'm super happy with this result. Coming here I could never have expected what we saw here in Tasmania. I've travelled all over Europe and the world for 10 years looking for amazing places and this was the best day and highest quality conditions for competition you could imagine. It was sick to sail with all these guys in such a cool place - I really couldn't ask for more."
The four contestants who advance to the third and final Mission, where the ultimate Storm Windsurfer will be crowned, are:
•Thomas Traversa (FRA)
•Dany Bruch (GER)
•Leon Jamaer (GER)
•Marcilio Browne (BRA)
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