May 16, 2012

Q&A with Duncan Coombs

Duncan Coombs is on the crew as head judge for the competition. His long-standing experience in this position on the PWA World Tour has earned him respect by sailors and organizers alike.

Find out what he thinks about Red Bull Storm Chase, and what his role in the event involves.

Why you are you motivated by this massive project?

To take windsurfing to extreme levels at new locations!

Is there a personal storm session you will never forget?

Ireland, mid-winter, sailing Brandon Bay with Jamie Knox. Waves were huge, well overmast, with extreme gusts of 60 knots making it difficult to stand on the beach, let alone sail. We had an epic session without any broken kit or bones. Feeling glad to be in one piece after that session...

What’s special about a genuine storm compared to a „perfect“ day’s wavesailing?

Feeling nervous about going on the water, wondering if your gonna come back to the beach. Being out in strong natural elements makes you feel small and insignificant. It‘s all about survival, being in the moment, staying focused and experiencing something intense.

What’s your advice for sailors in the application process?

Remember, this is no walk in the park. Be prepared for the most extreme windsurfing of your life!

In your mind what is the perfect storm chaser’s profile or stereotype?

The quiet office worker type!!! No really, it could be any of the top names of the sport who are certainly the ones who will perform best in radical conditions. Them apart, it‘s the soul surfer who throws caution to the wind, goes out in anything, has no fear and loves a challenge.

What might be your favorite destination for the event?

My favourite is a location where I have a lot of memories of storm conditions and which still produces them: Ireland.

What’s your part on the Jury for the upcoming event?

I will be coordinating the event with a committee deciding the usual stuff like heat duration, number of moves to count and most importantly: rescue. During the missions I'll be scoring the heats with two other judges to eliminate the weakest and leave the 4 most extreme windsurfers on the planet for the third mission.

Why is it vital we take the sport to this new level?

Its not vital, but proves that windsurfing is one of the most radical extreme sports.

How will you be judging the final sailing performances during the 3 chosen storm missions?

This is still to be finalised. The format will be quite different from the PWA. We‘ll be looking for the guidelines used more in expression sessions. One thing we're thinking about is to award an extra score to the highest jump and biggest wave of the day in order to motivate competitors to go really big with their moves.

How hard will it be to differentiate performances in such tough conditions?

The biggest moves are always easy to identify, as long as we have a good vantage point. So the positioning of the judges on shore is an important thing for us on location.

Where do you think might be on-the-cards considering the time of year the waiting period spans?

Red Bull Storm Chase is global and the waiting period spans from August, which is mid-winter in the southern hemisphere and can be very extreme, for example in Tasmania, to November back up in the northern hemisphere, with spots like Ireland and Iceland going off. Venues are not yet decided. Anyone can still suggest suitable destinations to us until May 31. I‘m sure many more locations will be looked at.