Thomas Traversa wins the Red Bull Storm Chase – Interview
After three missions in Ireland, Tasmania and Cornwall the French windsurfer Thomas Traversa was crowned as the ultimate storm windsurfer and Red Bull Storm Chase Champion. “I feel super happy to win this – even happier than when I won the PWA Worldcup in Denmark and, yeah, especially to show what I can do in big, gnarly conditions because, for me, that’s really why I windsurf, so to be here in Cornwall and to have visited Tasmania and Ireland with these amazing riders is a privilege,“ a happy Thomas Traversa stated after his victory.
We have caught up with Thomas, who is at the moment on Tenerife, for an interview.
Continentseven: Let’s start with a really not journalistic questions, how do you feel at the moment?
Thomas Traversa: I am really happy! It’s been a long journey to that final mission in Cornwall, and ending up with the storm chase title feels very special.
Continentseven: Were you nervous, when you saw that big forecast for the final mission at Cornwall, which predicted the storm of the century?
Thomas Traversa: Actually I was happy to see that we were going for that big of a storm! With such a big swell on the way, it meant that we would probably go for a “sheltered” spot with cross-off wind rather than some onshore mess. So once again the Storm Chase was about making the best out of a big swell, not just some strong wind jumping like you can find in Pozo.
Continentseven: What is the reason, that you as the lightest sailor have won the Storm Chase?
Thomas Traversa: Hard to tell, but there might be a mix of luck, commitment, motivation. In this kind of conditions everyone is out of control, so being light doesn’t make such a big difference I think.
Continentseven: You are a light wind specialist, you are a strong wind specialist. Which conditions do you prefer?
Thomas Traversa: As long as there are some powerful waves, I am happy! Coming from the Mediterranean sea I never get enough of real waves at home so anytime I have the chance to wave ride I am super excited. The wind doesn’t really matter, strong or light, if the waves are good I will try my best and really enjoy sailing.
Continentseven: What are the ideal “Thomas Traversa conditions”?
Thomas Traversa: My dream conditions are mast to mast and a half waves, cross-offshore 15 knots winds, even better if it comes from the right. This is not the conditions I would sail in every day, because it is also fun to ride easy head-high waves where you can try all the tricks, but riding proper waves gives you a unique feeling… You really have to risk it to get some good turns and airs, and you can never be sure of what’s gonna happen! But this is what makes me feel alive, finding myself on the right spot, in the critical section of the right wave at the right time, in a situtation, which is every time different where a lot of good things can happen if you make them happen!
Continentseven: Your friend Alex Mussolini said: „I heard many times that people that come from the Mediterranean Sea will never dominate the Atlantic ocean. Today Thomas Traversa showed us that is not true!“ Actually you have conquered the Atlantic twice and the Pacific during the Red Bull Storm Chase. What do you think about Alex’s statement?
Thomas Traversa: This means to me that you don’t need to come from Maui or Australia to be able to handle large waves. If this is what you really love, and have the chance to travel and ride solid conditions, you will always find a way to become a good wave rider. Alex proved it, he grew up in Barcelona and established himself as one of the best wavers in the world because he WANTED it! And it is the same for me: I always wanted to go crazy in big waves and gnarly conditions, not because I need to prove anything but only because I see this as an endless learning process, the only limits being in your head. I took a lot of beatings in my life of windsurfer and hopefully this will continue, it’s what makes the good rides taste so good !
Continentseven: You said after the first day in Cornwall: „It’s been a hell of a day, crazy sailing in the morning with the biggest whitewater ever, and really “fun” conditions in the afternoon, perfect for a big air fest ! Cornwall delivered!“ Have you every sailed at Cornwall before, did you know the spots and what was the hardest at Cornwall?
Thomas Traversa: It was my first time sailing in Cornwall, and the hardest part of it has been the huge waves on the first session we had at Gwithian. Going through the huge white water was crazy, something I never did before would have probably never tried if it wasn’t for the Storm Chase.
Continentseven: Would you have sailed at Cornwall without the help of the rescue team?
Thomas Traversa: I would have not sailed the first spot without the presence of the jet ski team. But the conditions at the Bluff were super good, it was cold and howling but the waves were just so clean and very powerful. So yes, I would have been sailing on my own, 100% !!
Continentseven: Let’s have a look back to all three missions in Ireland, Tasmania and Cornwall.
– Which mission was the most extreme?
Thomas Traversa: If extreme means no fun, Ireland was the most extreme because it was almost impossible to sail in such a strong wind.
– Which spot was your most favorite?
Thomas Traversa: My favourite spot was BOL in Tasmania, big, clean and perfect, we could really perform there.
– What was the most dangerous moment for you?
Thomas Traversa: Maybe Ireland, because it is very easy to get hurt when you are completely out of control. The first session in Cornwall was also pretty dangerous I think, I am not sure what would have happened after losing the gear and getting washed in these monster close-outs.
– What was the best moment for you?
Thomas Traversa: The best moment was probably when I rode my first wave at BOL in Tasmania, it felt amazing and I knew this was gonna be an epic day of wave sailing.
– How much gear did you break?
Thomas Traversa: I broke one mast and one sail, and snapped one board in Ireland and one in Cornwall.
Continentseven: Which gear setup did you use in Cornwall?
Thomas Traversa: I used a 3.3m I.Q in the morning session at Gwithian, the waves were huge and we needed power to navigate through that mess, but with 60knots+ of wind there was no way I was gonna ride anything bigger. For the rest of the mission I sailed with my Manic 3.7m.
Continentseven: Did you win any price money, a Red Bull contract or was it just for the fame and glory?
Thomas Traversa: I did win some prize money and so did the rest of the riders. It makes the victory even better, but the most important was obviously to win it. As for a Red Bull contract, it wasn’t part of the deal unfortunately, even though I would love to have their support to continue chasing big conditions in Europe and all over the world !
Continentseven: After being almost 2 years on stand-by, you are free again. What’s your plan for the upcoming months?
Thomas Traversa: At the moment I am in Tenerife, staying with Alex and trying some boards and sails with the rest of the team. I will probably go to Maui with my girlfriend Sophia in March or April, and apart from that I hope to score some more good conditions in Europe and that we will make some really nice trips before going to Canaries in July!