Visual stories

Cold Front

An international windsurfing pro, Dany’s competed all over the world, but this trip is personal.
He’s come nearly 6000 thousand miles from the Canaries to the Faroe Islands.

Words by Jenni Doggett
The sea is furious. A battered old fishing boat battles through the breaks, its captain transfixed by something in the sky. Above that, a wheeling blur of storm petrels. And above that, extreme windsurfer Dany Bruch hangs sideways for a second in the air. Feet welded to a fluoro orange board, frozen hands clenching the boom, the sail raining silver on his face. The fisherman shakes his head in disbelief. Dany drops back into the vicious mercury swell and disappears.

An international windsurfing pro, Dany's competed all over the world, but this trip is personal. He's come nearly 6000 thousand miles from the Canaries to the Faroe Islands. Located halfway between Scotland and Iceland they comprise 18 jagged volcanic islands sitting directly in the storm channel of the wild North Atlantic. It is an adrenalin junkie's wet dream.

He's here just for kicks – specifically the kind of kicks that involve cliff-top lakes, lethal reefs and 50 mile-per-hour snowstorms. "If I jump 10 metres today then I want to jump 20 metres tomorrow. But surfing in extreme unknown territory is another way to satisfy that need" he explains to local metereologist and survival expert, Hanus Kjølbro.

After seeing footage of Dany's first attempts Hanus is impressed but concerned and offers to help track the weather. On Dany's first day here he hitches a lift with a skipper into a vast open channel where 5-metre swells clash with treacherous currents. In these conditions, at least 2km from land with a very real risk of hypothermia, Hanus is amazed Dany made it back in one piece. "You have been jumping out of a plane without a parachute and luckily landing on a haystack." He points Dany in the direction of Husavik where he will be protected from the full force of the North Atlantic.

After several days driving back and forth through blizzards and deep sub-sea tunnels, waiting for the right conditions Dany finally hits the right day for Husavik – pincers of dark rock framing explosive waves. Black grass-hatted houses and wild sheep dot the hills. Angry grey columns of rain scan past. Dany preps his gear, snaps split hoof waterproof boots into place and faces the sea. Something shifts in his stance and he's off across the beach, wrestling with his sail against the wind and into the icy water.

The swell flings Dany back and forth and it's starting to look like a losing battle but suddenly he catches a gust and he's up... racing across the bay, leaning back, one hand on the boom as if it were the easiest thing in the world to fly across sub-arctic seas. A full hour of flips and tricks passes before sails back to shore. He waves gleefully at the local bystanders, hands blistered and raw from the cold but alive in the way only someone who's just jumped into the unknown and survived can be.

Footnotes: Shot on assignment for Red Bulletin

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