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When John Carter heard that Marino Gil and Liam Dunkerbeck were heading out for a late session in wild 40-50 knot winds, after the PWA Youth event had finished in Denmark, he dropped everything and gunned it over to Hanstholm to investigate!

Photos: John Carter and Andreas Pedersen.


With the Denmark PWA youth event done and dusted after an extreme day on the water at the Fish Factory in Hanstholm, I had to rush back to the house I was staying at to edit photos for a press deadline at 5 p.m. It had been a wild day with over 30 knots of wind and big waves, loaded with action from the young guns.

Just as I was leaving the car park, I chatted briefly with Canarian high-flyer Marino Gil, who had come along with his buddy Liam Dunkerbeck for some training before Sylt. Marino was now over 20, which meant he could not compete, but he had scored a great week of free sailing and training, while Liam had just won his first world title, cleaning up in the under 20s. Marino mentioned that they might go out for another session later and he would message me if it looked any good for shooting.


By the time I made it back to the house, I was glad to escape the wind and waves and had to knuckle down with a mammoth task of photo editing to do. In the fridge there was a six pack of icy cold beers I had prepared earlier, which seemed the perfect accompaniment to this daunting workload. Would Marino call? I doubted it. I am not sure if he even had my number.

Did I want to go back out in that wind again? Not really. I fired up the computer and set about working my way through several thousand photos from the day. I managed to send the required shots in time for the deadline and was now working my poor laptop to the brink of its processing power as I waded through the days photos ready for selection and editing. The sun was still beaming in through the windows and the wind seemed to be building and literally shaking the house on its foundations! I was just about to crack open a can of beer when the rest of the event crew came back to the house I was sharing with them. They had been sailing at the Fish Factory after the event and reported that it was now totally wild, 3.0 m overpowered and huge waves.


I still had not heard from Marino and assumed they had decided to call it a day. Just on the off chance I looked to see if I had Marino’s number in my contacts and there it was. Even though I had a stack of work to do, something was telling me that maybe this could be one of those epic sessions that I would not want to hear about later. So I sent a quick message on WhatsApp as a reminder to let me know if they were going sailing. Five minutes later, my phone pinged with a message from Marino that he and Liam were going for a session at Middles in Hanstholm, which was likely to be even wilder than the Fish Factory as it is slightly further downwind and more exposed to the elements.


Hanstholm is well known as an epic jumping spot, but back in the day when the PWA came to Cold Hawaii, they were restricted to Klitmøller, due to the live stream being unable to move, so several times sailors were competing in bolt onshore waves while Hanstholm was firing. I vividly remember one evening when it was similar stormy conditions, staying in the office and editing while some sailors rushed down the coast for a late session. Later that same evening, I heard the likes of Philip Köster and Ricardo Campello were trading off 60 feet jumps, in all-time jumping conditions. Imagine 40-50 knots, the best in the world and logo to mast high ramps! Needless to say, I was gutted I missed it.

Today I wasn’t making the same mistake twice! Work would have to be put on hold until later! I slammed down the lid of my overheating laptop and rushed to the car to load up with camera gear. Just before leaving, I shouted to the guys in the house if anybody wanted to come check out the session and thankfully, Andreas, one of the judges, who is also quite handy with a camera, volunteered to come give some moral support.

Outside the pine trees were swaying wildly in the winds and when we hit the straight 10 km strip of road that takes you into Hanstholm, there was sand and spray being blown across the road, while the sea state over the dunes was just a mass of whitecaps and chaotic waves.

We arrived just in time to meet Liam and Marino rigged and ready with 3.3m and 3.7m, while out on the ocean it was crazy windy with mast high ramps on the outside. They had come along with the Delgado sisters, two young wave sailors from Tarifa, who had come to watch the show from the warmth of the van. There was probably 30-40 minutes of light left in the day and over to the west there were dark clouds looming up on the horizon. We needed lady luck on our side that the sun would not disappear completely behind those moody skies. I rushed to the car to set up my 500 mm lens on the tripod and also gave my 100-500 zoom to Andreas so we could score a couple of decent perspectives.


If you have ever witnessed Liam and Marino sailing, then you will know they always go full power and going big is the only option especially in these extreme conditions. From the moment they hit the water I already had the feeling that something special was about to go down. The light was glimmering though the clouds, the wind was probably blowing 40-50 knots and there were logo to mast high ramps just beckoning for rocket airs. Marino opened up with a monstrous back loop, easily clearing the horizon from my vantage point sheltered in the dunes.

His friends in their van were all screaming when he took off and just went up and up and up, crazy high. Liam was not far behind, flying full speed towards the next ramp, having just seen his good buddy take the initial limelight. A massive mast high ramp was looming out the back and he managed to clear all the whitewater and hit it full speed with reckless abandon. Marino’s back loop looked high, but Liam was going faster and hit a bigger ramp at full speed. He took off into the sky flying 50 feet at least, before pulling the trigger on an absolutely mental forward loop. I could hear the girls in the van just shouting “That was crazy!”_D2A1390


From the cover of the dunes, we could see Marino had seen Liam’s heroics from out the back and he was waving his fist at his friend, saluting this ridiculous jump. One thing I know about Marino, is that he does not like to be outdone, especially in his favourite conditions and that from now on in, they would be trading rocket airs and pushing each other to the limits. I have seen a lot of windsurfing in my time, but this session just had to go down as one of the craziest and most extreme I have ever photographed. Every time the boys sent it, the girls were cheering in the van. Some jumps seemed too high to do a forward or back loop, but just when you thought it would be a straight rocket air, they would pull the trigger and fly downwind into a mental forward or back loop. From take-off to landing, Marino and Liam were flying into the sky and being blown downwind as they soared into the air. It did not take long before Marino matched Liam’s opening moves for height, but to be honest they were both going that big, it was hard to say who was taking the glory. Marino landed one crazy push loop into a forward where he was already high enough after the push loop that he could have easily thrown a double on the way down. Meanwhile Liam retaliated with a perfect double loop in the chaotic conditions and fist-pumped to celebrate!

Watching the session from the beach was too much for Luca Taman Bühler and Toni Pijoan who had come to the beach to check out the show! So they rigged and hit the water to be out there and part of this wild evening session.


The sun played ball for the first fifteen minutes or so, but then it was gone as the clouds took over. Upwind the sky started turning pink, with an incredible sunset just to add to the drama of the action on the water. Marino finished his session with one last monster straight jump, soaring up into orbit against the pink sky in the background, which has to be up there with some of the biggest jumps I have ever seen.

When Liam and Marino finally returned to the beach after an intense hour on the water, they were both so excited and high on adrenaline from this wild session. I was actually quite pumped myself after hammering the trigger trying to capture all the action. Then reality hit that I had to get back home and work on all the other shots from the day! But at least this time I had not missed out and I was happy enough just to have witnessed that epic show on the water!


“That was one of my wildest sessions ever! There were probably gusts of 50 knots with mast high ramps. I think I did the biggest jumps of my life. My watch was saying I went over 10 metres and some jumps were 12! The best jumping session I have ever had. The smallest sail I had here in Denmark was a 3.3m, which was fine. Marino is one of my best mates, we are always sailing together. So to be out there sharing that mental session was just like a dream. We were screaming at each other on the water, it was just so crazy.”


“It was amazing out there! I was overpowered on a 3.7m. We had some perfect mast high ramps and it was just epic. I think it was one of the best sessions I have ever scored and some of the biggest jumps I have ever done in my life. It was super fun, I wasn’t scared. If I had a 3.4m I think I might have been a bit more in control. It was side to side-on winds and there was enough space between the waves to hit the ramps full speed and send it. It was great to be sharing this session with Liam. We are best friends and we love pushing each other like this!”

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