The Great Trans-Atlantic Adventure

Conquer not the fury of my essence but be transformed. For I give you life . . . to silence your savage ways.

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WHISPERS of a failed TransAtlantic Windsurf Race circulated through the windsurfing world with shaking heads and knowing smiles. For certainly the fools who dare to contemplate such a notion, much less attempt to carry it out in such a misguided manner, deserve reproach from the sound minded world. They are not of this sport and undeserving of our recognition.

(First Roll: left to right) Celebrating the end of the first race to Cadiz, Spain, from Portugal. Awaiting crew on Tenerife, where the first leg was supposed to end. On the beach at El Jadida (Mazagan) Morocco after a harrowing night with the first storm. (Second Roll: left to right) Arriving in Tarifa, Spain. At sea, cold, wet and scared. Sneaking in an expensive breakfast and charging it to the organizer’s room in Cadiz, Spain. Two days of Moroccan bureaucracy behind the smiling faces in Jorf el Lasfar. (Third Roll: left to right) Arriving in Mohammedia, port town of Casablanca, Morocco. Driving to Agadir because of the unusual storm. Renatta Fuzzetti, the only female competitor was scheduled to sail the last leg to Brazil. (Third Roll: left to right) Rest stop near Safi. Accidental tourists in Mazagan. Walking to hotel passing a Moroccan school. Our fearless and shoe–less leader, Louie Hubbard who engineered the TAWR and kept the event going. (Far right) Elvis was on board and on the US team…or is that Marco DeMoraes? (Below middle) A shadow of a dolphin swimming with the boat. (Below) Guy Racette’s depiction of Guy Miller’s TAWR involvement. (enlarge)

This could be the beginning of an article I’d write if I saw some kooks trying to windsurf across the Atlantic. “What is the point of such an endeavor?” I would ask. “What does it do for the image of the sport?” Well, as fate would have it, I landed in the shoes of a kook—not once, but twice.

You might think I’m trying to justify the whole experience and you’re probably right. Actually, I’m really just trying to get you in the mood to digest the following pages of my photographs. They may convey far better than words what the great adventure of the TAWR2000 was really like. But the truth of the matter is that I often catch this silly grin on my face. It seems the people who went on this expedition also caught the same grin.

LOOKING FOR BRAZIL: The author on the shore of Tarifa, Spain. Behind him are the mountains of Morocco and the Straights of Gibraltar. Tarifa became a base camp for the awaiting US TAWR team members. The two week delay provided great sailing conditions and the opportunity to refine the gear for the crossing. (Right) The actual course taken by the event (red) was quite different from the intended course (blue). Changes were necessary due to a number of factors. Foremost was the fact that the RIBs could not do the distance as specified. Even with addtional fuel on board, the maximum range was approximately 250 miles. Consequentially, the teams hugged the coasts and utilized the many ports along the way. (Insert map) A knock–out blow 40 miles short of Tenerife. The storm coming up the chanel between Gran Canaria and Tenerife not only crippled the TAWR boats but also took the lives of two fishermen. (enlarge)

It intrigues me.

Could it be from embarrassment? Or is it just plain stupidity?

I often find myself wearing this silly grin whenever I go windsurfing. It’s like being carried away into a Trans-Atlantic dream. Thousands of moments stored in my memory come floating back in a blissful trance of remembrance . . . that perfect 4.5 day. Like recalling some magical sexual encounter, accessing these transAtlantic windsurfing daydreams often brings out that silly—sometimes naughty—grin.
Well, you might say I’ve become a TransAtlantic kook.

But you know what? You can color me ‘kooky’ and I’m gonna keep grinning. It’s fun to get together and try to do something out-of-the-ordinary. We got off our couches and out of our mid-life crises and our virtual reality (which seems to have become our inherent reality) and went into the ocean for a little real life experience.

MANY HIGHS, MANY LOWS: The highs and lows changed like the tides at Jorf el Lasfar, an industrial port where the team took shelter after a freak storm. The region went for 4 months without rain but as the TAWR2000 team rounded the coast of Morocco, Force 8 winds and three days of relentless rain descended on the group. With the winds, exceptional tide changes meant that all participants had to brush up on wall climbing skills as displayed by Louie Hubbard. The highs were often found in the many cultural adventures. One of many was parading through a market of bubbles at Casablanca with Brazilian captain Carlos Borges (below and far right) and co-captain Alexandre Serrado. (enlarge)

Well, it wasn’t “little.”

Like men who have found life and communion with the ocean for thousands of years before us, our explorations were dictated to by unforeseen challenges and setbacks. As other men of the sea have been discovering for hundreds of years, we learned firsthand how adventure and survival depend on the mental clarity which guides one’s ability to react.

Like them, we sailed in a sea full of smiling dolphins. (Maybe that’s where we picked up these oceanic grins.) Unlike them, we sailed through miles and miles of man–made oil slicks belched into the virgin waters by passing tankers, bearing witness to this desecration in silence and in shame. Once we passed through these signs of man’s disrespect for the sea, our dolphins returned and our hearts soared again.

SEA OF LOVE: The Magic Mystery Tour of the Trans-Atlantic started for the Americans on the shore of Tarifa. Driving seven hours from Portugal, the team found wind and windsurfers alike. The time spent in Tarifa before the crossing, provided much needed practice. It also took the edge off the maddening delays and gave the team a taste of what was to come: Windsurfing tourism! (enlarge)

We took windsurfing to a new level. In the process, we held the power of the Atlantic in our hands. We danced to the rhythm of its rambling waves. We saw the fury of a raging storm and we got sobered (clobbered) by the siren songs of this seemingly simple sea.

It haunts us now. Like the way the wind haunts us with desire. We call it communion and when it’s over, what’s left is a message that echoes through the chambers of our souls.

Conquer not the fury of my essence but be transformed.
For I give you LIFE. . . to silence your savage ways.


The eyes of mortal men have gazed seaward since the beginning of time. The imprints of our human play are contained by the sacred boundary of the waters edge. Beyond lies the sanctity of the most beautiful planet seen by human eyes. These oceans are the last bastion where dreams can be found, where life can be renewed.

Those reaching beyond the shores of human habitation become celebrated explorers, for they have become enlightened by the sea. They have seen the gazing eyes of a distant land and have returned to review the condition of their own internal states. They are soaked by the molecules of a sustaining sea and now gaze back into the ways of their ignorant past.

For those of us who have ventured on the Trans-Atlantic Windsurf Race, we have seen the glory of a sunrise and the afterglow of a sunset. We have watched the movement of a day without the clutter of a ragged edge. We were blessed by schools of swimming angels whose sprightly contact filled our inner souls with hope.

But we have also been forewarned by the rages of an offending force. For living through the darkness of a midnight storm, we are faced with our blatant insignificance. But it was not until the calmness of a flat sea, in the stillness of a sleeping giant, that we truly discern the frailty of our existence.

It was only when the ocean becalmed itself that we saw—on the surface—the scathing scars inflicted on a sanctuary we thought so very . . . unreachable.

article and photos by John Chao

Publisher / Editor is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines