Tony Vandenberg: he survived alligators | Photo: Tony Vandenberg

Tony Vandenberg is the first windsurfer ever to complete the WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge (NCC), a 100-mile sailing marathon held in the Pamlico Sound region.

It's one of the toughest sailing experiences in the world. The NCC is a circular race in a counterclockwise direction with start and finish at the same location on Cedar Island.

Kayakers and sailors are expected to complete the race in two days. Alligators occasionally come up to greet the adventurers. Tony Vandenberg finished the event in fourth overall, first in the Class 4 sailing division.

The intrepid windsurfer rode his 298-liter Starboard Phantom windsurf board for a total of 17 hours and five minutes (camping time excluded).

On the first day, Vandenberg challenged an energy-draining swell.

"Phantom is a beast to sail downwind in the three-four foot, abnormally fast waves and gusting winds. I'm exhausted.

Forced to abandon my harness due to the downwind, I sail completely sheeted out, my arms catching the full force of the wind. I'm sailing and surfing, and at this point, it's all brawn," reports Tony Vandenberg.

Tony Vandenberg: rigging and checking the surf | Photo: Tony Vandenberg

"I continually move forward and aft to prevent the bow from plunging into the back walls of upcoming waves, or cliff diving into the troughs of some of the rogue six-eight foot waves coming my way.

I surf down these latter waves, both feet on the very last inch of the stern, heels hanging in space."

Vandenberg started the second day at 5:30 am "knowing that this second half of the course will entail a constant battle to work up against head winds at the best possible combination of speed and travel angle while fighting oncoming chop and waves."

As he comes around the last cape, the windsurfer sees the large silhouette of a ferry moored at the dock adjacent to the finish line.

Eager to avoid screwing things up at the last minute, Vandenberg keeps his centerboard down as an early warning system and backs off the throttle.

"Spotting the little inlet for the finish by the dock, I see a Hobie TI sail entering it first. My attention is diverted as the wind suddenly blanks, and I almost take a dive in the last seconds of the race."

Tony Vandenberg, also known as "Bermudaboy", sailed for 92.2 nautical miles. Who shall dethrone him?

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