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Banana Hammocks and Caipirinhas: The Bay Area Kitesurf Crew Heads to Brazil
By Kurt Friedmann
With Brazilian visas in hand while slogging seven 50-pound board bags loaded with 2011 F-One test gear, we confidently marched up to the American Airlines check-in counter, praying to avoid a possible $150 per board baggage fee. After all, with seven surfboards and four twin tips in tow, escaping the oversized luggage fee would buy us a hell of a lot of beers and caipirinhas, a local mind-bending cane-sugar concoction, once we hit the Brazilian coastline. We all wore our most charming smiles and did our best to schmooze the agents at the counter and all seven bags were checked through to our destination -$600 later. Maybe we’re not as charming as we thought…
On kite trips, sometimes you get lucky with wind and sometimes you don’t. From June to December, 98% of the days in northeastern Brazil have 15+ knot winds, so we knew from the start that no luck was necessary for “kite-‘till-it-hurt” riding every day of the trip. As for the beers and caipirinha’s, well, let’s just say that we were going to have to pony up a little more cash than originally anticipated after the big hit at the luggage counter.
Our mission for this trip was simple: Test F-One’s 2011 line of kites and boards, enjoy the unbelievable beauty and splendor of Brazil’s northeast coastline, kite our brains out, and have the time of our lives. Sponsored by Bay Area Kitesurf (the North American distributor for F-One Kiteboarding) and Kite Adventures Brazil, the trip was a 10-day guided adventure to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Epic 30-mile downwinders, bathtub-warm water, 18-30 knot wind, amazing friends, and Brazil’s incredible food and lifestyle all promised to make this trip the kiteboarding adventure of a lifetime. Sure, we had to test brand new gear in perfect kiting conditions, but it can’t be all play, can it? It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Although getting to Brazil takes a good amount of time, when some of the best kiting in the world is up for grabs, it’s a journey that is well worth the effort. Our starting destination was the small beach town of Cumbuco near Fortaleza, in Brazil’s northeastern state of Ceara. Charming, warm, friendly, and beautiful, Ceara and its people remain quite rustic and down-to-earth in comparison to the wealthy regions of southern Brazil that have recently seen rapid and astonishing economic growth. Today, one new millionaire is created every ten minutes in Brazil, a faster rate than India or Russia. However, that new wealth appears to have eluded many of the locals in the beach areas of Ceara, who still depend on an influx of foreign windsurfers, kiteboarders, and beach-going tourists to bolster their regional economy.
As for the lifestyle in northeastern Brazil, it’s relaxed and unassuming. The locals are extremely friendly and are eager to share the many gifts that the region has to offer when treated with mutual respect. It’s no secret that Brazilians love to party and enjoy life. On any given Saturday night, young people will trek to Cumbuco from all over the region to participate in Festas, non-stop parties that begin around nine in the evening and don’t stop until 10 the next morning. Relax and enjoy, as it’s easy to blend into the lifestyle in Brazil.
No party would be complete without incredible food. As the world’s largest producer of both beef and poultry and a major producer of almost every other farm product imaginable, the array of food choices in Brazil is endless. Travelling to Brazil without taking the effort to enjoy its culinary diversity would be as large a mistake as traveling there without kite gear. Brazilian cuisine takes the best of Asian, European, and Middle-Eastern cooking styles and blends them with native food ingredients. From the amazing churrascarias (Portuguese steakhouses) to incredible fresh seafood restaurants and delicious bowls of açaí (made of frozen and mashed açaí palm fruit), you won’t go hungry in Brazil.
Northeastern Brazil is also a true kiteboarder melting pot. It’s impossible to miss the mélange of different languages and accents of kiters from across the globe that come to explore the area’s expansive and magnificent coastline. Intermingled alongside local Brazilians, a host of Italian, French, German, and American entrepreneurs have established many restaurants, bars, kite schools, and pousadas (bed and breakfast) to serve the needs of the area’s kiting community. It’s not uncommon to see kiting gear and supplies sold at the local gas station or hotel – evidence that kiting has truly permeated the local economy.
Kiters of every skill level can be found along Ceara’s coastline, but it’s the groms ripping up the Cauipe and Taiba lagoons that set the standard by which the tourist kiters are judged. Local squids as young as 10 ride any kite they can get their hands on and their skills develop quickly given that they have all day every day to practice. Confident and friendly, they put on a great show for Jason, our cameraman and were expert and eager testers for the new 2011 gear we had with us.
Exposed long ago as a wind-enthusiast’s Mecca, Brazil can hardly be called undiscovered. As such, it would be easy to assume that Brazil is a massive kitemare of people all running into each other for lack of space. Not so. With nearly 370 miles of kitable coastline in the Ceara region alone and relentless side-on winds nuking across all of it, it’s often easy to head downwind for miles without seeing another kiter. But make no mistake, if you hit one of the many flat-water lagoons on a busy Saturday afternoon and decide to throw a Blind Judge without paying attention, you’re probably going to tangle with a crew of pissed-off Brazilians and enjoy a nice trip to the hack shack.
With its combination of insane downwinders, fresh-water lagoons, and fun waist-high waves, Brazil has something to offer to just about every kiter, from beginner to seasoned pro (the Cauipe lagoon had plenty of pros training for the Argentinean PKRA stop). Pack light if you come to northeastern Brazil, because the water and air temperature are idyllically warm and the humidity is barely noticeable. So grab your gear, talk a few friends into coming along or go it alone, and get ready to have the kite adventure of your life.
Expertly mapped out by our guide, Roberto Duarte from Kite Adventures Brazil (www.kiteadventures.com), our weeklong journey took us through some of the best kite spots in the Ceara region. The advantage of going with an outfit like Kite Adventures is that all you have to do is kite. Everything else is taken care of, and then some!
Each morning, Roberto and his crew would roll up in two badass Land Rover Defenders and sling our extra gear onto the roof racks. After a gut-filling breakfast, our crew would head into the water for a 10-40 mile downwinder as the Defenders followed us on the beach. Following a few hours of morning kiting, we’d land our kites at a beachside restaurant for lunch, fill ourselves with some awesome grub, and then kite to the next town. Everywhere we went, the flat-water lagoons were like butter and the beach-break waves were endless. You can literally kite here from sunrise to sunset EVERYDAY!
If you go to Brazil to kite, check out the following kite spots, restaurants, and pasoudas. You won’t be disappointed!
Divided into three beach areas, Cumbuco has something for everyone. Start 6 miles upwind in Tabuba and kite down to the village of Cumbuco. Then it’s another 5 miles downwind to Cauipe Lagoon, which is a fresh-water lagoon fed by a small tributary river. Here the lagoon is separated from the sea by a small stretch of sand and is a heavenly place to kite.
Sleep: Hotel Golfino (www.hotelgolfinho.com.br), Sunset Beach (www.villacumbuco.com)
Eat: Churrascaria Gaucho (a fantastic Portuguese steakhouse), Genaro’s (pizza), Sabor da Praia (lobster, shrimp, and fish), and Cauipe Beachbar (great grub and drinks)
Party: La Orange Mechanica and Pacana
A 25-mile downwinder from Cumbuco, Paracuru is a kitesurfer’s paradise due to its perfect wind and respectable waves. There are also excellent dunes for sandboarding if you want to take a break from kiting for a few hours. Paracuru has 10 miles of coastline with beautiful beaches that go from the fishing village at the delta of the Sao Gonçalo River past dunes, cliffs, calm bays, and reefs with natural pools all the way up to the mangrove swamps at the mouth of the Curu River.
Sitting majestically atop a massive cliff and overlooking a pristine bay, Lagoinha is a perfect place to launch a 12-mile downwinder to the next town of Flexeiras. Beware of rocks just north of the bay, and then it’s 2 miles to a spectacular tidal lagoon called Lagoa Do Jegue. After another 3 miles there is lagoon called Barra Do Trairi, where at high tide you can kite directly from the sea to the lagoon, which is butter flat. Near the end of the downwinder, beware of fish traps and sticks.
Sleep: Poso Do Kite
Eat: Nono (amazing grilled fish with fruit passion sauce!)
We woke up early and went sandboarding before setting out on another epic 25-mile downwinder to Icaraisinho. Protected by an extended reef, Flexeiras is a perfect place to launch. This amazing downwinder concludes in Icaraisinho, where you can get out just before the towering windmills. Stay at Villa Mango for a truly amazing eco-lodge experience.
Sleep: Villa Mango in Icaraisinho
Eat: Agua de Cocoa in Icaraisinho (fantastic risotto)
Party: Ughhh…too tired!
We drove down a bumpy dirt road a few hours to Prea from Icaraisinho and stopped for lunch at the only restaurant right on the beach, Rancho Do Peixe. After some amazing grilled ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches accompanied by a cool bowl of açaí, we launched another incredible downwinder all the way to Jeri.
Sleep: Rancho Do Peixe (www.ranchodopeixe.com.br)
Eat: Rancho Do Peixe (yummy sandwiches and açaí)
Party: Rancho Do Peixe – why leave?
A cool little dirt-street hippie village, Jeri is a great place to chill after downwinding every day for a week. It’s an ideal spot to launch a small downwinder to the Guriu river mouth and then relax on the nearby sand dunes to watch a spectacular sunset. With amazing food, a great nightlife scene, and mind-blowing wind, Jeri is a difficult place to leave.
Sleep: Naquela (www.naquela.com.br)
Eat: Tamarindo, Sabor Da Terra
Party: End of Main Street (Rua Principal) by the beach
Half of the fun of kiting is enjoying time in and out of the water with your friends. After all, it wouldn’t be right if your broham wasn’t there to refresh your memory that the 10’ strapless air you thought you nailed was really only a 2’ chop hop. It didn’t take long into our 10-day trip for the individual personalities to come alive. This trip to Brazil wouldn’t have been the same without the lunacy of the following cast of characters:
Alberto “Wassup” Duarte: A cross between Dean Martin and Wile E. Coyote, Alberto is co-owner and tour guide extraordinaire of Kite Adventures Brazil. Alberto knows EVERYONE in Brazil and if you need it, he can get it. Don’t go to Brazil without him!
Bruce “Mankini” Johnson: Co-owner of F-One Americas, Bruce is not the kind of guy you want to dare to kite a 25 mile downwinder in a banana hammock ‘cause he’ll actually do it!
Nico “Jagi” Osterman: The other co-owner of F-One Americas, this brazen Frenchy loves good escargot and is willing to walk into anyone’s kitchen to get it. Don’t kite downwind of Nico…just take my word for it.
Frank “Mr. Caipirinha” Long: Frank discovered a new kind of anesthesia in Brazil that they don’t manufacture back home in Tampa, FL. It’s called the Caipirinha, and it erases all memories, but does have some painful side effects.
Cavian “The Wanderer” Cav: The pride and joy of 3rd Ave., Cavian is a sis who can endure a 10-day kite trip with eight stinky guys and still keep her sanity. No wonder she was always wandering off without us.
Ryan “Stitchmaster” Lamb: It’s always comforting to have an ER doc in the crew in case something goes wrong. This time, Ryan’s leg was rudely introduced to a rock that was hiding just below the water’s surface. He self-stitched the gash in his leg right there at the water’s edge without anesthesia or caipirinhas!
Jason “Shooter” Brooks: A resident of Brazil and Mexico, Jason was our professional photographer for the trip. I’m sure we would all have bigger lies to tell if not for Jason’s watchful lens recording our every move.
Brian “Krill” Friedmann: An F-One Americas Team Rider, Brian may suck at foosball, but he knows how to pull off sick strapless backrolls for the camera at just the right moment.
Kurt “Wannabe” Friedmann: I was along to document the trip, wishing I could pull off sick moves like my little brother.
One of our main goals of the trip was to evaluate the 2011 line of kites and boards from F-One. With plenty of wind raging across Ceara’s coastline from sunrise to sunset, we had just the right conditions to put the gear to the test. Here’s a few of our test notes:
Bandit IV: Stability, control, and direct drive are a few of the features that caught our attention. Freestyle riders noticed the square tips and different positioning of the back lines and were impressed with the controlled power during kite loops and stability during unhooked moves.
Bamboo Surfboards: With seven boards to choose from on this trip it seemed like we had a board for every condition. The Surf models allow for longer drawn out turns and work well in larger surf or as an everyday board for bigger riders. The Signature series are offered in a rounded pin tail with double concave bottom which allows good drive down the line and tight turns. The overall volume is significantly less than the Surf series and these boards perform well in steep, fast waves strapped or strapless. The Fish models with their flat bottom and wide outline are fabulous in small surf or light wind conditions as they get up and plane quickly. These are way fun for the small stuff.
Twin Tips: The Sk8 and the TX are basically the same boards as in 2010, only the graphics have changed and all the twin tips are now equipped with the new Unibox fin system. The Sk8 is the carving board and is an F-One classic. The TX is the best all around board and does everything well. Now equipped with the carbon cross and a new double concave shape, the Acid gives you all the confidence in the world to go big. It’s very smooth, the pop is crazy, and landings are unbelievable. The new Trax is a sweet evolution of the 2010 version, which has been the F-One best seller for years. The 2011 version feels very similar to the 2010, fast, precise, extremely comfortable, and maybe more accessible with more carving ability.