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Brazil: More than Flat Water

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Every year beginning in late summer, The Kiteboarder gets flooded with photos of North American kiteboarders enjoying the conditions of the famous flat water lagoons in northeastern Brazil. First discovered as a kiteboarding destination in early 2000, Brazil has exploded as a top destination for kiters worldwide due to its affordability, warm weather, and fan-like wind conditions that blow from July through January. If you haven’t been to Brazil yet, chances are pretty good you know somebody who has. Chances are also good that they couldn’t stop raving about the weather, women, and wind for weeks after they returned.

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Seeing that Brazil has over 4,000 miles of coastline and many of the biggest names in the surf world today, I began to wonder about the surf in Brazil. Brazil is home to some impressive talent including big wave rider Carlos Burle, Adriano de Souza, and Gabriel Mendina, currently ranked second on the ASP World Tour. Many of the top competitors on the KSP Tour are also Brazilian and all have solid backgrounds in the surf. Surely there have to be epic places to surf and kitesurf there. So why don’t we hear more about kitesurfing in Brazil and why has there been so much focus on the lagoons? “We have two kinds of conditions,” said Sebastian Ribeiro, a KSP competitor from Riozinho, Florianapolis, the surf capital of Brazil. “Northern Brazil is windy but doesn’t have good waves, so it’s good for beginners or flat-water tricks. In southern Brazil we have flat water and good waves, both lefts and rights. It is usually windy all year but the wind in the south is a little gustier.”

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Fellow Brazilian and KSP competitor Guilly Brandao agrees. His hometown is Ihhabela, an archipelago and city four miles off the coast of São Paulo. “The south is not as explored for kiting basically because you can’t rely on the wind as much. It’s different from the north where you have wind pretty much 24/7 during the season. Also the south is not as pleasant weather-wise as the north. People come from Europe or North America wanting to get away from the cold and up north is a tropical climate. Down south it’s kind of cold, especially during the winter months where temperatures can average 50° to 68° F. In the summer it’s quite hot though, the same as up north. Even though the south is not that consistent and the waves are not really world class, I think it’s just a matter of time until the kitesurfers start to come over here. A good 15-day trip should score you plenty of good riding. It is not guaranteed to be windy or that there will be a good swell, but there’s plenty of cool things to do around the area while you wait.”

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Pedro Henrique was six years old when he started surfing. “My father is from the first generation of surfers in Brazil and was one of the pioneers who surfed the Ipanema pier and started living the surf lifestyle, so it was natural that I began to surf early on,” he said. Raised in Lebon, Rio de Janeiro, Pedro was the 2000 ASP Junior World Champion – the first Brazilian to win the title. Now 30 years old, he started kiting only three years ago and firmly believes that kitesurfing has improved his wave riding and made him a better surfer. “I always liked to see the freestyle jumps but when I discovered I could kite using my normal surfboard, the same board I used to surf in competitions, I soon found all the freedom of kitesurfing in the waves. Brazil has so much potential. The waves are very good throughout the central and southern coasts, but the best winds are predominantly in the north. Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis are great places to surf with many beaches and a lot of different swell conditions from all directions. Like everywhere in the world, there are times when the wind is less constant but the entire coast gets strong winds. When it’s on, the conditions for kitesurfing are incredible here.”

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It took Ben Wilson ten years to finally make it to Brazil, and that just happened just two years ago. When asked why Brazil seems to be below the radar for its surfing and kitesurfing potential, he said, “To be honest, I don’t really know. I’ve been there twice and in my opinion it’s home of some of the best and most consistent kiting in the entire world. I think it will become more popular over the next few years as it becomes better known, especially because there are so many great Brazilian kitesurfers hitting the scene who will help shape the industry.”

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None of those interviewed for this story tried to portray Brazil as having epic wave riding spots. Ben said, “I think in terms of wind it has some of the most consistent conditions anywhere. If you’re into beach breaks and long downwinders then Brazil offers some of the best conditions hands down. I think it’s got a lot of potential, however it’s missing the super long waves that you can find in other parts of the world.” Guilly agrees. “I wouldn’t call it a great wave destination. I would say it’s a great fun destination where you have the possibility to score great kiting in the waves, great surfing, and great parties.”

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Guilly, Sebastian, and Pedro are just some of the Brazilians paving the way for the next generation of kitesurfers in their country and exposing the world to Brazil’s potential as a kitesurfing wave destination by showcasing what can be done on a surfboard when it’s windy. Kitesurfing is gaining in popularity but has its challenges, especially with the younger generation. Pedro believes that kitesurfing is growing fast, not just in Brazil but all over the world. 的n Brazil we have a lot of surfers and it痴 just a matter of time until they see the potential of the kite and how much fun it can be. For the kids, getting into surfing is very easy. You just need a surfboard. The kite is a little more complicated and takes more determination to learn but the children are good because they make the most out of whatever they get.

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On Ben’s most recent trip to Brazil he spent some time with Victor Ribus, a former WCT surfer who, at the height of his career, was ranked number three in the world. “It’s so awesome to see surfers at this level and their mates getting into it and riding the waves exactly like they would surfing. It seems like more and more are getting into it every day which is really exciting for kitesurfing and the surf culture in Brazil. From what I see there are more flat water kiters getting into kitesurfing and also surfers are gravitating towards it. I think this is where the market will move to, particularly in Brazil.” As far as up and coming young riders from Brazil, Ben said, “I’ve definitely seen some younger kids tearing it up in the surf but most of the youth there was more interested in flat water riding. I think this is a standard demographic. Our target market is mostly people in their mid-twenties and upwards who are seeing there are more options. They’re seeing that riding your surfboard with a kite is the ultimate extension of surfing.”

“There are a lot of pro surfers in Brazil that are getting into kitesurfing,” said Guilly when asked if any of Brazil’s big name surfers were into kitesurfing. “Even last year’s world junior champ Caio Ibeli is really hooked on kiting, but the young kids are too focused on their rising competitive careers so many of the professional free surfers are the ones that are really putting time and effort to progress into kiting.” He added, “I think there’s a big opportunity for kitesurfing to grow a lot here. I see it every day. Surfers young and old,  who were not interested in kiting at all, are now getting really excited about it. They see that kitesurfing performance in the waves is getting a lot like normal surfing so they can relate to it, and also the economy here has been improving a lot. A surfer who couldn’t afford to buy a kite three years ago is now earning a bit more money and is able to get one.”

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Without a doubt, Brazil’s wave riding potential is only just beginning to be explored. More schools and shops are starting to open in windy surf spots like Florianapolis. Businesses like Kite Adventures already offer downwind adventures in the north and Ben plans to start running Brazilian wave camps from Florianpolis to Taibi starting next season. In years to come we might be getting flooded with winter images of riders in flat water and in the waves from all over Brazil as people realize there’s a lot more to kiteboarding in Brazil than the lagoons of the northeast.

This story was written by TKB Publisher, Marina Chang. The story first appeared in our winter 2012 issue. Read more features articles from that issue, online now, for free at: www.thekiteboarder.com/2013/03/volume-9-number-4

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