Indonesia has always been a vector point, much like surfing, for some of the world’s best kitesurfers. In the early years of kitesurfing, only the pioneering wave riding pros were the ones to make the journey. Names like Ben Wilson, Martin Vari, Felix Pivec and Jaime Herraiz were among some of the first to open Indo’s door and, in the following years, quickly inspired a second wave of exploration with guys like Davey Blair, Moehau Goold, Jason Slezak, traveling photographer John Bilderback and myself.
There are other guys that were on that initial trip: Will James, Jeff Tobias, Bertrand Fleury Marc Ramsier — history has inevitably forgotten a few others — but the greater significance of those pioneers’ travel is that they ignited a new chapter in performance kitesurfing.
Indonesia was the birthplace of getting legitimately barreled with a kite, kickstarted the search for similar setups, and opened the door to other name brand barrels around the world. Yet 10 years later, Indo remains one of the most consistent places in the world for kitesurfing hollow tubes. These days, if you travel in the swell window, it’s hard not to cross paths with many of kitesurfing’s professional wave riders with top name photographers in tow, looking for their own Indonesian tunnel vision.
When it comes to kiting a barrel, you can’t slow down and pull in as easily as when you’re surfing.
You have to backdoor the tube by coming in with a lot of speed from as deep as possible. Once you’re in the barrel, you experience a calming chaos; everything is exploding around you and your kite is 25 meters above you, yet somehow everything slows down in this tranquil pocket of Indonesian perfection. — Matt Elsasser This particular wave in Indonesia was the first place I ever got a legitimate barrel on a kite. At the time, it was thought to be the “holy grail” of the wave-kiting world because most waves tend to stop barreling when the wind picks up. The added force of the wind along the lip line is the culprit, negating all chances of obtaining a barrel with a kite in your hands. However, this wave was the first to be found with the characteristics to keep the wave barreling in 20 knots. The side offshore winds combined with the extreme Indonesian low tides cause
the reef to become visible and block the wind’s fetch, maintaining a smooth wave face. Ten years have passed since I first kited this wave and although it’s difficult to score it when it’s on, this wave is still one of the most consistent barrels I have ever been in with a kite. — Reo StevensBefore you can think about getting barreled you have to set your sights on solid bottom and top turns. Once you lay into the bottom of the wave with good drive and a crisp exit on the rail, you will know directly if your top turn will be a winner. It’s in the middle of the bottom turn that you eye the open face and choose your line to the lip. If you nailed the trajectory back to the top then you transition all your weight into the tail and smash the lip into pieces. That’s the moment I love the most. You create so much speed after a top turn that it’s sometimes hard to keep your rail engaged on your second bottom turn, but when the wave is smooth like this one in Indo, it’s a dream. — Jalou LangereeWhen I travel all the way to Indo all I want to do when I’m there is get pitted in massive cover-ups. Unfortunately, some days it’s just not in the cards, but on those days there is a perfect onshore air spot. When the wind and waves move in the same direction, you can boost airs off the lip of the wave and land back into the same wave as you would without a kite. It’s like surfing on steroids. — Matt ElsasserBefore the bridled kite revolution I was a devotee of unhooked riding. At the time, I felt it was the only way to free up your upper body enough to get the proper body position with a kite in your hands. With perfect kite positioning, you could handle the extra power and finesse the kite into pulling you where you wanted to go. The same concept still applies to wave kiting today, but over the past few years the bridled wave kites have advanced leaps and bounds in the way they fly. Today, I rarely find myself unhooking because I want to take full
advantage of the modern kite’s depower and drift capabilities. In this shot, I’ve got the bar pushed all the way out, depowering my kite as much as possible while still having it right where I need it to be. — Reo Stevens
Intro by Reo Stevens
This article was featured in the winter 2015 issue of Tkb.