With Airton as his uncle, Hendrick Lopes is both blessed and cursed with living up to the pedigree of a world-class kitesurfer. Born into a Cabo Verdean surf family, Hendrick’s mom began pushing him into waves on a surfboard at the young age of two. He spent most of his time at the beach, playing in the ocean and scoring his first kite rides on Uncle Airton’s back. Having begun entering local surfing contests, he eventually tried kiting by himself at the age of seven; but at first it didn’t stick because his frame was too small and the kite too powerful. It would take two years, and some significant weight gain before Hendrick’s stepfather was able to get him going on a 6m second-generation F-One Bandit. Immediately hooked on kiting, he became further intrigued as he watched Airton take the international stage and travel the world. When Hendrick began strapless surfing at the age of 14, he knew he wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.Amid a classic Cabo Verdean childhood, the kind of water-soaked existence in which one’s boardshorts never completely dry out, Hendrick’s parents chose to relocate to the outskirts of Bern, Switzerland. The move was intended to give Hendrick the fundamentals of an excellent education and the discipline that is hard to find in beach life. Moving to Switzerland was a cultural shock—beyond the occasional kite session on a nearby lake, Switzerland was mostly cold, gusty and riddled with snow. During winter holidays, Hendrick would return to Cabo Verde’s warm wind and turquoise water, and on other breaks, he traveled to famed European spots in France, Spain and Italy. But when he was back in Switzerland, he put his head down and focused on his studies, striking a quid pro quo deal with his parents; when he finished high school, his parents agreed to give him some space, delaying further education to allow him to pursue his kiteboarding dreams. Upon graduation, he was given the green light to return to Cabo Verde and follow his passion.
Following in his uncle’s footsteps and with classic spots like Punta Preta in his backyard, Hendrick is mainly focused on wave kiting with an all-around style that’s both very technical and powerful. His youthful attack on kitesurfing has yielded tremendous improvements in the last year, both in terms of flow and style. With a rare gift for technical aerials, having started to land 360 airs back into the wave without grabs, the young Cabo Verdean is plowing through barriers with a single-minded passion for kitesurfing. Since he was a little kid, mentors like Mitu and Airton have explained tricks and shared tips, taking the young protégé under their wings. Following in Mitu’s footsteps, Hendrick has learned switch stance so he can ride Ponta Preta frontside and explains that the intricacy of learning and landing aerials is all about repetition, reading the wave and anticipating the perfect section.
When Ponta Preta isn’t firing, Hendrick works on strapless freestyle or fills in the margins of his days with wingsurfing or foilsurfing. A student of the foil dock start, he has his sights set on becoming an all-around waterman and, as a newly minted team rider for F-One, has at his disposal a committed sponsor and an incredibly wide array of the best equipment for every watersport. Under the watchful eye of Mitu, Hendrick is now charged with carrying Cabo Verde’s torch for a future generation of young kitesurfers.
Gifted with a strong competitive spirit and an internal drive to progress, Hendrick has yet to break into the GKA Kitesurfing World Tour. Event cancellations due to the pandemic have created a catch-22; to compete in the GKA, he needs qualifier points but to get qualifier points, he needs qualifier events. Despite these challenges, Hendrick competed in the first-ever wingsurfing world tour event in Brazil in the fall. Wingsurfing as a sport and as an event is all so new. According to Hendrick, “We were all just learning and having a good time, but the competition definitely makes me push myself.” Amidst his progressing aerial game and learning the ropes of competition life, Hendrick looks forward to traveling and filming, inspired by the surfing and exotic locations in Keahi’s latest video, ‘Tunnel Vision.’ Freed from the constraints of schoolwork and having only just stepped onto the international scene, Hendrick is ready to chase any travel or tour opportunity that comes his way.