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Vol. 18, No. 3: Le Tutour de America

Having rambled north through the East Coast’s kiteboarding offerings and punched a line across the mid-section of America, Gwen Le Tutour will happily rank the kiteboarding beaches along the way based on one very simple yet crucial characteristic: the availability of parking. As road manager for Cabrinha’s cross-country tour, Gwen was given the keys to a brightly wrapped 35-foot RV outfitted with a roll-up toy garage stacked with every piece of windsports gear in the Cabrinha catalog. Armed with a video camera and a rotating mix of characters, Gwen spent the summer strafing the windy beaches of America with Cabrinha stoke on an ambitious coast to coast tour.

Any decorated veteran on the sales side of the windsports industry will tell you: demo days are an exercise in frustration and failure. It’s a well-known fact that condition-based sports don’t care for the best-laid plans. Now, if you’re talking about scheduling a demo in the middle of a wind tunnel like Hood River, sure, your chances of wind are good, but the standard lesser-known American kiteboarding beach is a fickle beast, often cursed with narrower seasons and significantly lower reliability statistics. These off-the-beaten-path, often frontal-driven kite spots require precise local knowledge and the flexibility to drop everything and charge when it’s firing. Put your demo on wheels with a couple of bunks and a cabover for roadside sleeping? Now you’ve got a plan—let that demo roam across the kiteboarding landscape to encounter sessions of all sorts—good, bad and ugly. While Gwen will wax eloquently on the quality of conditions at each spot, the nature of the launch and the disposition of the natives, he will also tell you stories of narrow, windy roads, low bridges, mile-long hikes carrying loads of equipment and cops demanding permits, but above all else, Gwen can deliver a dissertation on American beach parking.

Having loaded up the RV in Miami, Gwen headed up the road to Jupiter where he kicked off the tour with Damien Leroy. After shuttling the gear across one of Jupiter’s iconic wooden walkways, they scored a fairly decent day of wind for early July, Florida’s slow season. While Gwen is known as the cameraman behind Damo’s extensive archive of YouTube tutorials, his pre-kiteboarding resume is filled with amazing experiences that have earned him the label ‘a ridiculous human being,’ by his friends. Gwen is known for his boundless energy and incredible efficiency in getting just about any job done. Growing up by the sea in Brittany, France, Gwen was hired as a boat mechanic/whisperer for the non-profit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he resurrected a decommissioned coastguard cutter and traveled the world protecting the seas. Having met his wife during the Sea Shepherd adventure, they moved back to her hometown in Idaho and he began volunteering as a firefighter while producing small documentaries in his local community. In 2018, to raise funds for organizations that promote the connection between cancer prevention and a plant-based lifestyle, Gwen shattered the previous Guinness World Record of 26 miles, by running 100 miles in 30lbs of full firefighting equipment. It should also be noted that this effort landed him on PETA’s top 20 list of ‘Sexiest Vegans.’ With his passion for documentary film-making and endurance for impossible missions, Gwen signed onto the America Tour in is his first official Cabrinha assignment. 

Perhaps an omen of what was to come, Gwen got his first taste of RV-life with a parking ticket in Jupiter, before peeling out and heading north to South Carolina to rendezvous with the crews from Estuary Brewing Company and Force Kite and Wake. The first day they went to Sullivan’s Island Beach and set up on the sandbar, which appears on a low tide amidst smooth, shallow water. The two-and-a-half-mile-long barrier island is obsessively zoned residential and doesn’t offer much in the way of public parking. Luckily, Gwen had a friend on the island who let him park in their driveway about a mile away, so getting the gear to the beach required long hikes with multiple trips, hauling heavy loads over the narrow public beach access points in between houses. Gwen would give Sullivan’s parking situation 0 stars if that were an option. Following a kite party at Estuary Brewing, Gwen parked the big rainbow RV out on the front grass at the brewery and the next day, they rolled out the gear at Folly Beach. With choppier water and another day of light wind kitefoiling, the single strut Contra was a huge hit and won the day’s kite popularity contest.

LEFT: Overhead Jupiter with its lush sea grape hedge and wooden walkways. MIDDLE LEFT: The South Carolina Crew at Sullivan’s Island. Evan Netsch offers a tour of Gwen’s house on wheels, and the motorhome stops at the iconic Hatteras Island Sail Shop. MIDDLE RIGHT: The no-wind setup at Kitty Hawk Kiteboarding in Hatteras. TOP RIGHT: The perspective of Hatteras looking south. BOTTOM RIGHT: An overview of Sullivan’s Island.

From South Carolina, Gwen headed up to Hatteras Island where he connected with Evan Netsch. Nags Head born and raised, Evan knows all the local secrets, but unfortunately, without any wind, the best they could do was lay out the demo gear in neat and tidy rows, let people kick the equipment’s tires and talk about better days. With stops at the iconic Hatteras Island Sail Shop and the sound-side launch at Kitty Hawk Kites, Hatteras was a total bust, but according to Gwen, the waterfront parking ranked at the top of the trip.

With promising forecasts for the New York area, Gwen and Evan blazed north to meet up with the New York Kite Center team. Watching out for low bridges and narrow streets, they found a parking spot a mile away from Gilgo Beach. With two sets of hands and a skateboard, the gear shuffle was a lot easier, and they encountered just enough wind for some highly technical light wind kitefoiling. The following day they headed to Napeague at the top of Long Island. This spot was built for Cabrinha’s rolling gear shed with the parking cleverly placed parallel to the beach. With strong but gusty wind under gray skies, the Switchblades were in high demand with more than 50 people turning up to run through the full equipment menu. Jon Modica, part of the new ownership team at Cabrinha, came out and helped people get set up with gear and taught a 7-year-old girl to cruise around with a wing and a SUP. From there, the house on wheels threaded its way around the bay to Shelter Island Yacht Club where Jon orchestrated a group wingsurfing lesson with the yacht club’s junior program. With the old adage, “The first one’s free,” the Cabrinha RV distributed windsports stoke to people of all ages.

LEFT: Following the Long Island road to Napeague. MIDDLE LEFT: Jon Modica hands out free wing candy at the Shelter Island Yacht Club and the motorhome gets front and center parking at West Dennis Beach in Cape Cod. MIDDLE RIGHT: More wing proselytizing and the crystal-clear bays of Nahant. RIGHT: Some wing-ding backrolls at Boston’s Pleasure Bay and the billboard back on the road.

From New York, Gwen set the cruise control and headed north on Highway 95 into Boston. On the eastern edge of Southie, the logo-plastered motorhome pulled up to Pleasure Bay. Home of the WOO device, the locals strapped on their GPS height trackers and took turns trying to set records, pitting the Moto against the Switchblade in an effort to out-boost one another with big airs. The following day, Gwen headed down Cape Cod to meet up with Phillip Mann, Inland Sea’s shop owner. Setting up the demo equipment at West Dennis Beach, Gwen and Evan borrowed an E-bike to haul the gear to the kiteboarding section of the sand. Armed with a backup boat, Gwen mastered a kite-to-wing Chinese fire drill in light wind conditions that lent well to anything connected to a hydrofoil. Next, they headed to Revere Beach, paid their parking fee and set up their quivers under the tent. With solid wind, they ran a successful demo that lasted nearly all the way until the end of the day. Apparently, the wrap on the RV looked too commercial for the local homeowners, so the cops were called. In his accented French, Gwen tried to explain the challenges of applying for event permits for small-scale wind demos, but the appeal was respectfully denied, and the ‘event’ was shut down. The following day Gwen took a ferry over to Martha’s Vineyard and hydrofoiled with legendary kite speed record holder Rob Douglas. Rob got to try some prototype foil equipment, and despite his better judgment, Gwen loaned out demo kites to three locals. When the light offshore wind abruptly died, the kite borrowers were stranded far from land. What might have been cause for concern to a demo manager—watching kite logos drift off into the horizon—was just another day for locals of the Vineyard.

Demo life in the RV might seem glorious on Instagram or in Gwen’s creatively inspired YouTube videos, but he will candidly tell you, a demo road trip is an endurance test and a job that requires bottomless supplies of energy and passion. It’s a seven-day-a-week job of nonstop necessity. When you’re not driving, you’re hand shuttling gear and constructing a mini-tradeshow booth day after day. When you’re not lost or trying to find a parking spot, you’re shooting video, editing and posting. When the wind is good, Gwen spends all day facilitating demos, but when it’s marginal and there are no takers, he’s mastering kitefoiling or dialing in his wingfoiling backrolls. It’s not an easy road, but the silver lining for demo managers is learning to excel in sub-par conditions. And for those kiteboarders dreaming of purchasing an oversized RV, the kind with enough space to live comfortably alongside all your gear, Gwen Le Tutour can give you some advice: size down. This crowded world isn’t built for RVs—it’s a Sprinter van’s game.

LEFT: Outside of Buffalo, New York, the motorhome rolls up to Sunset Bay on Lake Erie. MIDDLE LEFT: Under the demands of tour life, Gwen becomes extremely skilled at making the best of variable conditions. MIDDLE RIGHT: Evan poses with the crew from SUP Erie Adventures on a gorgeous down day along Lake Erie. RIGHT: The tour rolls through Wisconsin with stops at Olbrich Park on Lake Monona and then swaps over to Lake Michigan outside Sheboygan.

One of Gwen’s favorite and most surprising stops was up in Burlington, Vermont. Nestled inland on Lake Champlain, Gwen and Evan connected with Russ Scully of Burlington Surf Club. With grassy launch areas, tons of amenities and a shallow, sandy bottom, the waterfront club is a kiter’s paradise. North is the best wind direction, but when it blows from the south, you have to drift out to the wind line. Once you get your kite up, the foiling is picturesque and nothing short of epic. A surprising connection with legendary waterman Chuck Patterson, who lives in Burlington, led to some E-foil tow-ins on the no-wind days and a great tour of the small but very likable New England town. From there, the demo headed west into New York, this time inland, to find wind along the northeast corner of Lake Erie, where they dialed in some light wind kitefoiling sessions along Sunset Bay Beach.  

One of the key stops on the tour was an unexpected windy session in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Having skirted the southern tip of the Great Lakes, Gwen picked up young South African megaloop charger, Camdyn Kellett, in Chicago, and headed up the west shore of Lake Michigan. With its ocean-sized fetch, Lake Michigan’s wind causes upwelling that, even in the summer months, can be cold enough to warrant wetsuits. According to Gwen, “Camdyn is an amazing kid; he’s hard-working, super friendly and capable of putting on a first-rate show on the water.” With proficient video editing skills, Camdyn and Gwen charged on the water and kicked out YouTube videos of their adventures. 

Above: Known for his endless reserves of energy and ingenious ability to crank out YouTube videos on the road, Gwen Le Tutour celebrates the completion of the first leg of the Cabrinha tour. With plans to score September sessions down the coast of California and spend October winging back across the southern states, Gwen’s coast to coast tour is only halfway done.

Pausing in Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has family, Gwen punctuated the eastern leg of his trip with familiar foil sessions in the deep waters of Lake Pend Oreille. Looking back at his stops along the eastern seaboard, the wind was anything but textbook and the logistics nerve-wracking, but the consistent reward was learning about new beaches and connecting with real kiteboarders. Sure, you can travel to the best-known kite meccas for steady wind and world-class conditions, but the experience of connecting with everyday kiteboarders in their own backyards is an equally rewarding adventure. Running a demo operation by its very nature requires you to seek both wind and personal connections. Having landed in friendly kiteboarding territory state after state, Gwen depended on the kindness of local shops and people to find kiteboarding communion. Gwen’s biggest takeaway, aside from the East Coast’s terrible state of parking facilities—kiteboarding is as much about state-of-the-art equipment and good conditions as it is about sharing the stoke with fresh faces. As the demo tour continues past Hood River, into the next leg down the California coast and across the southern states, Gwen will continue the search for new friends and generous parking facilities.

This article was featured in our fall 2021 issue, Vol. 18, No. 3. To read more, click here.

 

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