Just imagine for a second undertaking the challenge of traveling on the ocean on a surfboard for an average of 90 km per day for 4 days in a row, reaching some of the most beautiful scenery available in Brazil, sleeping in small fishing village to recharge your batteries before hitting the waves again and again for over 6 hours daily. This is what I’ve been signing in for on this incredible journey of downwinder KiteSurf trip that took me on an adventure of more than 350 km of surfing in August 2020. The prospect of such a challenge seemed overwhelming at first when a friend invited me to take part in Lagartixa kite trip, but it undoubtedly turned out one of the most amazing experience I have done in the past years!
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The beauty of KiteSurfing lies in it’s astonishing freedom and ability to roam the oceans anywhere, as long as there’s wind. Since north-eastern Brazil has plenty of it, with a consistent 20+ knots average on every single day during the season, surfing long distance expeditions has become a branch of it’s own in the sport of Kite Surfing, a challenge that is taken every year in the Ceara state by an ever growing number of surfers nationally and internationally as well. This year was my turn, and although I must admit the perspective of cruising over 350 km on a surfboard attached to a single kite was overwhelming and stressful, the sensation of having accomplished it is even more gratifying and one of the most memorable adventure I’ve undertaken in years!
Definitely not easy, and God knows I’ve had my share of physical challenges around the world, from trying every sports I can find in every country I visit like sky diving and bungee jumping, to multi-day volcano hikes to reach it’s active craters. This time, it was something else. The expeditions was spread over 4 days, with an average of about 80 to 90 kilometers of surfing every day. I trained for several months prior to the trip, pretty much every single day while living in Cumbuco near Fortaleza in the Brazilian state of Ceara. That said, I am happy I did, as my physical level was on point for the challenge. But even so, by the end of the journey, my legs were reduced to jello, bathing in lactic acid accumulated over the course of four days of intense labor. A testimony that hard work had been invested to reach the finish line at all costs.
Freeride Kitesurfing vs Downwind KiteSurfing
As much as KiteSurf has several disciplines such as freeride, freestyle or racing, downwind should be considered one of it’s own. The skills needed to go directly in the direction of the wind are not as obvious as it first sounds, and special training is necessary to undertake long distance traveling on the coast. Everybody that joined the expedition were experienced KiteSurfers, as the requirement to join was to have a minimum of 3 years of experience. Even so, many participants had to give up and finished some of the days in the rescue cars for different reasons ranging from broken gear, accidents and exhaustion.
Downwind expeditions are almost inexistent outside Brazil because few places around the world offer the consistency of winds that are needed to spend a whole day surfing over 100km. But in Brazil, a considerable amount of kitesurfers get into the sport for the sole objective to do downwind expeditions. And it makes perfect sense. The coast of Ceara stretches over hundreds of kilometers of astonishing natural beauty, pristine beaches and warm equatorial waters. As roads are scarce in the region, visiting this paradise on earth can only be seen from the coast of the ocean, and thus such an expedition is the perfect way to experience it. The conditions in this part of the world are perfect for such a means of transport, with a steady temperature of 30 degrees, warm 28 degree waters and absolutely no rain in the windy season.
The Ironman of the oceans
The challenge itself was a little bit inspired by Ironman. As KiteSurf is gaining popularity in the world as one of the fasting growing extreme sport, the parallels are many with an Ironman type of race. Several companies provides support and organizes each year expeditions over hundreds of kilometers. One of them ironically calls itself iron macho, in reference to Ironman. This time I have join the ranks of another one called Lagartixa which counted about 80 participants. The beauty of joining an organized expedition is the security it provides in the eventuality of an accident. Equipment can fail, and getting the piece of mind of receiving rescue in these situations is reassuring. Fortunately, everything went smooth for me on my trip, with the exception of a broken strap on my board that required fixing mid-ocean. But considering so many other participants encountered much worst and severe problems, such as broken kites and hitting rocks, my issue was minor.
Four days of Surfing
The trip was devided in four days. The first day we left Cumbuco and surfed all the way to Lagoinha, for a total of about 80 km in 5 hours, including a few breaks along the way. The second day was the hardest, a total of 110 km from Lagoinha to Almofada, which was definitely pushing the limits of humanly possible KiteSurf travel. To get through ,we had to push hard to reach speeds over 50 km/h by surfing on the foam of the breaking wave, forming a nice stretch of flat water but risking getting engulfed in the next monster wave crashing soon after. The scenario was my biggest worry as getting smashed by a rolling wave can cause the kite to crash in the waves and require emergency eject to avoid it being caught in another wave where it can explode by the extreme power it generates in the kite. Gladly, I avoided such scenario even though I did get smashed a few times by bad timing. But it’s part of the adventure, nothing never goes smooth sailing as they say.
Our third day was about 80 km long, going from Almofada to Prea, near the famous resort of Jericoacoara, where most of the participants left the expedition. I had chosen to continue an extra day, all the way to Camocim, an additional 80 km of paradise beaches and definitely my favorite part of the trip. The arrival at our end destination was absolutely mind-blowing, surfing high-speed on complete flat water between the waves crashed, with a sun setting directly off the horizon in front of us, as we were rushing to arrive to the finish line before the nightfall! The sensation was overwhelming, the feeling of arriving to the finish line with this incredible natural beauty. It was simply incredible. We then joined a cocktail that had been prepared for us at a bar on Praia de Maceió with the rest of the group, a little nostalgic of the end of the journey, but relieved that we had achieved this incredible challenge! What an experience, one that i will remember for the rest of my life!
How to join a Downwind
Hoping to join such an adventure? You’ll be glad to know that several KiteSurfing downwinders are organized every season in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Ceara. Some even go across several states! You can join a group trip or even contact companies who make custom trips adapted to all levels. You can reach out to me if you need more information, it will be a pleasure to orient you in the good direction.
If you hesitate to do it, don’t. It will create memories you will carry with you for a lifetime!
Video Summary of the Trip
Amazing YouTube Video Downwind Lagartixa. Click here to watch on Youtube.
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