Ah, at last, the promised land of milk and honey, complex IPAs, and Elysian winds. I had been trying to reach this place the entire summer, and by beginning of August finally achieved my goal. Summer in Hood River is pure bliss with warm days, cool nights, and a beautiful strong breeze blowing most days. There are lots of outdoors activities to partake in: The Dirty Fingers Bicycle Repair Shop Thursday group ride (with free keg of quality brew after), kiting off the sandbar with your friends, or paddling around on a SUP board — the fun just doesn’t stop. I have to admit I didn’t take all that many photos, as I was too busy doing other things…
There is also a whole sub-culture of van dwellers, and I have to thank my friend Tanya for showing me the ropes of the lifestyle when I first arrived. On several occasions locals told me they first arrived in HR in their windsurf or kite van and never ended up leaving…Let’s see if I make it out 🙂
Some final preparations over Fourth of July weekend had me ready to hit the road at last. I set out northbound on PCH, hoping to catch some wind along the way. I didn’t find too much wind to kite with, but a steady headwind seemed to be there cutting down the gas mileage of my breadbox to below 18 mpg. I visited friends in the Pismo/SLO area and continued on, taking my time, but trying to reach San Francisco with some expedience. Four days later I arrived in this marvelous city, and got to enjoy all the bay area has to offer for a wondering, wind-loving hobo. Lots of time with friends, good coffee, heaps of wind, and a thorough check-up of the local green tech scene. It was neat living on the Haight (in a bus man!) and cruising around the Castro, Berkeley, Panhandle…So many places to explore! I never thought it before, but this is a place I could end up living!
Here is a drawing one talented fellow made of the scene near my friend Tony’s house at Buena Vista Park:
I continued on and met my friend Chris at Sherman Island, a kite spot everybody said I should check out on the Sacramento River Delta. Sherman did not disappoint. Chris and I ended up spending a week there with the wind building from steady to nuking through the week. I was also dog sitting Kodai for this week, and it felt like a blessing to get to spend some more precious time with my old friend (14.5 years old).
I continued on, and spent some amazing days among the Redwoods vibing in with these magnificent trees, the tall ones standing near 400 ft tall, and up to 600 years old. I visited both Humboldt Redwoods State Park along HWy 101 and Redwood NP near the Oregon border. Both parks are spectacular, with the latter being more humid and oceanic, and therefore having more undergrowth etc. I enjoyed some great mountain biking in both parks. In Redwood NP, I nearly ran over a black bear on a downhill run, and stopped to watch him scamper up a large redwood. Those guys can climb! In seconds he was 30 feet up. Do not try to climb a tree to get away from a bear. Bribe them with Huckleberry pie instead…
Continuing on I visited several spots on the Oregon coast, but for some reason didn’t take much photos (though kited several spots). One of the spectacular spots where I did not spend enough time was Pistol River — I vow to return.
Boy, the heat and dust of Cambodia really wore me down, and the longing for smooth winds and tropical waters was unbearable. A name of a kite spot in the Philippines had come up several times, and when my British kite crew from Mui Ne said they were going there next, I decided I would check it out as well and commence the Pacific island hop back home to California.
Boracay is somewhat buried in the Philippine islands. From Manila it’s an airplane, bus, and ferry ride away, but once you get there you don’t really need to move. I ended up accosting a fellow kiteboarder in the terminal at Kalibo international, and we hitched a ride together to the ferry spot in Caticlan. The ferry over to the cay is a hoot — riding in wooden trimarans with bamboo outriggers. The ratty lifejacket everyone is handed when boarding made me think of the steady flow of deadly ferry accidents in this part of the world (2009 , 2008, …). The crossing is not very long though, and possibly swimmable 🙂 On Boracay, I ended up staying at the same place where my fellow kiter Birgit and her sister had reservations (I don’t do reservations) — Surfer’s Home on Bulabog beach about 20 meters form the water. The next morning waking up in my new digs, I couldn’t help but be ecstatic. The wind was cranking, the sun bright, and kiters were slicing through gorgeous blue water. Time to pump up!
Boracay has an interesting split personality for an island. The east side of this skinny cay has a coral-reef-protected beach called Bulabog. It is a kitespot and offers nothing for the typical beach goer — the beach is narrow, and the wind is strong. The west side of the island sports White Sands beach, and as the name implies it has a gorgeous, broad white sand beach of postcard quality, but it also sports a tourist as grave as you can imagine with even an air-conditioned Starbucks on the sand beach path. There are also lots of clubs with DJs suffering from AVCD (Asian Volume Control Disorder). This disease is serious, and I noticed it in all SE Asian countries I visited where evidently people don’t realize there are volume gradations between ‘1’ and ’11’. Anyway, White Sands Beach is a must-do for a sunset cocktail, but I only ventured over there a handful of times during my three-week stay.
The diurnal wind pattern is somewhat unusual in Boracay: it’s windy in the morning, dies down around noon, and then picks up again in the afternoon. Being a morning person, this pattern suited me fine, and accommodated a mid-day nap and afternoon/sunset session — Paradise indeed. Besides making pals with Birgit, we ended up having a fun and very international crew to kite and party with. I also finally ended got to do a full-moon session — awesome fun and an adrenaline rush to be sure.
Mui Ne is a small fishing town located in the Vietnam province of Phan Tiet, not too far from Saigon. The word means sheltered cape in Vietnamese and the bay behind this very windy part of the world is where the town is located. Windy, is of course the reason that this guy arrived here. The kite is on in the northern hemisphere winter, and after spending time sitting on my gas hog, I was ready to get back into shape and enjoy the ocean. I don’t have many photos of our kiting (because I was kiting, duh), but overall, Mui Ne ended up being a wonderful spot. I stayed at a kiter hangout hostel, with a high quality ping pong table (great warm up before getting on the water), and cool people.
My favorite kiting on Mui Ne was doing the down-winder to Phan Tiet. Dodging multiple lines of fishing nets while cruising through overhead shore break on Malibu beach wasn’t very relaxing for me, so I usually stuck to the main Mui Ne bay, partly as well out of sheer laziness.
Here’s a map from buddy Enzo’s website http://www.kitesurfbarcelona.com/
Way back in Brazil I had been invited to come stay with my friend Anna in Vejer de la Frontera in Andalucía. She mentioned her family’s place was close to Tarifa — another one of those kite/windsurf meccas, so after much contemplation I decided to go. This would be my first time ever visiting Spain.
Andalucía was fantastic (as was the rest of Spain). The place has oodles of fresh seafood, lots of sunshine and great wind. My only regret is I didn’t spend more time. I took a day trip to Cádiz with my buddy Christiane, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset with amazing colors — I tweaked the exposure on the harbor photos, but the rest is as shot.
The kiting was fun, and not to be ruined by a few equipment setbacks. My favorite beaches were definitely Zahora and Los Caños de Meca near Trafalgar (where Nelson was killed) with beautiful water, lots of wind, and the Maroccan coast in the background.
“And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually ” — Jimi Hendrix
Even the Phoenicians thought this was a pretty neat place back around 600 BC with its natural harbor and strategic advantages. Essaouira (Eh-sue-wee-raa) has been occupied by pretty much any seafaring people of Western civilization: Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch — they all tried to lay claim as accounted for by the extensive antique canon collection on the city walls.
In the sixties, there was a hippie invasion (lead by the likes of Hendrix) of sorts here from what I read, and that is still evident somewhat by musicians hanging out and people selling “space-cake”.
We only spent one night in this walled marvel, but had a good time scampering across the ramparts, kiting, riding camels, and trying to abscond with a medieval canon. Even though Essaouira is a Unesco world heritage site, a considerable portion of the city is literally in ruins. (I didn’t end up bringing home the medieval canon — the Ryanair luggage surcharges would have been somewhere around 2000 euro I believe, even if I had checked it in as “sports equipment”).
Jericoacoara is not the most practical place to live by western standards. There’s no ATM in town. Gasoline comes out of a two-liter Coke bottle. Any distance covered on foot is an automatic workout as you have to tread through ankle-deep soft-sand. But you can get everything you need — the sun is plentiful, cold agua de coco is on hand just about any where you need it, açaí is available most times of day, and you can shake a leg pretty much every night of the week. I could keep going on, but I think you’ll get the picture…
Or: What makes my heart beat…
Jerí is not known as a kite spot per se — the wind is off-shore and the local windsurfers don’t like the kiters there. But starting around July every year the wind blows so hard it turns the beach into a sand blaster and makes the palm trees bend toward the ground. It’s hard to resist.
Most days, I kited at a beach called Praia Malhada. It has a little bit of a funky launch with a rotor coming off a hill, and sharp rocks camouflaged as sand that claimed both considerable skin from my right big toe and rip-stop nylon from both my kites, but other than that, it’s a fantastic spot to kite.
My typical daily routine would be to hit the beach around three pm and kite for about three hours until sunset. Then I would wonder on down the beach and grab an açaí on the Rua Principal, or a beer at Club Ventos. The town is small enough to know everybody after a few weeks, so you always have a friend to talk to (and practice Portuguese!).
On many occasions I went for downwinders with my buddies Marko and Zé (and Rob earlier in the trip) either from Preá back to Jeri, or from Jeri to a river about 12km down. Pedra Furada as seen from the ocean at sunset is quite spectacular.
Many thanks to Erik Almklov for this footage:
After much effort and with pain in my heart, I unstuck my butt from Rio de Janeiro and flew north to Fortaleza in the state of Ceará. I spent little time in this picturesque yet scary city and got on the bus to Jericoacoara with no delay. Up until this point I had been in cities, always near about 10 million people or so, and I was looking forward to some nature and peace.
Jericoacoara is the place. I first heard of this small fishing village from my buddy Ace who told me about it when we were discussing kiteboarding spots for my trip. Ace has spent quite a few seasons here improving his windsurfing skills, meeting his wife, etc. Jeri (for short) has grown quite a bit in popularity in the last decade or so, and is now a tourist destination of sorts for Brazilians, but primarily, it remains a mecca for wind- and kitesurfing. It is located at 2.8º South and enjoys steady trades for most the year with the windier months sporting 30-40 knot winds.
The town is about as quaint as you can find them. There is not a single paved road within miles, and the only way to get around town is with a horse or dune buggy due to the soft-sand roads. There’s a giant dune everyone goes to for sunset, and after sunset, a capoeira circle forms on the beach. Every day except for Sunday the fishermen go out in their jangadas — a fishing vessel that hasn’t changed for the last five centuries or so. They come back with all kinds of fish, mostly for local consumption. If you want, you can sit on the beach under an umbrella drinking an ‘agua de coco’ straight from the coconut (it’s got electrolytes!) and pick out a fresh fish for R15 or so (~$8). You then have a guy grill it for you right there — plenty of food for two…
Currently, I am splitting my time between kiting and watching the world cup. As I mentioned, it’s a big deal here when Brazil plays. The last game I watched with Rob, a fellow kiter from Ireland, at Z-Chopp. We joined the crowd congregated in the street around a lone flatscreen TV. After every Brazil goal, a round of artillery-grade fireworks would go off at about 30 feet distance from where I was sitting which, surprisingly, didn’t startle the small children or dogs that were all around. Brazil plays Holland in the quarter final on Friday, and hopefully they will continue on because I have a feeling the party will only get crazier as Brazil keeps winning.
After getting back to SoCal, I was itching to go kite some of the spots that my skill level precluded me from in the past. Many of the great spots have narrow, short beaches, and that means you have to be able to stay upwind comfortably to make it back to the beach — something I wasn’t good at yet before La Ventana. When a storm was forecasted to come through, I decided to check out Leo Carillo beach — a popular spot with kiteboarders. The forecast on Wednesday was for 20-30 mph building to over 30. I ended up going a little further down to County Line (Ventura/Los Angeles county line of Surfin’ USA fame) because, surprisingly giving the windy conditions, not that many people were out.
The session that followed was the most intense one so far in my short kiting career. Chest high to over-head wind chop (i.e. steep on both sides) and gusty conditions made for a wild ocean rodeo. It was exhilarating, it was scary, it was fun! The first wave I jumped I got about 10 ft of air without trying to jump.
I ended up only staying out for an hour and a half, as the watertemperature of around 55° F and the dumping of my kite into the surf were convincing arguments to call it a day. I hung around a little longer to take a few photos, and keep an eye out for a kiter that had some equipment issues (he ended up self rescuing with no incident), and then headed on across PCH to Neptune’s net for a brew and a hot bowl of clam chowder.
I got smart on my way up the Baja peninsula and took my time to see some neat spots. My first stop was Loreto, BCS — home of the first mission of the Californias. I rented a little room above a hardware store for the night and enjoyed a hot shower. The next morning, I took a walk around this picturesque town, and enjoyed an eggs with cactus breakfast while watching the tourists and locals.
On my way down the coast, I had put a few x’s on my map where I wanted to camp on the way north, and when I reached the turn that brought me to Bahía Concepción I looked over that gorgeous bay with a lustful eye. At about kilometer marker 94.5 there is a sliver of a beach called Playa Requesón. I rolled down the dirt road to the beach to have some lunch if nothing else, but lo and behold someone was on the beach with a kite! It turned out Kristine and Kevin, fellow kiters/hobos, had stopped here on their way North from La Ventana. I quickly decided to camp for the night and set up my gear for a session on some of the most gorgeous water the Sea of Cortez has to offer. Being out on the water by myself with no other vessel around for miles felt pretty neat, but also made me ride pretty conservatively. Kevin was my only backup, if something were to go wrong.
Here’s just a few more photos of kiting and arroyo life. While kiting I got the chance to see some great wildlife up close including a 20-lb tuna, a turtle, a sea lion biting a big trumpet fish in half, and various other birds and such. The kite is pretty low-impact so you don’t generally spook wildlife. It occurred to me it might be a neat way to go spearfishing (for advanced kiters only).
Well, I didn’t last long at the campground. The brackish water and questionable hygiene in the bathrooms made the 90 pesos/day fee seem kind of steep ($7) especially when you can buy dinner for half that. I met some cool people who were living in one of the arroyos (dry river bed) just bordering the camp ground, so I pulled up stakes and joined the gang.
Life in the arroyo is pretty relax with a nice sense of community. We share a communal kitchen between about seven of us, and also have a crow’s nest palapas hang out to have morning coffee, and see who is getting some sick air on the water in the afternoon. An additional feature of the swanky arroyo that is now my home is “La Casa de Vapor” — a makeshift steam room, that is a wood-fired contraption of hoses, an old gas tank, some plywood and a tarp. After a hard day of kiting it feels nice to get nice and steamy with some of your fellow kiters. Once you let go of your claustrophobic penchant and crawl into the three-foot tall structure you can relax in a beach chair in the blue light of a headlamp and eucalyptus vapors coming from fresh-cut leaves.
The daily rhythm is pretty consistent except for the occasional party or outing. Get up at sunrise, enjoy coffee and swap “how I cut my foot” stories, make some breakfast, and then just wait for the wind to come up — a good time to do some chores. Then in the afternoon, we kite until our legs start giving out. At night we go get some ballenas (one liter bottles of Pacifico) and head on over to Poncho Amigos or Pablo’s for some tasty tacos or papas rellenas. Pura vida!
So far I love this place. It has been honking the last two days, so much so that I had to sit out this afternoon due to my 12 meter kite being too large. The campground is a nice mix of people who are all here for the same purpose — riding the wind…
Here’s a couple of shots of my camp and kiting: