|INTRO - Gavin McClurg is captain of Discovery, a 57-foot catamaran that becomes home to riders on the Best Odyssey, transporting them on remote expeditions, chasing wind and waves. On the high seas, things don't always go to plan. This is the third chapter in his regular column.
Jody and I are told by just about everyone who comes out on Discovery that our job is incredible. We run a boat that goes around the world seeking remote and wild places to kiteboard that most people will never see. I admit, put that way, it's hard to disagree. But until our tenth trip of our first season in Los Roques, Venezuela, some nine months into the expedition, Jody and I were both seeing very little light at the end of a very long tunnel. Maintenance, cleaning, schedules, zero income, mounting debt, always racing to be ready for the next group and never really catching up, had been adding up to very long days and very little peace. Yes, the 'office' has a nice view, but we were definitely losing perspective. You know you're in trouble when turquoise water and gorgeous sunsets are glossed over like yesterday's paper.
Thankfully, a group of people came out at just the right time and set our heads straight. Forget the wild beauty of Los Roques; forget the perfect kiting conditions; forget all the things that make what we're doing so unique and truly special. Give me great people, in this case ex-PKRA superstar Alvaro Onieva, Kiteboarding editor Aaron Sales, Best Kiteboarding photographerGavin Butler and two lovely kite chicks from Real Kiteboarding, Enily Vater and Lulu Vronman. All the other stuff is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
But it was hardly a smooth start. Just minutes after boarding Discovery, Alvaro and Aaron got their kites flying off the stern and headed off five miles downwind to a nearby uninhabited island, where we planned to meet up. Then things got a little scary, or at least? interesting. Just as we were getting ready to pull anchor a very agitated, clearly drunk and quite hulky Venezuelan official began screaming at me in Spanish from a nearby boat. I raced over in our dinghy to see what was going on and was immediately accosted and threatened with jail time. This guy was really pissed off. Apparently kitesurfing was not allowed in this area as it was just in front of the airport. I pointed out that the kites flew no higher than our mast and we would be immediately heading far away from the airport, but the man was adamant and only got more and more hysterical (evidenced by the constant spray of spit smacking me in the face even though I was several feet away). Before I could get things under control the guy and two armed men jumped in their lanchita and raced off after Alvaro and Aaron, now well underway. I raced back to Discovery and we joined chase as the two kites shrank on the horizon.
Alvaro was the first to return. He manoeuvred adeptly back to us and jumped up on the stern, looking a bit sheepish after getting screamed at by the guards. Aaron was then similarly confronted, but he doesn't speak Spanish and couldn't understand what the cabelleros wanted. When one of the guards pulled a gun, returning to us seemed like the best move. He beat his pursuers back to Discovery and thumped down on the opposite stern looking understandably petrified.
What a fiasco! Our new guests had just gotten on board and two of them had already been threatened with a gun! Okay, the Best Odyssey promises high adventure but this was a little over the top. Enily, Alvaro and I pleaded our case in the politest way we could and eventually were told to simply wait (we were now in the middle of the ocean with two kiters and their kites flying off the stern) for them to return with a citation. We disabled the kites, had a few stress relieving laughs, waited half an hour for our citation and finally made the call to just sail away, as thankfully, the gang of thugs were too intoxicated to bother us again. This worked perfectly well. We had a great sail and never did see that unruly lot again.
For the next five days we would sail, kite, play cards, eat incredible food and simply enjoy the company of wonderful new friends in a remarkable area. We asked each other what the highlight of our trip had been. The answers were quite telling, ranging from last night's dinner (baked red snapper with a sweet pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, bacon and cashew crust, served over grilled zucchini and sun-dried tomato polenta with a buerre blanc and balsamic glaze); to last night's dessert (panne cotta with strawberry coulis); to snorkelling; to the wildlife (birds, fish, turtles, manta rays?); to just realizing that this boat does exist allowing for anticipation of great adventure.
Notice kiteboarding isn't even mentioned. Yet we all kited so much in such epic conditions that even Alvaro had to take a break after getting blisters on his hands. We rode butter-flat water, we rode over gorgeous reef, we rode on water so many shades of blue and green you wonder if it can be real. On that last night I looked out at the fiery end of a blazing sunset and just sat in awe. In that moment I realised we'd made it through the tunnel to the other side.
Our mission on the Best Odyssey is of course kiteboarding. But it is the people, the friendships, the camaraderie that propel us onward. It has very little to do with the wind.
Follow Gavin and Jody on their expeditions at: www.offshoreodysseys.com
This article was taken from issue #41. Click here to find out more about it
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