Leaving the comfort zone
A Brazilian experience with Surfin Sem Fim
Words – Cédric Tassier
Full report taken from – E-Group.com.br
When I was young I had the opportunity to grow-up on a sailing boat on a 3-year trip around the world with my brother, sister and parents. From this great experience I learned how much life is unique and how important it is to push yourself to the limits to make the best of our lives. Last year my beloved fiancée Candice has lost her father Carl Hemingway to a staggering cancer. It reminded us how precious health and life are. This autumn I decided to challenge myself in trying to accomplish a « kitesurf Iron Man » of 600 kilometers with Surfin Sem fim (which means “endless surf” in Brazilian). The idea is to sail downwind for 6 days to cross 3 Brazilian states (from Taiba to Atins). Candice has received from her family (she is the great-grandniece of the writer Ernest Hemingway) an important heritage of love for the ocean and a taste for challenge. She was my very first and best support in this adventure. Therefore, it was only natural that we decided together to make this possible and to push our limits for a good cause. We created a charity project: kite4cancer to organise a fundraising for an important charity association: “League against the cancer”. And because €1 per km (600 euros), was not challenging enough, we decided to aim for €10 per km: 6000 euros, by the end of July, 3 months before the departure. We intended to help other patients and to continue the fight against cancer by using our common passion: kitesurfing, adventure and ocean.
To maximize your chances of success, preparation is key.
Fundraising: in order to reach our fundraising target, Candice and I decided to create several online pages. On social media we created a dedicated account https://www.instagram.com/kite4cancer on Instagram and on Facebook we created a public page https://www.facebook.com/kite4cancer where we reached more than 1 million views in total in less than 3 months. We also created a dedicated website http://www.kite4cancer.com to be able to raise maximum awareness regarding our charity project and to continue the fight against cancer. The warm welcome and the support we have received from our friends and family was impressive. For example all the digital work with the creation of the stickers and logo was done by my sister in law and printed on a T-shirt of a company where Candice’s aunt works.
The IronMan: One of the best spots for kitesurfing in autumn, is the Brazilian north Atlantic ocean coast (called Nordeste) on the northwest of Fortaleza just below Guyana and the equator parallel. During the wind period peak (October/ November) you have a 100% chance to have enough wind to kite. This is due to the strong trade winds that come all the way from Africa with no natural obstacles, and therefore arrive in full force on the coast. Even better, these winds are sometimes amplified by the thermal wind which comes from the warm air masses created on the hundreds of km of dunes.
During this period the whole worldwide community of kite pro-riders and kite addicts are in this part of Brazil. You have many disciplines in kitesurfing, foil, freestyle, race, wave and now more and more people like to make long distance downwind. It is the most enjoyable part of kitesurfing because after a ride on waves or a big jumps you don’t need to go over the wind to come back where you came from, you just follow the wind and take the next wave and the next jump. Surfin Sem Fim organise more than 20 downwinds with different routes during the wind period. For the second time this year they have organized an “ironman of kitesurf” of 600km to cross 3 Brazilian states as I mentioned above. It’s a route for the more experienced kitesurfer as there are days with more than 140 kilometers. The target is to leave Taiba on the 30th of October and to sail for 6 days between 6 and 8 hours per day on an average speed of between 15 and 25km/h to reach the destination Atins on the 5of November, the day before my Birthday!
Healthy food and sport: In 3 months I completely changed my life-style by stopping smoking and drinking. I developed new healthy food habits. I started to run 10km every 3 days and twice per week I went to the swimming pool to swim 2km (1:05 at the beginning and 45min at the end).
Equipment: Even if Surfin Sem Fim organized a break every 2 hrs with food and drinks, to resist more than 8 hrs in the water it’s good to have a camelback. I also took some hydrocaronate powder to put in the camelback to facilitate the hydration and some Isotonic Energy Gel with Caffeine which was very helpful on the last day for some boost. I also had an SPF50+ lycra, gloves and a helmet to ensure better sun protection. Finally, I also took 2 sets of spare fins and some Solarez to fix any potential scratches on the surfboard.
Kite material: I was more in C-Shape and hybrid kites but I decided to look for the best material for the downwind. I didn’t find any specific material for downwind but to facilitate the downwind the best option is to have a kite with good drift capabilities and therefore I chose the reliable 2017 North waves material (kite : 2017 Neo 6m – 8m – 10m / bar : click-bar surfboard : wam 5’10 / twintip : xRide). After more than 40 hrs on water during for 6 days I had the chance to appreciate the new 2017 North products. They are just awesome. The Neo has amazing speed rotation capabilities and it drifts more than I thought a kite could drift. I had some big crashes between rocks and waves and when I thought it was finished for this ride the kite restarted perfectly and quickly without any twisted lines. Regarding the click-bar the adjustable depower is something new because I don’t often need to change my depower. When you start to enjoy a precise power you understand what you missed before. In addition, the automatically untwisted solution during rotations, embedded in the bar, is extremely useful to concentrate on your kite riding instead of your front lines when you surf downwind. The new Neo 2017 and the click bar are most certainly the perfect combo to enjoy the waves when you are a downwinder.
Sponsorship: to be able to organize and to make this challenge possible we received support and sponsoring from the following companies who believed in our charity project : Feelfree gear (dry bag to travel), Tomtom sport (bandit camera with GPS and speed info in the video), North Kiteboarding (kite equipment), La Kiterie (kite repair in France), Alierys (engineering company), 123venture (asset management firm), Le Marseillais (kite4cancer wearable t-shirt), Hegoa (safety rescue jacket in a rescue belt), Optic Duroc Levallois-Perret (optician) and Cannes Mairie (support from David Lisnard, mayor of my home town: Cannes). The most touching and impressive for us was to see how many peoples shared the values of this sport challenge with a charity goal.
The Kite and SSF team: I arrived in the Taiba village a few days before the departure date to acclimate a little bit and to finish the preparation. The team was complete the day before the departure and we were all very pleased to get to know each other and excited to be part of this amazing experience.
The team was an interesting mix of different ages and cultures and it looked like the beginning of a joke : 2 friendly polish guys who like vodka as much as kiting (Maciek and Grzegorz), 2 Italians who have more skills in joking than in kiting (Massimo and Mateao), 2 Brazilians who did the ironman last year (Sérgio and Ricardo), 2 Belgian guys with the same name, Cédric (including myself) and a feminine touch with a nice German girl, Doris, who came for this 600Km as training to prepare for her cross-atlantic kitesurfing experience. But it was not a joke, we were all there to accomplish this challenge with only one common passion: kitesurfing! The organisers’ team included the nice and well organized Jalila who managed the logistics of SSF, Andrea “el Capitaine” our main guide, who has already been several times in this part of Brazil in downwind, Janjao our local guide who came from Icaraizinho, Alex Neto pro-rider and 2 very experienced drivers who were always smiling and helping us to land or to launch our kite during the stops.
Day 1: The first endless surfing day
First step of the Ironman challenge was from Taiba to Guajiru (65 km). I was very excited to cross the famous Paracuru waves spot. I understand now why this spot is famous for waves because we had between 1 and 2 hours of waves with some big series (around 2m). The landscape is absolutely stunning, wind conditions are perfect and I was riding awesome, endless waves for over 6 hours. You can’t hope for a better start. We arrived at a beautiful pousada on the beach where we were warmly welcomed with a coconut juice.
Day 2: Life is a wave and I want to surf it
The second day, after leaving the hotel with my kite I realized that we were going to travel the whole week only with the wind. I spent a magic day kitesurfing from Guajiru to Icaraizinho (70km). The Ironman team found its cruising speed though we encountered huge waves during the whole day! Just before the arrival at Icaraizinho I had the chance of an unexpected nice meeting on the water. I shared some waves with the very friendly French surfer Sylvain Maurin and his famous tiki. During the evening we met him in Icaraizinho and I also paid a quick visit to friends I had met the year before in Brazil. It kept it short to allow for enough rest before the challenge’s third day during which we were going to be ridding 135km (the total kms for the previous two days).
Day 3: A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
The third day’s challenge is in two steps, 65 km from Icarai to Arpoeiras and then 70km from Arpoeiras to Préa. Unfortunately, it was not possible for our 2 Italian friends to join the downwind team due to the mandatory minimum cruise speed required to ensure arrival at destination before the sunset. In addition, Ricardo who managed to finish the ironman last year decided not to kitesurf that day as he had hurt his wrist the day before. The whole team felt that the beginning of the challenge had started for real. We did the first part easily and reached Ilha do Gajiru. After the lunch break on the beach we left Ilha do Gajiru where two routes were possible. The safest one is far away from the beach and the dangerous fish traps but with choppy water. It was where the whole group decided to go. The other route was riskier in the middle of the nets but the temptation of the full speed and mega loops in ultra-flat and very shallow water was too big for Alex, JanJao and I. With the knowledge of our friendly guide JanJao who owns a posada not too far from where we were, in Icaraizinho, we managed to do it safely. At the end of the day it was the first race against the clock to reach Préa before the sunset! The team achieved their goal but not without some effort.
Day 4: Follow the white rabbit
The distance to cover is so great (140km) that the Surfin Sem Fim team decided to leave earlier than usual, before the wind started blowing. It was the perfect occasion to practise strapless surfing and kite loops. The light wind, however, exhausted the group. Unfortunately, by the time we passed the famous village of Jericoacoara, the group hadn’t advanced fast enough. The excellent expertise of the guides made Andre and Jalila take a difficult decision: the challengers who were not able to follow the leader Janjao and his white kite would have to quit at the next stop (about 40km, 2 hours maximum) and would finish the ride to the next nightspot by car. Everyone was under pressure, all the challengers remained bundled. After more than 7 hours of kitesurfing without releasing the pressure, staying very concentrated and passing through wild areas but with exceptional landscapes, the team arrived safely at their destination a few minutes after an amazing sunset. All of us felt intensely exhausted but proud and happy to have reached all together our pousada totally isolated on an island in the middle of Brazil Nordeste.
Day 5: You could not buy happiness but you could buy a kite and do endless downwinds in the Brazilian heaven.
Today’s distance is 60km from Itaqui to Poldros. Unfortunately, my roommate had to leave the adventure due to a sprained ankle (but we promised to finish this last part together next year). The Ironman team discovered the amazing wildlife that surrounds the delta “do Parnaiba” and untouched landscapes with extremely clean waves.
We arrived early at our destination on Poldros island and we enjoyed the surrounding nature where we met some alligators! We also had some rest because the day after was going to be the challenge’s final day and certainly the most technical ! We were all happy and excited to be so close to the finishing line.
Day 6: The last day but not the least.
The 6th and final day of the kitesurfing Ironman challenge! Despite some pain, the team felt ready to finish this challenging adventure of 600km kitesurfing. It was a very technical day of 130km with more than 7 hrs on the water. We had to pass some huge river mouths with important currents and unexpected waves. Even if the whole team was tired we were impressed by the unreal wild landscape of the Parnaiba Delta (one of the biggest in the world) that we had to cross. For the last part we had to cross a scary beach where the waves finished crashing in the middle of thousands of tree sticks, which looked like swords. This « hell » beach was the « door destination. Once again, we arrived just before the end of the day at Atins, an untouched fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It’s with a lot of emotion that the team felt the “mission accomplished” and we enjoyed a nice welcoming drink on the beach in the sunset. Later we had a lovely diploma ceremony organized by Surfin Sem Fim during our last diner where we all agreed that this once in a lifetime experience would never be possible without the drivers, Andre, Janjão, Alex and Jalila.