Five Minutes with Mitu Monteiro
Words by Andre Penna – 28th September 2016
Hello Mitu, welcome to Brazil! First, tell us who you are:
My name is Oteniel Jorge Monteiro, that’s my real name, but everybody knows me as Mitu Monteiro, because my grandmother started calling me Mitu and then everybody came to know me as Mitu.
I came from a poor family in Cape Verde, and my mother needed to work and she didn´t have money to pay a babysitter, this is a long story, you know? My passion for the sea has started during these early years when I was home alone while my mom was at work.
When I was 6 years old and I used to go to the pier, to see boats coming and going so fast. For me it was like a magic, and I wanted to do the same thing! I found some scraps of wood and built a small boat. All my passion for the sea came from there.
And now in 2016 you are back in Brazil for the third time as part of the Surfin Sem Fim downwinders – this time with your beautifull family. Are you and your family enjoying the time here in Brazil?
For me it is magic to be here. The northeast of Brazil is the best spot for doing long distance downwind kite trips. The water is warm, you are always close to the shore, is not so deep, there is wind every day, the view is beautiful, the food is good, the hotels are fantastic… Everything just comes together here… Some other places you can do nice downwinders, but Brazil is different. Here, it’s pure nature.
Sometimes you are in the water, and there is nothing, you are in the desert. Suddenly you arrive in the green, and there is a river. There is a lot of contrast. I think only in Brazil you can see something like that. In some places, the car is really close to you – you can see the people’s reactions, when you think you will arrive, and then you have farther to go… And this was the first time I looked back, and it is really cool, because when you look back you realize that we are really in the middle of nowhere! It’s a really nice feeling.
I just used my stoke for kitesurfing to go from one side of the country to the other. We just crossed 3 Brazilian states, to do that traveling by kite is massive! Also, you get a lot of experience. I improve my riding a lot on these trips, some parts are flat, so I can try strapless tricks, on other parts there are some waves where you can do some surf moves.
This year, I brought my family with me because I want to share this passion with them. When I talk to my wife about Brazil, she understands, but now she can see with her own eyes, and ride with me in the water. I took my son with me in between my legs on my kiteboard, and this was a totally new experience for him. When he goes back to school, and the kids talk about what they did on vacations, my son will tell crazy stories about kitesurfing with his father, alligators, eagles – our adventures. This is a unique experience for a 4 year old kid; he will remember it for all of his life.
The other day, we were in the Delta, and we did this night safari on the rivers to see the wild life. Can you describe that experience?
This part for us was really magic. We went there to see animals, and for a while we saw nothing. We were there at night; we saw the stars, the silence, and this crazy atmosphere. Suddenly we found some alligators and other animals, and the guy with us was so cool… He is a local; he knows everything about the place. It was magic to see the guy jump into the water, and come swimming back holding an alligator on one hand. For my son, it was another unforgettable experience he will never forget, he will bring it for all of his life. I am really happy to be here!
Any other adventures around the world?
After the first time I came to Brazil, when I came back to Cape Verde, I met this girl that asked if I had some projects. I thought about the long distance trips that I had done with Surfin Sem Fim, and said to her that maybe I could try a crossing between two islands in Cape Verde, Ilha do Sal to Ilha de Boavista, wich would be about 1:30 hours riding.
To this, she replied: why don’t you cross all the islands of Cape Verde?
And I said: Whaaaaaaat??????
I think all of this is coming from Surfin Sem Fim. The first time I did some really long riding was with Surfin Sem Fim. If I did 600 kilometers in Brazil, so maybe it actually could be possible to connect all of the islands. So we started to organize this project, and last year I finally made it, and it was incredible! When I started the project, it was something personal, but in the end was similar to when I won the title, it was something for my country!
When I arrived on each island, lots of people would be there waiting for me, sometimes people stood 3 or 4 hours at the beach waiting. When I got to the beach, everybody wanted to talk to me, it was not so easy because I was really tired. They wanted to know if I saw some sharks, if I was not tired, these kinds of things… Some people brought me food; they thought I would be super hungry. It was a fantastic experience, because I managed somehow to connect all the Cape Verde islands together. I brought emotion from one end of the islands to the other.
On one of the islands, there was this boy with a plastic bag in his hands like a kite, and he said: “I am Mitu Monteiro!”. This was really emotional! Sometimes, when I arrived at the beach, I just wanted to cry, because there was a lot of emotion, all the kids coming… I remember when I arrived at Boa Vista, there was this woman (just like my mum), she said: Oh Mitu, I was scared, what if something happened to you… And she gave me a big hug.
This was an amazing trip, it was something really special, a shared memory for everyone. And I can say that Surfin Sem Fim inspired me a lot to do this!
And how did kitesurfing became part of your life?
It all started with a boat that I made from scraps.
This was the beginning of my story. Then I started bodyboarding, surfing, and when I was 12 years old I started to windsurf with a board that I found on the trash. Then when I was 17 years old I started kitesurfing, with a guy who had a 2 line wipika, and that was my beginning.
In 2003 I had a opportunity to be part of the first kitesurfing competition in Cape Verde, and it was the first wave master I made. The competition was in Ponta Preta, where the wind is offshore; it was difficult to manage in the waves. I used a kind of twin tip, a really strange board.
After that, I started to ride my surfboard with the kite, and it was my first time strapless. It was not because I wanted to do strapless, but it was because I had no choice, my board was like that.
So, did you have sponsorship at that time?
Sponsorship came later, maybe in 2005 / 2006, they started giving me some kites. Then I won some contests in Cape Verde. The first year that I did the whole tour was 2008, the year I won my world title, and after that everything changed. My sponsors started to invest more, and it also opened the door also for my country. It was the first time that someone from Cape Verde won something!
Lots of people waiting for me at the airport, screaming, it was a big party… It was really nice, for me and for my country.
And there were the other kids from Cape Verde that came together, everybody wanted to be like Mitu:
Yeah, then everybody had a dream. I remember this movie in which Matchu (Lopes) was really young, saying that he wanted to be like Mitu. Airton (Cozzollino) was the same. It is because we are born there, we come from the same, you know? For me it was so cool, because I opened the door for a lot of other young riders from Cape Verde.
Now, you can see, Airton has become a world-class rider, we have Matchu, there is Luis (Brito) as well… And we have other younger kids coming up as well. Now it is really happening! In Cape Verde, strapless became like a religion. Everybody here rides strapless, we don’t have many twin tips. We have some really good conditions there.