26/10/2008

24h with kitesurf

That´s that, I did it! I'm not really satisfied with the distance I've covered but looking at the conditions I had to deal with I must consider myself lucky.   

If there was a day in the month unfit to try and set the record it must have been that day! All day long I asked myself what I have done wrong to deserve such (I can’t find another word for it) shitty conditions! The weather report predicted winds of 30 knots during 4 days so according to logic the circumstances to make a successful attempt never were more favorable. But on that specific day the wind was very irregular and off-shore (blowing from land to the ocean)… in short: I had it coming and here’s the account of what happened…

 

In consult with Hubert we decided to accelerate the start by 2 hours so I could gradually get used to the darkness and therefore I got into the water at 17:15 hrs. The few people still on Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza were looking in disbelief at this surfer who folded out his kite at dinnertime and who had a big light on his head normally used for tuna fishing. You could almost hear them thinking: “This ´gringo´ must have had way too much sun today!”

 

The passage alongside Fortaleza’s coastline goes well. The wind continues like it did  that afternoon, steady, and I don't need to move the kite too much to keep me going. With nightfall the surface of the ocean calms down, in a pleasant way the board takes one wave after another, it's marvelous; the full moon is shining bright so I don't need to use the lamp on my head.

 

At the beginning, kiting at night with waves of 2 m. is very impressive; all my childhood fears for the dark suddenly reappear. What are you doing out here, all alone and in an unnatural environment, far away from the safe lights of the cities and villages out there on the beach, navigating over who knows what kind of big fish in the ocean beneath my board? Fear is starting to take over from reason and I need to hang on to the beauty of the scenery to ban these disturbing thoughts from my mind.   

 

Getting closer to the immense pier just before Taiba the wind is starting to show some weaknesses, I need to fly my kite from one end of the window to the other end to keep it from falling down, it whistles at every passage as if to tell me about the problems that still lie ahead…

I pass the pier, the noise of the waves breaking on the rocky coast now covers that of my kite, I stay concentrated, this is not the moment to let it crash on the water…

The closer I get to Paracuru, the more I need to go to the edges to keep enough power in my kite and keep it from crashing. On 3 km from Paracuru the kite stops making its noise, crumbles and dies in the water. The wind is too weak to expect a relaunch, I wait 10 min. and decide to swim back to the beach, 400 m. with the kite under my arms and the lines behind me. A nice start for setting this record!

 

Thirty minutes of swimming, 10 -15 minutes to straighten out the lines and there we go again… The wind seems steadier now but is still weak, everything seems normal to me, after all it's night, I can’t expect to have the same strong wind as during daytime, I'm glad to be able to kite even though my arms are complaining.

I know the coastline very well and manage to determine my position by recognizing the villages on the shore, my slow and difficult progression doesn't affect my moral, I'll take my revenge when the wind comes to accompany the day… As my sailor friend Jean Louis told me:”the moon is a loyal comrade” and seems to play hide-and-seek behind the clouds. I talk to him and ask him, as to a child, to stop hiding and keep his light shining on me, but instead it's getting cloudier, visibility is extremely poor, my legs must be enduring the pounding because neither can I see them anymore, neither do they complain. The messages to my brain are reassuring: they're holding out!!

 

At the same time “HQ downwind” in Paracuru organizes itself: Hubert gets in the car again and heads north, constantly being informed by Eric and Bow, two kite friends staying at Dominique´s (www.aguavila.com.br ). Have a look on his site and see how some people don't have an easy live…

 

I fight all night against this “breeze”, continuously changing the position of my hands to avoid the cramps.  I'm starting to suffer from my harness, the constant movements of the kite give me chaffing wounds on both my buttocks (see picture below). The day hasn’t started yet, it´s 4:15, my kite brutally crashes on the water, the wind is taking a sabbatical, he's looking elsewhere to see if I'm there…

After having a chat with the moon now it's the wind’s turn, I start off very calmly, but soon my tone of voice gets louder, I address myself to the Heavens, asking if anybody up there can do something but their sole response is a deafening silence. I can hardly see the shore, it takes me a 40 min. swim to get there only to find myself facing an enormous mangrove lagoon, condemning me to a 1 km. wade in water up to my waste until I find a piece of sand on which to pose my kite and untangle my lines. The wind makes less noise than my breathing and the ocean looks like it´s made from marble. No genius needed to understand that my adventure is broken-winged.

Now it's time for the mosquitoes to enter the scene. They come in legions and take full advantage of me as an unexpected meal… again I curse the Heavens from the top of my lungs!!

 

This time the answer comes disguised as a little offshore breeze. I put the kite into the water again and let it drag me to escape this green inferno. I swim for 30 min. without being able to launch the kite before I reach a beach. New attempt, it's been 3 hours since the wind has clipped my wings, I see red from frustration, my harness is really hurting me… I'm on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

 It´s 7:20 when this cheap excuse for a wind is finally starting to blow, I provoke him as to make him show me what he's got…  nothing happens… he remains soft and offshore.

 

The battle between keeping my balance, keeping myself floating and the traction of my kite starts again. I pass Prea with a SSW wind (90° offshore) and very irregular. I can only kite for 100-200 meters before I sink down in the water… I get my kite re-launched, manage to kite for another 100-200 meters before I sink again, re-launch etc. This will go on until Camocim.

 

Passing the bay of Jericoacoara was one of the most extreme moments of the day. I knew upfront that this enterprise could become a game of Russian roulette. Either the wind could stay as it was and let me pass the 5 km. of the bay bit by bit, or it could completely stop, leaving me out there far away from the beach and without any chance to swim back. Never in my life had I cried out so much to the elements. I was really sick and tired of these circumstances, I held my bar by ´hooking´ it with one of my wrists to relief the fingers of that hand… fingers that didn´t seem to be able anymore to hold on to anything whatsoever.

 

Camocim and its delta appear, I continue to make the same exhausting back-and-forth crossings when the wind crumbles again. This time 1 km. separates me from the coast, my kite drops into the water, the wind isn´t strong enough to re-launch it, but has got enough power to push me, with kite and everything attached to it, to open water. I struggle for almost one hour, swimming against the wind to try and reach the beach in the distance, I´m exhausted and about to decide to leave my kite and swim back to the beach without it when suddenly the wind changes in both direction and force. Now he´s on-shore and rises to 25-30 knots. My moral gets a boost and the adrenaline in my veins makes me defy the wind to show some balls… give me 40 knots if you dare!!

 

Finally a strong wind, only 4 hours left to complete the 24 hours, I know I won´t pass the 500 km. but no way I´m giving up right now, I have to go all the way. The sea unchains itself from the wind, combined with a very strong tide.

 

In the delta of Luis Correira the hollows of the waves reach 4 meters. Like mines in a minefield walls of water are exploding simultaneously all around me. I don´t care anymore, the only thing I can think of is reaching my goal and if it wasn´t for the harness that´s torturing me I could go on for another 12 hrs.

 

My watch indicates 17:15 and I land on the first beach in sight. I left Fortaleza 24 hours ago and I kited a distance of 419,90 km. 

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