Today was one of the best and worst kiting days of the trip.
It was certainly the most mentally stressful day, mostly because I would be passing through “Shark Alley”, but also because of the extensive reefs that lead up to Recife.
One of the most common questions I get regarding long distance kitesurfing is “aren’t you scared of the sharks?” My answer is usually no, as the last fatal shark attack in NZ occurred back in the 60s. My lack of fear of sharks is based in a the stats which clearly show you are more likely to be hit by a bus rather than eaten by a shark.
However, there are a few places in the world where there are elevated chances of being attacked by a shark. Florida, Australia and South Afrcia all rate up there in the shark attack statistics, as does this area in Brazil:
A 20-kilometer stretch of beach that includes the most fashionable district in Northeastern Brazil, Boa Viagem, has earned a reputation as the world’s most dangerous for swimmers. Crime there is arguably no worse than in other urban beach resorts like Rio de Janeiro, but the shark attacks are unparalleled. Since mid-1992, 50 encounters involving humans and sharks –19 of them fatal – have been recorded along the short strip of coast. http://www.brazilmax.com/news.cfm/tborigem/pl_northeast/id/14
I have a love hate relationship with reefs as they provide flatwater which is great for kiting, but they are also a significant hazard.
Today I had a fantastic early morning run making the most of high tide, flat water and perfect wind angle and it was all going well until I ran aground on a sandbank at 9.30am.
I had given myself until 10am to head back into the open sea, further out from the reefs, but the sandbank hastened that decision. I attempted it several times but was unable to tack out though a nearby reef pass and eventually was forced to walk over the reef to get to clear water.
It was a really nervous moment crossing this reef and in the process I ended up dropping my kite on the reef.
Eventually I made it out to the open sea, but the relentless chop and difficult downwind angle didn’t make me any more comfortable so I opted to find the nearest habited sandy beach so I could find to check my kite and regain composure.
It took some serious effort to mentally prepare myself and head back out for an afternoon session challenging conditions, and the wind angle just wanted to pull me out to sea.
I thought the end of the day would never come and I was struggling to keep the kite in the air, as it felt like the lines had stretched again.
I was falling far too much for my liking (and for the potential number of sharks in the water) and I just wanted the day to be over.
I had been given some coordinates for a beach in Receife (which I was later to learn was named shark point!) and on landing I was greeted by fickle gutsy wind spilling off the high rises which forced me to pull my emergency IDS landing line.
I was greeted by this sign, but with some surfers in the water I was reassured that they would make better shark bait.
I had to wait for 2.5 hours before I met up with my local contacts and then went for a late dinner, but the day wasn’t over until I had spent 45 minutes picking sea urchin spines out of my foot from the walk across the reef.
I am wondering if I will be able to kite tomorrow, but right now I am off for some rest and I’ll decide based on how I feel.