Onwards to South America

12 07 2011

The journey continues but my time travelling and kiting around France, Sardinia and Morocco is almost done.  Next, its time to start booking flights as I turn my attention to South America.

Downwinders in Essaouira

I’m being lured by the waves and wind in Northern Peru, and the fresh powdery snow on the volcano peaks of Chile are making me drool over some potential snowkiting.  I’m finding it tough to get reliable information about snowkiting in Chile and Argentina so if anybody can point me in the right direction then that would be great!

Play time in Dakhala

I also really want to go back to Brazil, which may seem crazy after all the time I spent there last year, but I have some unfinished business to do.  While rushing through my 2000km world record I passed by what looked like some of the most pristine, untouched kite beaches that offered both flat water and wave riding options.  They are what I call my secret spots (and yes I am keeping them a secret for now), while I pull together some ideas about potentially sharing these locations with others through a new business venture which will offer a very different kite holiday compared to the current downwinder between Fortaleza and Jeri option.

Unhooked moves in Dakhala

I am however looking for some kite guinea pigs who might want to help share the adventure with me, so if you are an advanced kitesurfer and in Brazil during August or November then drop me a note.  Also if you have a well run Pousada or accommodation service north of Fortaleza or provide kite services or downwind trips in Brazil or Peru then I am also looking for partners and can help promote your services, just leave a comment below.

Mingling with the rich and famous in Antibes

Hanging on beaches and kitespots of Sardina

Snow kiting in France

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A story of Crocodiles, Hippos, a kayaker and the best day ever

27 04 2011
“yes please” -tribute to Hendri Cotez
 
I met Hendri in Uganda 4 years ago when he was training for the first solo descent of the Murchison falls section of the White Nile. Solo trips from Nile River Explores down to the Hairy Lemon island were standard training runs for Hendri at the time. He was somewhat of a legend in the area after leading the first source to sea trip of the White Nile.
 A few of us kiwis were asked if we wanted to Join Hendri on a road trip to Murchison Falls to help start his solo adventure. The departure time was early sometime around 5am as we packed ourselves into the van. Half asleep I was struggling to close the back boot of the van and  Hendri quips ” I wouldn’t rely on you in an emergency in a warzone”.  In my half asleep state I thought to myself, I would love to prove you wrong one day.

 As we unpacked at the get in for the start of Henrys’ paddle there was a surreal sense of will we see this guy again? The odds weren’t in his favour given the stats. The highest concentration of Hippos and Crocs in Africa, 3 rebel groups, including the Lords resistance Army… oh and did I mention that it was also solid class 4/5 whitewater and solo? My question about what he thought the risks were, met with a “no comment”.

Perhaps in that moment it set my benchmark for risky which I would later compare my own adventures to. Part of me is like, well kiting solo can’t be so bad, at least I don’t have to worry about Hippos and Crocs. Hendi himself was to comment in one of his posts that he was surprised to make 30 and what that entailed.

Thankfully he  was successful in completing the trip in 2 days, something that have taken other teams at least 4 days. We greeted him at the take-out above the spectacular Murchison Falls. “Hendi where’s your helmet? Oh, I had to feed to the crocs. I got charged by 7 times on the trip, the last one got a bit close so I threw my helmet at the croc to distract it and paddled off” The conversation followed all night by a very understated “Did I tell you how brave I was?”. I truth, none of us could really understand and certainly one of the things I was later to appreciate on my own Solo trip.

I have met plenty of dirt bag kayakers travelling the world and making their money off the river. There was something different about him that I was only to understand later after reading the few Facebook notes he had written about a trip into the heart of Congo. Articulate and intelligent, not your usual deadhead kayaker. Not concerned about fame or fortune but in search of the “Best Day Ever” (BDE). Before you write off the BDE as some sort of hedonist pursuit, it’s actually more of a time worn philosophy which I am only just realising now.

But the best day ever (BDE) is not just a saying, it is a philosophy. The need for the best day ever was born out of the simple premises that it is impossible to ever life in any other day than today. Yesterday did exist and it will have a influence on today. But no matter how good yesterday was, come today it’s just another memory gathering dust, its bright colors either being distorted to fit your needs, or fading with ever passing minute. Tomorrow will always be a day away. Its dreams and hopes just like memories, nothing but mental constructs. Bringing us… today.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=32268697489

I read a lot of others adventures and some people have written that society needs more adventures like Hendri. I have always been a bit sceptical as one could argue that these sort of adventures are nothing more that a selfish pursuit and what really does society gain out of it? I can only talk about what Hendri has left us and I think it is to challenge our reality and to live in the present. His concept of the Best Day ever (see below) might sound a little strange to most but if you read carefully,  it’s actually pretty sound thinking and I think stems from 2 ideas; Flow and The Power of Now

 RIP Hendri 1975-2010- eaten by a crocodile
http://www.economist.com/node/17797148

I do not propose that you live everyday as if it will be your last. My personal experience living that theory was disappointing, as it left me very unprepared for reaching, beyond all my expectations, my 30s. In fact for tomorrow to be the best day ever, it has to be built on today, how else could it be better, if today did not serve as a stepping stone for an even better day tomorrow.

One might be tempted to call my theory “the best day yet”, but this could imply than one is waiting for a better tomorrow, which is counter to what BDE stands for. I hope it will become clear soon enough.

The aim of DBE is to do your best, in whatever the day offers, the BDE is filled with the best, but only you’re best, since it is your day. It does not matter if your boss is being a freak, it does not matter if it’s
raining when it supposed to be sunny. Do your best in your day.

Sport as example. In a football game only a few goals are scored, however there is movement during the whole game, attack, defense. Every one of these parts as important as the other. Back and forth, the most persistent team will, more often than not win. By wearing down the opposition they
eventually, break through.

The best day ever is based on this well tested, widely accepted principle. You keep trying to give it your best, during training, during defense, during attack, eventually without you knowing which day, you score. You actually manage to give it your best. You have a Best Day Ever. The discipline from past attempts helps you to go one step further than you have ever gone before. This does not have to translate into physical performance, while striving towards a goal, you fight more battles mentally
in a day, than you ever will fight physically in a life time.

Everyday will not be the BDE. You can only maintain a certain level of happiness for a prolonged time. After an emotionally high you will experience a low. Newton’s 3de law, for every action there has to be an equal and opposite reaction. The best day ever is about achieving days of ultimate highs more often, but it is more than that, it is about making the multitude of days that will not reach those highs, amazing days in there own right, by giving them a purpose or a chance at greatness, days where
you recognize the challenges and except them, even if there is no reward. Its about giving yourself an opportunity to do something worth remembering, even if its just for a few minutes at night as you drift of to sleep, perhaps just one little thing to help you make tomorrow the BDE.

Today, yesterday and tomorrow are not in competition. Taste that meal like it’s the first time you have tasted it, enjoy something as if you have never enjoyed it before and you will have the best day ever. Appreciate what is given to you in your day and it becomes the BDE.

Its not about winning, its not about recognition, it about living in the moment, good or bad, feel it, lap it up, good or bad, its all a miracle in some way.

So how do you live in the now?

By realizing that you are god, that everything that is happing is happening to you. The universe is infinite, making you the centre no matter where you stand.

How do you come to the understanding that you are god?

By making a difference in your life, by realizing that everything you do has consequences. By taking control of your life, the realization grows in you; I am the one who drives my universe. Don’t expect it to be easy, you will have learnt nothing if it was, the better you become at driving your universe the bigger the challenges will become but the stronger you will be to handle them.

Why then all this struggle if all that awaits is more struggle? Because the more you fight the good fight, the clearer you see that external factors are subject to your perspective of them. You can choose not to drive your universe, inside you the spark will die, and your appreciation for life with it, because without that spark, life is not worth living.

Or maybe its all means nothing, I really cant be sure…

 




Learn to Paraglide- Part 2

25 04 2011
 
Paragliding accident photo copied from Brian Stipaks’ paragliding safety page

 One of the things that has held me back from learning paragliding up until now has been a question: am I going to get enough out of this sport for the amount of risk involved? I assess IT risk for a living and is something that I also talk about in my Brazil presentation. I talk about the  familiar risks or things that we perceive we have control over that often gets us into trouble.

The first thing I look at when trying a new risky sport, is the accident statistics. It’s not that I want to freak myself out, but it’s more to understand what mistakes people commonly make and how I can reduce my risk. Ok, you might be thinking this is a bit of a morbid or geeky thing to do. Accident statistics and discussions, however,  help everyone continue to learn from the experiences of others, and to constantly question peoples’ own perception of how much of a commitment to safety they are willing to make.

Pinned in the Whataroa river

To give you an example, as  a whitewater kayaker, I actively follow the accident statistics in this sport. One statistic which stands out, is that half of all white water kayakers killed are a result of being pinned on wood. I used to get a ribbing about carrying a pruning saw kayaking. People would comment “who do you think you are Crocodile Dundee” or “why do you need something like that”. Well, they were not asking the same question after incident on the Whataroa, where a pruning saw was vital to cutting open kayak and saving a life after being pinned by wood.

I have thought for some time that the kitesurfing community could learn from paragliding. For a start there are really good yearly accident statistics, in addition to the safety and mindset being emphasised. I’m not trying to imply that kitesurf instructors are doing a bad job or that kitesurfing is unsafe. However, the best we have in the kitesurfing community are statistics from pre 2004. The gear in kitesurfing has become much safer and easier to use after these statistics were gathered, but did it really make us safer in our attitude? I have always maintained that mountain biking is far more dangerous than kitesurfing , but have never been able to prove it.

The first 2 days of learning to paraglide went well without incident. Yes, it turns out there are some real risks in paragliding especially for the over-confident pilot who wants to push the limits. Under the right conditions, paragliding can however be relatively safe. Quality of pilot decision-making, skill level, experience and quality of equipment are things that were highlighted in my reading of the risk factors.  However as glider pilot Mike Meier has pointed out;

“More skill gives you a higher limit, as does more experience or better equipment. But safety is not a function of how high your limits are, but rather of how well you stay within those limits. And that is determined by one thing: the quality of the decisions you make”. 

As with kitesurfing, launch and landings are the most critical moments where people seem to come unstuck in paragliding. The decision-making process does start well before you decide to get on the water to kitesurf, on a river to kayak or in the air to paraglide.

I am at the stage of  making small (100m) flights after running down the hill. Now I am ready for a longer flight, but unfortunately the weather hasn’t co-operated for the last 2 days of the course. I am now researching other areas where I can learn cost effectively. My criteria for locations are consistent wind and high amount of flying days. An instructor who speaks good English, is safe and  enables me to progress efficiently to a fully competent level are high on the list. If there is kitesurfing nearby for the windy days then that is a bonus.

So here is my honest opinion on the Alto Paraglide school where I have been learning to paraglide.  The school is run by experienced  and safety conscious people who also provide good kit to learn with. Alto also has a nice family atmosphere and I was lucky to have good competent fellow students who didn’t hold back the progression. Unfortunately English spoken by the instructor wasn’t what I was hoping for. We did get there in the end with a bit of translation, but it was not ideal. Pierre who runs the school, does have good enough English and is a very experienced pilot. If Alto were able to offer good English-speaking instructors, then I would have no hesitation in recommending them in the future to English-speaking people. If your French is good, I would have no hesitation in learning to paraglide at Alto.

Alto Parapente

Learn to paraglide part 1





Learn to Paraglide Part 1

20 04 2011

Have you ever lived somewhere or gone on holiday and been frustrated by the weather conditions? If you have ever lived in Wellington NZ you may will have been frustrated by how windy it is. Fair call, it really is one of the windiest cities in the world, the stats say so. You probably start asking your self questions like why it’s so windy and continue to get frustrated unless you are into sailing or kitesurfing.

Over 3.5 half years ago I was frustrated by having to drive 3-8 hours each weekend to get good kayaking. Rather than get frustrated I asked myself the question, what can I do right here in Wellington NZ, that will keep me entertained and give me Flow . Bingo, it is windy in Wellington and kitesurfing looks good.

Over 3.5 years have passed and a world record later, I am here in France chasing snow kiting. I have arrived at the end of a bad snow season, with beautiful blue skys, 20-25 degrees and perfectly still wind conditions. Now that sounds pretty good if you enjoy summer, but not if you are a snow kiter.

I have spent over a week up at the Col du Lautaret and unfortunately only managed one half day of snow kiting. I have however managed to meet some cool people up there and been hosted by The Kite Legende snow kite school . Great bunch of guys and a fantastic spot with good access. If you are ever in the area do look up Rémi Borgioli, he runs Frances oldest kite school, has good English, is an all round nice guy and has good knowledge of the weather.

So I am back in Lans en Vercors (Close to Grenoble) and am asking myself the same question as 3.5 years ago. What can I do in Lans en Vercors that can take advantage of the nice weather stunning scenery and that also lets me perform baby minding duties. You have probably guessed from the title that it’s paragliding. The idea has been eating away at me for some time now and was cemented but watching Dave Cornthwaite learning to paraglide. He has a great blog and an interesting series of adventures planned. Go check his blog out.

I have chosen to learn to paraglide with Parapente Alto who has been operating since 1995 and has a good safety record. My main concern was to find someone who can speak English, because I really am not keen on a lost in translation moment, while hanging from a bit of cloth, a few strings and dangling hundreds of feet up in the air. Thankfully they do have instructors that speak good English. We we, was that left or right you wanted me to go?

My next few blogs will be about the adventure of learning to Paraglide. I hope to be able to provide an insight into what its like and what I am thinking along the way. This will be an honest warts and all account. As a full disclosure I have been tandem paragliding passenger twice with my cousin, who runs Coronet Peak Tandems. He is based Queenstown NZ and has in the past has been the best performing kiwi on the world cup paragliding circuit, as well as 4 times NZ champion. Other than that I have no experience of paragliding other that being related to someone really good at the sport.

What have you thought about wanting to try, but never got around to it?





Jeri

9 09 2010

Arriving in Jeri felt like arriving in Vegas after being in the countryside. This weekend was busier that most because of a Brazilian holiday.

We arrived in a 5 person vehicle with 8 people a ton of windsurf kit and kites. The party started as soon as we arrived at 10.30 and didn’t let up until the sun rose. The only challenge then became making it up again for sunset.

Every night from 5 until 6, everyone congregates on the nearby sunset dune to watch the amazing sun go down. Sunset watching had a tribal feel to it with people applauding as the sun disappeared off into the water.

Jeri has been a internationally famous windsurf location for some time and more recently for kitesurfing. It’s one of the windier spots on the North Eastern coast. The unique thing about this place is the sand lined streets, funky bars and restaurants.

Today I sat in Club Ventos overlooking the bay and watched life go by. The place is in a prime location next to the designated world class windsurf area. Prea seems to be more popular for kiters and makes for a great downwind at sunset back to Jeri.

The end of my trip is rapidly nearing the end, so its back to the reality of work soon. For the moment, I am en route to Cumbuco to pack and sort out gear.





Chilling in Barra Grande

4 09 2010

I am making my way back to Cumbuco, slowly via some good spots I spotted on my downwinder. Barra Grande is one of those spots that is free from the husstle, has great kiting and is uncrowded. I think the areal photo says it all.
My body is still waking up at 6.30 but the automatic urge to check the weather and get organisned has gone. The nightmares and waking up in a cold sweat over light wind, off shore wind and reefs has stopped…I think.
Anyway off to Jerri next for some party and a bit of kiting. Just waiting for a ride and I will be there.