by Peter Petersen
Tales of pirates, cyclones and Malagasy handshakes is enough to get any seasoned traveler to reconsider the choice of visiting the worlds fourth largest island.
Madagascar however, is truly a place of timelessness, poverty, despair, beauty and the wave-explorers paradise, all in one. The island inhabits 17 million people, yet does not have a single traffic signal and is in a stagnant mess after decades of political turmoil and neglect.
But we went to find waves, and tales of Africa's G-land lured us to the South West away from the unique rainforests and tropical beaches up north. Many surfers, poleboarders and kiters have visited Madagascar to find waves and wind in abundance so our Team of kiters and surfers from Cape Town and Durban where in good spirits.
Most spots that have been kited are situated South of Tulear from Androka to Fort Dauphin on the West Coast. Along this
entire coast you find outer reefs with passes which pick up the predominant SW swell. The only problem is getting from spot to spot as overland travel is nigh impossible at 10km/h along sandy tracks..
Close to some of the reefs are tiny islands, some of which have bones of pirates buried there. These islands are ideal as launching pads for our kites. Last years cyclone came this far South and finding boats other than the local dug-out balsawood Pirouges can be tricky, as a number of Cats and bigger yachts were trashed. We were lucky though, and had booked with
Captain Crusty who had access to a couple of boats with reasonable hp onboard. These islands are up toward 3km offshore and you will be ill-advised to kite without a safety boat (as we found out on numerous occasions).
The wave we were chasing is called Flameballs and is a legend amongst surfers. Apparently it has never been kitet before so being the first ones to sample it's power and beauty was truly special. The lefthander is long, tubing, fast and with numerous sections. For surfers it is the ultimate challenge and you need skill and good wave selection to make it's 3-400meter ride.
For kiters, it is perfect, the predominant tradewind blows from the left and is cross-off on the face (but not as bad as Ponta Preta and One Eye) so you can rip top to bottom on the glassiest wave ever - even in 30knots+. The wave is dope as it breaks so consistent that you quickly pick up courage to push harder and later on each and every wave. By the end of the day, Mike "Crash" Randle, Phil Marchand and Sebastian Cattelan were doing floaters and late re-entries to the holler of the guys on the boat.
Getting tubed is possible as Phil Marchand and the Catman got numerous cover-ups. Craig Koleski from Gust Magazine shot thousands of pics - look out for the July edition of GUST.. Unfortunately we never got it bigger than 4-5ft and as we are told it holds solid 10ft with ease - there is so much more to do..
Best time of year for wind and waves is May-September which also happens to be the dry-season, so there are almost no mosquitoes and risk of malaria is very small. The beaches are insane, the water warm and tropical and the local girls love to give after-surf massages for a small fee.
The beauty of the sea and beaches far outweigh the mess a lack of sanitary facilities cause, so if you are brave enough to enter the 3rd world and live like they did 1,000 years ago, then pack your bags for Madagascar - you'll never regret it.
Slingshot, Cyclone Kiteboards, Quiksilver Wetsuits.