Mega Downwinders in Ceara, Brazil
As many know by now, the Northeast coast of Brazil is blessed every year with reliable trade winds which turn the area into a giant playground for kitesurfers from all over the world, guaranteeing wind almost every day from July to January. For these reasons, many long-distance record seekers have chosen this region of the planet and particularly the state of Ceará with its 600 km of beaches - from Canoa Quebrada to Camocim - to accomplish great adventures.
In November of 2006 Philip Knetch from Switzerland, chose the state of Ceará to break the previously held record of 213 km non-stop kiting held by Englishman Andreya Wharry.
After dealing with local logisitcs issues (such as renting a motor-boat for assistance), on November 6th at 5:35am, Philip took off from Cumbuco’s kite beach -30 minutes from Fortaleza’s international airport- and started to head downwind on his 10m North Rhino.
After 10 hours on the water and some difficulties due to light winds on the first part of the downwinder, he reachs his original goal, the windsurfing town of Jericoacaora. Feeling good and with winds now in the 30 knots he decides to keep on going to see how far he can reach. He eventually makes it to Camocim and passes the 300 km mark on his GPS (exactly 300,57 km) after riding for 12 hours and 09 minutes. Congratulations Philip!
A couple of months later, in March of 2007, Dom Rivard from France will beat this record with a 324 km (175 N. miles) ride in the Caribbean (St Vincent). The following season in Northeast Brazil again, two French -originially paragliders- decide to go on a slightly different but also extreme kitesurfing downwinder.
Eric Gramond and Olivier Laugero’s plan was to kite the coast from Natal (in the “Rio Grande do Norte” state), along the entire coast of “Ceará”, past the small portion of the “Piaui” state and finally end up in Sao Luis (“Maranhao” state), approximately 1,200 km downwind from the departing city!
“We wanted to transfer this spirit [of bivouac paragliding] in the Kite activities. So we did, with Eric Gramond, my friend, a wonderful down winder for 14 days without assistance, no car, no bus, just the wind.” says Olivier Laugero.
After spending 2 weeks training in Paracuru and downwinding to Jericoacoara twice, they take a bus out to Natal on Nov. 8th, with each an 11m Ozone Instinct, a kite board and as Eric reports it: “A bag with a hammock, few liters of water, few biscuit, a pump for the kite and a camera video…”
Because of somewhat unconsistent winds during the first couple of days, it took them almost a week to make it to Fortaleza, the capital city of Ceará. The following day they were in Paracuru again, they took advantage of their base to change kites (9m² now for the stronger winds) and traded their “mutant boards for more comfortable twin-tips”.
Two days later they get to Jericoacaora and keep on going with offshore winds and having to go out as far as 5 km out in some areas before reaching city of Parnaiba (which is also the largest delta in South America). It eventually took them another 3 days to get past unhabited areas such as the “Lencois Maranhense National Parc” (75 km of coastal desert with large sand dunes) and only missed their planned goal by 80 km. Olivier and Eric stopped at the beginning of the Sao Luis bay because of lack of wind.
“we would have needed a 15m², not a 9m²” says Olivier.
Today, they still wonder if they were the first to complete a 1,120 km downwinder over 14 days!
Eric and Oliver’s story:
Ten days after completing this mega-downwinder, with still plenty of energy, Eric decides to leave Paracuru for a solo downwinder on December 3rd around 5:30 am. Seven hours later he is already flying by the windsurfers in Jericoacoara, used to the conditions and the area he continues on and after 12 hours on the water he eventually makes it to “Luis Correia”, a small fishing village 325 km from Paracuru. He doesn’t know it yet, but he has just beat the previous world record long-distance kiting in 24 hours, by 1 km. Unfortunately for him, lack of witnesses and GPS tracking of his accomplishment won’t enable Eric to have it accepted as an official record.
“That’s great news… now I have a reason to go back next year!!” says Eric Gramond.
Eric’s non-official world record story:
Some history on the origin of the downwinders in Ceará, Brazil:
The first downwinders started as windsurfaris in 1999, when double-motocross champion & exrally pilot Daniel Araujo ventured along the coast in his 4x4 truck leading groups of amateur windsurfers from Cumbuco to Jericoacoara.
“I have been roaming these beaches and dirt roads for well over 20 years” says Daniel who was also the first native to windsurf in Jericoacoara in the late 1980’s. He used to train along the coast for endurance in motorcycle competitions and has an unmatched knowledge of the area.
Daniel now runs a service that provides 4 x 4 assisted downwinders which offer total freedom to kiters so they can focus on enjoying some of the most epic downwinders in Brazil.
While kiteboarders enjoy the reliable winds and beautiful scenery, Daniel and his assistant help with landing & launching, watch out for the riders security indicating dangers ahead (and rescuing if necessary), and organise the lunch stops during the kite-safaris.
Daniel also programs the stays in the “pousadas” (local name for small hotels) where the kitesurfers rest at night, these are usually quiet, comfortable and located on the beach.
He adds “We often work with pro-riders, but these downwinders are accessible to anyone with decent kitesurfing skills and experience looking for something different”.
It is currently not possible to provide 4 x 4 assistance along the entire coast because of river mouths and mangrove areas which oblige them to go inland.
“we try to do as much as we can along the beaches, the other few sections turn into a fun safari!”
In addition to assistance during the trip they take pictures and video of the safari and provide the kiters with a CD or DVD upon arrival to destination.
According to him, a GPS system is in the works for this season, he wants to track how many miles kiters actually ride in a day in order to better schedule the following days and deliver a report at the end of the kite-trip.
“We usually start in Cumbuco and go down from there” says Daniel, “depending on the kiters levels we can go all the way to Paracuru on the first day and keep on going for 2 to 3 days.“
He says it’s all up to the kiters, what he offers are custom designed trips that will usually end up in Prea or Jericoacoara, “but anything is possible”.
Contact Daniel at http://www.downwindbrasil.com for more details on these Brazilian kite-safaris & professional downwinders.
- The windy season starts in July and goes all the way into mid-January.
- The closest international airport is Fortaleza (code: FOR).
- No wetsuits or booties are necessary (water and air temperature average 28 Cº - 78 Fº).
- Bring loads of sunscreen.
- Kite size ranging from 7m² to 12m² (14m² for beginning of July and January recommended)
- Expect winds ranging from 15-20 to 30 knots, the further West (downwind) along the coast, the
windier it gets.