What awaits the Airush Team on the island paradise of Mauritius? Join Elias Ouahmid as he takes us behind the scenes of the shoot, exploring unique spots and riding in the perilous waves of One Eye. Read about their epic adventure in this exclusive article!
Mauritius has been on our minds for years, but to make the plan a reality was something of a challenge. It was a struggle to find the right time when I (Elias Ouahmid), Ozzie (Oswald Smith), Victor Hays, and photographer Mitchell Doyle Markgraaff could all be available. But we finally got the whole crew together a few months ago, and it was well worth the wait!
The team arrived a few days before I could fly in and were already shooting while I was sitting at the airport waiting for them to pick me up. I ended up taking an Uber to the famous kite spot of Le Morne. I was excited but, at the same time, nervous because I had never been to that spot before. What would I expect? Where do I need to go? Will it be dangerous? Once I got there – it was just stunning, and I could not wait to get in the water and experience Mauritius with my kite.
I met the rest of the crew at our rental house, and we started planning the next day immediately. We planned an early bird session to capture that glorious morning light. We chose a spot close to the airport because the AK Durable Supply Co product designer, Craig Tompkins, needed to fly back at the end of the first session. With the time constraint, we struggled to get permission to fly the drone and set up our kite gear, but gladly, it all worked out.
Early that next morning, we found ourselves in a small five-seater truck with local photographer Louis Arnaud Lavasier. Six full-grown men really do not fit in a small truck, especially with all of our kite gear, camera equipment, and luggage! But we somehow made it work, and the morning drive was so much fun!
When we arrived at the beach, we started shooting kite foiling first. After that first session, we dropped Craig off at the airport and went back to shooting to capture more pictures of kite foiling and freeride. We spent the whole day at that spot, shooting until late before driving home in the dark.
The next day, we discussed our options and made a call to travel to the northeast of the island, which was a two-and-a-half-hour drive. I was quite surprised at how long it took us to get from one place to another – this little island is actually quite big! Once we hit the coast road, we started scouting for spots along the way, looking for that perfect spot to shoot. Suddenly, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful piece of water with a little island in the middle and mangroves everywhere. We know, without a doubt, that this was the spot.
During midday, Victor wanted to shoot some freeride action a few kilometres down the road. Ozzie used this opportunity to go for a session on his freestyle board, and I chose to go on the wing first and then later went on the freeride gear so we could shoot the Lithium and Lithium Team.
We had an extensive list of shots to get, and we tried to tick off each shot one by one and be as fast as possible. Once we finished the last shot, which was the campaign shot for the freeride range, we threw the gear in the vehicle as quickly as possible, jumped in the truck with our wetsuits on, and drove back to the first spot because the sun was about to set, and Ozzie was frothing to get shots of kiting in the mangroves during sunset.
The wind started dropping as we arrived back at the spot, but Ozzie and I gave it a try. I went on the wing foil gear, and Ozzie was on the freeride setup. Everything happened so fast, and, as is often the case when you're rushing, everything seems to go wrong. We dropped the drone in the mangroves, and I crashed onto the reef on my way back to the beach and had cuts all over my body myself. But... It was worth it because the shots turned out so beautifully!
We'd already had a few big days of shooting, but, luckily, the next day began much more relaxed. We went for a midday session at Le Morne, quite close to where we were based during our time in Mauritius. The forecast for the next three days looked epic, so we focused on shooting flatwater action first, followed by waves.
I felt like I had to improve my riding first because I am not used to going foiling in waves. I went out on the Lithium to get some training in, and had a lot of fun. The waves and the wind were ideal, and we were able to fill up the memory cards with even more beautiful pictures.
The next day, we knew it was all about waves. If you haven't been to Le Morne, you should know that the wave is quite a distance from the beach, behind the reef, and getting good shots there requires a boat or an extremely long lens. Luckily, we had both. Mitchell met up with the boat driver to head out to the wave with the cameras, Louis was set up on the beach, and we had a second person there to fly the drone so we were covered from all angles.
Manawa, a perfect, rolling left-hand wave, was big! I have a huge respect for wave riders as it is, but I was a bit nervous when they sent me out on the wing foil gear! It was my first time riding out through the channel and away from the protected inner reef. I was surprised by how big the waves were once I got closer. I started on the shoulder and worked my way into the wave. At the end of the day, I started getting more comfortable, and I was glad to be riding the new foils because I felt in control in the tricky conditions.
We even went down to One Eye on wing gear, and it was amazing to watch the other riders that close. While I was riding my first wave on One Eye, I saw the boat struggling with their engine. The boat had been quite close to the reef in the beginning, but the wind was strong enough to push them out to the open ocean. Mitchell started to panic, and he packed his SD cards into a waterproof case and contemplated jumping off the boat before it could get rolled into the reef by a wave. Just before he jumped, the boat started working again, and they went straight back to the beach.
Returning to the beach on our kites and wings to meet the camera crew, we were all a bit freaked out - it was an intense situation and could have been really dangerous! But, we were also disappointed that we had to cut the session short and miss out on some epic shots. We took a few minutes to catch our breaths and get calm again before continuing the shoot - closer to the beach, this time!
The next day, we went back to Le Morne to get some kite foiling shots. I crashed and lost my watch on my third wave, so the bad luck from the day before continued, but we made the best of it and worked to stay in the moment, and began to really enjoy every session and every wave.
We had a lot of unforgettable sessions the next few days. I learned how to wave ride with Ozzie in a fun session on our kites, and I thought it would be a great idea to swap gear so I could test the Session Team and see how he shreds my kite, the Ultra. Using Ozzie's gear, unfortunately, didn't come with his massive experience in wave riding, and I ended up being pushed behind the reef by the current. I couldn't ride back upwind, so I just sat there, unsure what to do, stuck between the reef and the huge waves at One Eye. I got smashed multiple times, and realised I had no choice but to ride over the reef to get out of the impact zone.
Back at the beach, I met some friends who had also gone out to shoot at One Eye. They both came back that day without any gear. At that point, I considered myself very lucky that I'd lost only a single fin and a bit of pride!
We caught up with local hero Willow-River Tonkin at 5:00 the next morning for an early surf session before the wind kicked in. I suck at surfing, but Willow arranged a surfboard for me and took us out to One Eye, where I paddled out to meet Ozzie and Louis. Sitting on the surfboard, watching the waves, and getting smashed on every single takeoff I attempted was a great way to end the trip. I kissed the reef and paddled back in with a fresh cut on my leg, another scar to commemorate the trip on my last day in paradise!
We looked back on our trip as we relaxed on the beach and waited for our gear to dry. Mauritius is a paradise, but out beyond the reef, you are at the mercy of the elements. Despite the bad luck and stressful moments, this was one of the best trips of my life, and I can't wait to go back!
By Elias Ouahmid