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When I was young, I had the opportunity to grow-up on a sailboat, embarking on a 3-year trip around the world with my brother, sister and parents. From this great experience, I learned how life is unique and how important it is to push myself to the limits to make the best of my life. Last year my beloved fiancée Candice lost her father, Carl Hemingway, to a staggering battle with cancer. It reminded us how precious health and life are.
This autumn, I decided to challenge myself by trying to accomplish a Kitesurf Ironman by traveling 600 kilometers with Surfin Sem fim (which means “endless surf” in Brazilian). The idea was to sail downwind for 6 days to cross 3 Brazilian states (from Taiba to Atins). Candice has received from her family (she is the great-grandniece of the writer Ernest Hemingway) an important heritage of love for the ocean and a taste for challenge. She was my very first and best supporter in this adventure. Therefore, it was only natural that we decided together to make this possible and to push our limits for a good cause. We created a charity project: Kite 4 Cancer to organise fundraising for an important charity association: “League against the cancer”. And because €1 per km (600 euros), was not challenging enough, we decided to aim for €10 per km: 6000 euros, by the end of July, 3 months before the departure. We intended to help other patients and to continue the fight against cancer by using our common passion: kitesurfing, adventure and ocean.
Preparation: To maximize your chances of success, preparation is key.
Fundraising: in order to reach our fundraising target, Candice and I decided to create several online pages. On social media we created a dedicated account on Instagram and on Facebook we created a public page where we reached more than 1 million views in total in less than 3 months. We also created a dedicated Website to be able to raise maximum awareness regarding our charity project and to continue the fight against cancer. The warm welcome and the support we have received from our friends and family was impressive. For example, all the digital work with the creation of the stickers and logo was done by my sister-in-law and printed on a T-shirt from a company where Candice’s aunt works.
The Ironman: One of the best spots for kitesurfing in autumn is the North Atlantic Coast of Brazil (called Nordeste), located northwest of Fortaleza, just below Guyana and the equator. During the peak of the windy season (October/ November) there is a 100% chance for enough wind to kite. This is due to the strong trade winds that come all the way from Africa with no natural obstacles that, therefore, arrive in full force on the coast. Even better, these winds are sometimes amplified by the thermal wind which comes from the warm air masses created on the hundreds of kilometers of dunes. During this period the whole worldwide community of kite pro-riders and kite addicts are in this part of Brazil.
There are many disciplines in kitesurfing, foil, freestyle, race, wave and now, more and more people like to make long distance runs downwind. It is the most enjoyable part of kitesurfing because after riding on waves or jumping big, we don’t need to go over the wind to come back where you came from, you just follow the wind and take the next wave and the next jump. Surfin Sem Fim organise more than 20 downwinders with different routes during the windy period. For the second time this year, they have organized an “Ironman of kitesurf” that crosses a distance of 600 km and crosses 3 Brazilian states, as I mentioned above. It’s a route for the more experienced kitesurfer as there are days with more than 140 kilometers. The target was to leave Taiba on the 30th of October and to sail for 6 days, between 6 and 8 hours per day, at an average speed of between 15 and 25km/h to reach the destination Atins on the 5th of November, the day before my birthday!
Healthy food and sport: In 3 months, I completely changed my lifestyle by quitting smoking and drinking. I developed new healthy food habits. I also started to run 10 km every 3 days, and twice per week I’ve been swimming 2 km.
Equipment: Even though Surfin Sem Fim organized a break every 2 hrs with food and drinks, to subsist for more than 8 hrs in the water, it’s nice to have a camelback. I also took some hydrocaronate powder to put in the camelback to facilitate the hydration and some isotonic energy gel with caffeine, which was very helpful on the last day for an extra boost. I also had an SPF 50+ lycra, gloves and a helmet for better sun protection. Finally, I also brought 2 sets of spare fins and some Solarez to fix any scratches on the surfboard.
Kite material: I’m usually more interested in c-shape and hybrid kites, but I decided to look for the best material for the downwinder. I didn’t find any gear specifically made for downwinders, but the best option I found was to have a kite with good drift capabilities, so I chose from the reliable 2017 North wave lineup (kite: 2017 Neo 6m – 8m – 10m / bar: Click Bar / surfboard: Wam 5’10 / twintip: X Ride). After more than 40 hrs on the water during 6 days, I had the chance to appreciate the new 2017 North products. They are just awesome. The Neo has amazing speed rotation capabilities and it drifts more than I thought a kite could drift. I had some big crashes between rocks and waves, and when I thought I was finished, the kite relaunched perfectly and quickly without any twisted lines. Regarding the click-bar, the adjustable depower is something new because I don’t often need to change my depower. When I started to enjoy the precise power, I understood what I missed before. In addition, the automatic untwist solution during rotations that’s embedded in the bar is extremely useful so I can concentrate on my kiting instead of my front lines when I surf downwind. The new, 2017 Neo and the click bar are the perfect combo for enjoying the waves on a downwinder.
Sponsorship: To be able to organize, and to make this challenge possible, we received support and sponsorship from the following companies who believed in our charity project: Feelfree gear (dry bag to travel), Tomtom sport (bandit camera with GPS and speed info in the video), North Kiteboarding (kite equipment), La Kiterie (kite repair in France), Alierys (engineering company), 123venture (asset management firm), Le Marseillais (kite4cancer wearable t-shirt), Hegoa (safety rescue jacket in a rescue belt), Optic Duroc Levallois-Perret (optician) and Cannes Mairie (support from David Lisnard, mayor of my home town: Cannes). The most touching and impressive for us was to see how many people shared the values of this athletic challenge with a charity goal.
The Kite and SSF team: I arrived in the Taiba village a few days before the departure date to acclimate a little bit and to finish the preparations. The team was complete the day before the departure and we were all very pleased to get to know each other and excited to be part of this amazing experience. The team was an interesting mix of different ages and cultures and it looked like the beginning of a joke : 2 friendly Polish guys who like vodka as much as kiting (Maciek and Grzegorz), 2 Italians who have more skills in joking than in kiting (Massimo and Mateao), 2 Brazilians who did the Ironman last year (Sérgio and Ricardo), 2 Belgian guys with the same name, Cédric (including myself) and a feminine touch with a nice German girl, Doris, who came for this 600 km as training to prepare for her cross-Atlantic kitesurfing experience. But it was not a joke, we were all there to accomplish this challenge with only one common passion: kitesurfing! The organisers’ team included the nice and well organized Jalila who managed the logistics of SSF, Andrea “el Capitaine” our main guide, who has already been several times to this part of Brazil for downwinders, Janjao our local guide who came from Icaraizinho, Alex Neto pro-rider, and 2 very experienced drivers who were always smiling and helping us to land or launch our kite during the stops.
Day 1: The first endless surfing day
The first step of the Ironman challenge was from Taiba to Guajiru (65 km). I was very excited to cross the famous Paracuru waves spot. I understand now why this spot is famous for waves because we had between 1 and 2 hours of waves with some big series (around 2m). The landscape is absolutely stunning, wind conditions are perfect and I was riding awesome, endless waves for over 6 hours. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start. We arrived at a beautiful pousada on the beach where we were warmly welcomed with coconut juice.
Day 2: Life is a wave, and I want to surf it
The second day, after leaving the hotel with my kite, I realized that we were going to travel the whole week only with the wind. I spent a magical day kitesurfing from Guajiru to Icaraizinho (70km). The Ironman team found its cruising speed. We encountered huge waves all day! Just before the arrival at Icaraizinho, I had an unexpected meeting on the water. I shared some waves with the very friendly French surfer Sylvain Maurin. During the evening, we met him in Icaraizinho and I also paid a quick visit to friends I met the year before in Brazil. It kept it short to allow for enough rest before the challenging third day, during which we were going to be riding 135km (the total kms for the previous two days).
Day 3: A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
The third day’s challenge was in two steps, 65 km from Icarai to Arpoeiras and then 70km from Arpoeiras to Préa. Unfortunately, it was not possible for our 2 Italian friends to join the downwind team due to the mandatory minimum cruising speed required to ensure arrival at our destination before the sunset. In addition, Ricardo who managed to finish the Ironman last year decided not to kitesurf that day as he had hurt his wrist
the day before. The whole team felt that the real challenge had started. We did the first part easily and reached Ilha do Gajiru. After a lunch break on the beach, we left Ilha do Gajiru, where two routes were possible. The safest one is far away from the beach and far from the dangerous fish trap,s but with choppy water. It was where the whole group decided to go. The other route was riskier, in the middle of the nets, but the temptation of full speed and mega loops in ultra-flat and very shallow water was too much for Alex, JanJao and I. With the knowledge of our friendly guide JanJao, who owns a posada not too far from where we were in Icaraizinho, we managed safely. At the end of the day, we raced to reach Préa before the sunset! The team achieved their goal, but not without some effort.
Day 4: Follow the white rabbit
The distance to cover was so great (140km) that the Surfin Sem Fim team decided to leave earlier than usual before the wind started blowing. It was the perfect occasion to practice strapless surfing and kite loops. The light wind, however, exhausted the group. Unfortunately, by the time we passed the famous village of Jericoacoara, the group hadn’t advanced fast enough. The excellent expertise of the guides made Andre and Jalila make a difficult decision: the challengers who were not able to follow the leader Janjao would have to quit at the next stop (about 40km, 2 hours maximum) and would finish the ride to the next pousada by car. Everyone was under pressure, all the challengers remained bundled.
After more than 7 hours of kitesurfing without releasing the pressure, staying very concentrated and passing through wild areas with exceptional landscapes, the team arrived safely at their destination a few minutes after an amazing sunset. All of us felt intensely exhausted but proud and happy to have reached our pousada together. We were totally isolated on an island in the middle of Brazil Nordeste.
Day 5: You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a kite and do endless downwinders in the Brazilian heaven.
Today’s distance is 60km from Itaqui to Poldros. Unfortunately, my roommate had to leave the adventure due to a sprained ankle (but we promised to finish this last part together next year). The Ironman team discovered the amazing wildlife that surrounds the delta “do Parnaiba” and untouched landscapes with extremely clean waves.
We arrived early at our destination on Poldros island and we enjoyed the surrounding nature where we met some alligators! We also had some rest because the day after was going to be the challenge’s final day and certainly the most technical. We were all happy and excited to be so close to the finishing line.
Day 6: Last but not the least
The 6th and final day of the kitesurfing Ironman challenge! Despite some pain, the team felt ready to finish this challenging adventure of 600 km of kitesurfing. It was a very technical day of 130 km and more than 7 hrs on the water. We had to pass some huge river mouths with strong currents and unexpected waves. Even if the whole team was tired, we were impressed by the unreal, wild landscape of the Parnaiba Delta (one of the biggest in the world) that we had to cross. For the last part, we had to cross a scary beach where the waves crashed in the middle of thousands of sticks, that looked like swords. This beach was the destination. Once again, we arrived just before the end of the day at Atins, an untouched fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It’s with a lot of emotion that the team felt the “mission accomplished” and we enjoyed a nice welcome drink on the beach while watching the sunset. Later, we had a lovely diploma ceremony organized by Surfin Sem Fim. During our last dinner, we all agreed that this was a once in a lifetime experience that would never be possible without the drivers, Andre, Janjão, Alex and Jalila.
Full package of happiness
With amazing support, we were able to raise more than 6000euros (our target) that will go entirely and directly to the charity “League Against the Cancer”. Candice and I are proud of our family, friends and sponsors without whom this challenging charity project would have never been possible. After this amazing challenge, I returned home to France with one thousand remarkable memories and the feeling of accomplishing a unique experience that has given me the conviction that I should go more often out of my comfort zone to live life to the fullest.
By Cedric Tassier