When you purchase gear through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. Here’s why you can trust our tests and our affiliate partner.

Brazils Brutal Downwinder 1200x800 - Brazil’s Brutal Downwinder

Brazil’s Brutal Downwinder

As the largest country in South America, and with more kiteable coastline and more kitesurfers than anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, if there was going to be a kitesurfing event in Brazil it would have to be the biggest. Such was the challenge set for the XP Sertões Kitesurf downwinder: come up with the longest, toughest, most brutal kitesurfing event on the planet… Editor-in-chief Alex was (kind of) stoked to get an invite…

PHOTOS: Affonso Dalle, Ale Carnieri, Caio Graca and Gabriel Heusi
xpkite23 150923 0004 ALE 4698 alecarnieri 1 - Brazil’s Brutal Downwinder

Sertões is a name synonymous with Brazil’s (you’ve guessed it…) biggest “petrol-head” rally, and this is where you can find the roots of the XP Sertões Kitesurf event. The Rally dos Sertões began in 1993 and has grown exponentially to now welcome competitors from across the rallying world, competing in categories of Car, ATV, Quad and  Motorcycle over a brutal nine-day event (with competitors, support teams and organizers numbering over 2000). This year the event covered 3800 kilometers across some of Brazil’s toughest terrain… Its reputation and popularity is built on its 10/10 difficulty rating: it’s as tough as it gets in the rallying world. So when it came to expanding the Sertões ‘rally’ franchise into the water, it had to be true to this philosophy and be the toughest kiting event on the planet.

I was invited to participate in some stages of the event, and then to spend the remainder of the time exploring this part of Brazil and being more generally shown around. I know, tough gig. Shamefully, in my 22 years of kitesurfing, I had yet to make it to Brazil so I was excited to have the opportunity to check out one of kiting’s true Meccas.


With a differing route each year, this year’s event took place exclusively in Ceará, with the five days having different stages covering this iconic part of Brazil’s coastline. The stages broke down as follows:

Day #1 Cumbuco – Caucaia
Day #2 Pecém – São Gonçalo do Amarante
Day #3 Trairi – Guajiru
Day #4 Itarema – Ilha do Guajiru
Day #5 Cruz – Camocim

The route took in most of Brazil’s most famous kite towns. This area has deep roots in the world of windsports with a reputation which has evolved since the early windsurfing days, and is now cemented as the place to be in the European autumn and winter, when thousands of kiters head over every year to shake off the winter blues (and European weather fronts) and to swap out 5mm wetsuit boots for boardies and bikinis. Between these iconic villages – as we flew along the coastline on the rally – we passed lagoon-after-lagoon with a few kites up and with freestylers trading moves. No doubt the visiting kiters were having the session of their life, and most likely trading runs with the next Carlos Mario honing his skills and hoping to make it onto the next GKA podium… It’s the place where dreams are made: you are probably not the next Carlos Mario, but in your head you’ve probably just nailed the move to win the final.

The logistics of running an event like this are mind boggling. Every day all of the riders set off from one spot and arrive at another, this means that all of the support team and all of the organizers must also travel this distance overland (and often the kiters are significantly quicker in a straight line on the water). This effectively means that you need to have two set-ups for the event, one at the start and one setting off earlier to set up the finish. As a competitor you don’t really notice: at the start of the day there is a crew on the beach to see you off and make sure you have everything you need for the many, many kilometers ahead then, at the end of every day you arrive and there is a full set up on the beach, with a finish line, cold Coronas and generally a DJ… It’s seamless. The event is supported by Mitsubishi and Sea-Doo so your support vehicle is a good–as-new Mitsubishi and throughout your time on the water you are never too far away from a member of the support crew on a Sea-Doo. The support crew easily outnumbers the number of competitors and ensures that everything feels very VIP and you are well looked after throughout…

xpkite23 150923 0147  A3 6009 heusi action 1 1260x754 - Brazil’s Brutal Downwinder



The XP Sertões Kitesurf is broken down into three categories, Pro, Elite and – new for this year – Wing. The Pro category included Brazilian kitesurfing aristocracy in the form of Alex Neto, Reno Romeo and Deury Corniel as well as international riders such as Hannah Whiteley and Theo Demanez. The pros, obviously, had the toughest route…. Day one – for example – covered a staggering 125 kilometers, although with two upwind ‘loops’ to kick things off, was actually further than this in terms of kilometers covered on the water… For the Pros this is a serious event. No prize money, but serious bragging rights, and this showed on the water. With ski goggles on, full lycra to keep the sun away and going full power across the start line, the front of the fleet looked like Mad Max had been transported to the world of kitesurfing… Start sequences were serious (think America’s Cup) and watching the Pros all tearing across the line kicking up insane amounts of spray was incredible. What was most impressive though, was seeing them maintain that level for the duration of each stage.

Average speeds were insane – upwards of 45 kph (bearing in mind that a lot of the stages began with upwind sections) – and top speeds of 75 kph were regularly recorded. Remember that this is on a twintip, and the pros were keeping this up for two-to-three hours most days… For ‘mere mortals’ speeds were slower, and the days were longer (sometimes a lot longer!). When the Pro fleet came past you could keep up but only for a couple of minutes before your legs were burning, or the kite skills required to constantly loop or downloop the kite with millimeter precision caught you out and you ended up face down. My max speed? 65 kph. But I have a feeling this was following an over-energetic downloop when I was ejected from my board and flew through the air at 65 kph…

As the five days unfolded, the cumulative effect of this much foot-to-the-floor kiting took its toll, with exhausted kiters limping up the beach and cramming handfuls of nuts into their mouths washed down with Gatorade… The two liters of water in my CamelBak lasted three hours max and after this it was a case of smashing what you could at one of the checkpoints on the beach. And then fantasizing about fluids until you hit the finish line…

I was only scheduled to compete in three of the five days of the competition and thought I would be disappointed not to see the whole event out but – being totally honest – I was pretty relieved to have some rest days built into my schedule! I had the worst harness rash of my life after day one, and by the end of the final day I could barely make it up the beach.

For the Pros, they were saying that this was the toughest event to date… They were also broken. But the pain paid off for Alex Neto who took the win in the men’s category, and for Argentinian Julieta Biasotti who took the win in the women’s category… And I think you can win as many GKA, KOTA or BAKL events as you like, but surely nothing is more satisfying than stepping up onto that podium after five solid days and over 480 kilometers of riding.

XPKITE23 160923160923 0092 DJI 0899 AffonsoDalle 1 1260x754 - Brazil’s Brutal Downwinder



For many of our readers I am sure that I am ‘preaching to the converted’ here, but: WOW, Brazil is awesome… I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but what I found was one of the friendliest and most hospitable countries I’ve ever visited, with absolutely incredible scenery and truly amazing food.

We were well looked after throughout the journey and our guide, Fernanda, and our driver, Luis, were super knowledgeable and massively enthusiastic about their homeland, with every journey turning into a geographic and historical rundown of the region we were travelling through. For me, to get to Cumbuco and Prea were highlights – both towns that have been referenced countless times in this magazine, and which – first hand – are super vibrant kite towns stacked full of like-minded people and with an incredible energy and positive vibe. But then also staying in lesser known spots and realizing that – yes, out front there is another picture-perfect slice of kitesurfing perfection with just a couple of other people riding – was incredible. It is endless kiting perfection. (Okay, mainly for the freestyle riders, but we did pass by (at 45 kph!) some nice looking wavier spots which I intend to head back to and explore at a more leisurely pace…) In terms of the general atmosphere and overall safety of Brazil as a country, it was interesting to talk to Brazilians and to hear their concern that people from outside of Brazil associated the country with some of the troubles that you find in the cities (and in pretty much every big city on the planet) and perhaps with the more hardcore problems you do find in some of the neighboring countries. My personal experience was that Brazil felt like one of the safest countries I have traveled to on a kite trip. For example, at the end of each day, our kite gear was packed into the back of the 4×4: kites, boards, wings, foils. And what happened to it overnight while we were all sleeping? It was just left outside in the truck… All in plain sight. And no one ever thought about taking the kit into the pousada: it was all good…

Overall the XP Sertões Kitesurf was a truly epic experience. The organization was  sublime, it was incredible watching how big the competitors dug, and the general comradery between everyone involved, and the event itself 100% lives up to its billing as the biggest challenge you can possibly undertake as a kitesurfer. The organizers hope to broaden the event to include more international riders for next year. My advice would be to sign up now… It’s an incredible event and a unique experience in a remarkable country.

Now, where’s my crosstrainer?!

Want More?

You can get the latest goodness from the world of kiteboarding by subscribing to our print edition. You'll get 5 packed issues, plus a free tee and free digital access. And you'll be directly helping with our sustainability efforts too!

Check it out now
Subscribe Today