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Opening Spread by Andy Troy copy 1200x800 - Hot Dog

Hot Dog

Dice the dog, who has already made a guest appearance on these illustrious pages back in issue 41, could be the most traveled kite dog in the world, getting to accompany Big Air star Zara Hoogenraad on kite trips around Europe. She can now add Brazil to her list of countries visited, as Zara took her along for the ride, both on the plane and on the water – Dice happily piggybacked for some kite sessions, which we think deserves a round of a-paws… Zara tells us all about their trip along Brazil’s northern coastline.

PHOTOS: Andy Troy
Zara Hoogenraad by Andy Troy 5 scaled - Hot Dog

Brazil will always hold a special place in my heart as the country where my kitesurf adventures really took off. Two years ago I visited Brazil for the first time, with my boyfriend Giel Vlugt, and landed my first kiteloops which helped secure my sponsorship deal with CORE. Brazil inspired me to push my level in Big Air as much as possible and see where that would lead to. So it was awesome to return this year, to explore some of the best kite spots and flat water lagoons in the world, with consistent wind, warm weather and no need for a wetsuit. This time I traveled with my friend, Hannah Whiteley, and my beloved dog Dice who I was able to fly over.

Hannah and our photographer, Andy, picked up a 4×4 in Fortaleza and met me in Cumbuco as I was already in Brazil for the Big Air Kite League’s TatajubaFest. Cumbuco is of course famous for its perfectly flat lagoon, Cauipe, a popular training spot for freestylers. For me the wind was too light, but Hannah scored an epic freestyle session, and we caught up with some friends and enjoyed a delicious bowl of açaí. After one day in Cumbuco, we travelled to Ilha do Guajiru, a tidal, turquoise lagoon that works best at high tide. Pousadas line the shore right by the kitespot – maybe the quickest commute ever – and there is a wide variety of landscapes to play around in like mangroves and fishing boats. On the upwind side of the lagoon where it meets the ocean, we had some epic sessions at the ‘secret spot’ with super flat water surrounded by mangroves. To get there we had to catch a lift with a fishing boat, and sometimes a local boat would pass by and offer us some shrimps from the BBQ, so we were assured of a proper Brazilian lunch during our sessions. A magical downwinder at sunset right back to the door of our pousada rounded off our stay in Guajiru very nicely.

“It was the perfect place to put her on my shoulder and see if she’d like it… Well, she loved it!”

Zara Hoogenraad by Andy Troy 2 scaled - Hot Dog
Zara Hoogenraad by Andy Troy 7 scaled - Hot Dog

The next day it was time to hit the road and head further north. Our next stop was Barra Grande where we headed straight to the beach to score a session before sunset. Two kilometers downwind is a spectacular flat-water lagoon in between mangroves so we did a downwinder to get there. Meanwhile Dice ran along the beach keeping up with us! To get back upwind you can get a ride on a local’s donkey and cart. We felt bad for the donkey however, so we walked most of the way back with just our gear on the donkey cart. Barra Grande was just a one-night stop to break up the journey to our next destination, Atins, so the next morning we were back on the road.

Atins and the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park were definitely on our must-visit list for this road trip. Getting there is a real adventure and only specially licensed vehicles are allowed, because of the protected status of the Park. So we parked our car in Barreirinhas and continued by boat along the river to this remote kite paradise. We were super excited to visit the National Park which is one of the natural beauties of Brazil. In the rainy season lagoons fill up between the white sand dunes and we couldn’t wait to kite in the lagoons. While I was walking on the beach with Dice I met Eduardo who works as a photographer in Atins for the season. He suggested taking us into the National Park, so we went there in a special vehicle with him and his friends. This was a day to remember… The Park makes you feel like you’re on another planet with its lunar-like landscape. I was so grateful to kite at such a beautiful place, with Dice running besides the lagoon the whole day. I also kited with her for the first time… I thought it was the perfect place to put her on my shoulder and see if she’d like it… Well, she loved it!

One of the joys of traveling for me is being able to watch the sunset in the best places in the world. As the sun started to set, the lagoon was illuminated with a magical light that changed color every second. It felt like a gift to visit this place. After Atins, we traveled back south to Tatajuba and Guriu which are probably the best destinations to train Big Air. The wind gets up to 30 knots every day, always coming from the same direction, so it’s perfect to progress. The sandbank separates the ocean into a flat-water lagoon which allows for an easier take off. The tides affect when the lagoons fill up with water however, so we had to make sure the tide was best in the afternoon, because that is when the wind is strongest. After staying a couple of days at this Big Air hotspot we drove back north, to Macapa, again ensuring we would hit the best tide.

Zara Hoogenraad by Andy Troy 11 - Hot Dog

Macapa is on the other side of Barra Grande, and these two places are separated from each other by a delta. To get to the lagoon where we kited before we had to cross the delta with our kites. I wanted to take Dice with us, so I decided to put her in my kite bag and see what happened… I couldn’t believe it but she was very happy to stay in the bag for the whole upwinder which took us about 25 minutes. The next day when I got my kite bag ready to take her upwind, she knew what was coming and very excitedly jumped right in! Having Dice come with me on a flight for the first time made this trip extra special, and she immediately fell in love with the country. It’s the perfect playground for her to run upwind and downwind while I’m kiting, and she ate and played with coconuts all day.

We ended our adventure with a full moon ride. During our last session the wind picked up at the end of the day, which made it perfect for Big Air, so we stayed in the lagoon as long as possible. While the sun was setting, the full moon was rising. It was such an incredible experience riding at night, something I’d never done before. We kited back in the dark, but with the water illuminated because of the full moon. It was the perfect ending to a great trip in Brazil with wind every day and surrounded by gorgeous nature, magnificent sunsets and palm trees. Obrigada Brazil and see you next year. Oh, and Dice says woof woof, which I’m pretty sure means thank you too…

“She was very happy to stay in the bag for the whole upwinder..”

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