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TheKiteMag 51 Sultans of Wind F one Paul Serin Ana Catarina 14 copy 1200x800 - Sultans of Wind

Sultans of Wind

F-ONE team riders Francesca Maini, Hendrick Lopes, Marcela Witt, Maxime Chabloz, Mitu Monteiro and Paul Serin headed to Oman for an epic adventure in the Arabian desert. They put on a good show for the locals, found some camels of course, and assembled a short film of their escapades, Sultans of Wind, that you can catch on YouTube.

WORDS: Paul Serin
PHOTOS: Ana Catarina

The two things that came to mind when I embarked on this trip to Oman were that there would be a lot of sand and it would be very hot. So it was no surprise to find the sand and heat as soon as we arrived at the airport. On the other hand, I expected a completely different, urban landscape, but there are no skyscrapers, no excess of luxury like its neighbors; the Sultanate of Oman is simple and surprising.

Jamal and Marcelo, our guides, welcome us like princes. I feel that they really want to show the beauty of their country and the infinite possibilities it has in terms of wind and waves. After the first night at a hotel waiting for the whole team to regroup, we decide to start our adventure on the island of Masirah, located about 10 hours by car south of the capital. Our guides make this decision because the weather window is ideal for the next three to four days and they really don’t want to miss it, and frankly, neither do we. The road is long and straight, and the desert stretches away as far as the eye can see… not a blade of vegetation on the horizon… The camels in the distance are distorted by the mirage effect. There is no doubt that we are in the Middle East. We arrive at the ferry at dusk, just in time to board the last boat of the day. The sun sets gently, oozing the characteristic gray and yellow colors of this part of the world. Tomorrow the conditions should be spot on and we are all eager to stretch our legs on the water.

One of the main advantages of the island is that it offers perfect conditions for freestyle for Max, Francesca and me, but also beautiful straight lines with tubular sections for Mitu, Hendrick and Marcela… the dream. The alarm rings, we gobble down an omelet, and off we go. We alternate between wave and flat spots, with the locals coming to appreciate the spectacle each time. One of the lasting memories will be this Big Air session in the port of Masirah, jumping between the fishing boats and the crowd watching the show on the pier. The police have to regulate traffic because there are too many people on the jetty – the whole town turns out to watch us. Seeing all these people smiling, being amazed by the jumps, makes me so happy, and only nightfall forces us out of the water. We haven’t got tired of their encouragement at every pass; no matter the trick they have cheered us warmly. I guess they have no idea how the kite works, and that’s part of the beauty of this sport. They can just appreciate people flying above them and doing tricks.

The wave team are also enthralled by the conditions and our days are quite busy in terms of time spent on the water, from morning to night for everyone. After three days on the island, it is already time to leave. A storm is forecast and it is possible that the ferries could get stuck in port, so we hurry to pack everything up and head to the embarkation point. However, one car is not allowed to board the normal ferry… mine with Olivier and Anthony, the two cameramen. We have to take the more local ferry on which is written in big letters on the deck, “Safety First”. I’m not sure that reassures me too much, but we don’t have much choice otherwise we would be stuck on Masirah. We find ourselves trapped between two garbage trucks, in the middle of the sea, taking the brunt of the waves. Sitting in a car and being swayed by the waves is a rather special feeling… We eventually arrive on land without any problems, just three hours after the other cars.

We can feel that the storm is approaching; the sky is grayer than the previous days and even when the sun manages to pierce the layer of clouds, its rays are weaker. We head towards a spot located between the start of the desert and the sea. On the map, the distances don’t seem huge but each journey takes us an average of one day. As in all adventures, it is part of the game; we are getting used to it. And besides, we kited a lot on Masirah, so a little break can’t hurt us. The goal is to camp from now on… no more hotel beds. The tents are not standard camping tents but rather the tents of the desert Berbers. The atmosphere is suddenly completely different. We are all sitting around the fire enjoying the heat it provides, because yes, nights in the desert can be chilly or even cold. The desert starts right here, a few meters from our tents, and we take in the vastness of it and photograph it from all angles. The dunes give the impression of static waves as far as the eye can see. Looking at all this sand is captivating and, like looking at a fire, one cannot get enough of it.

The storm passing offshore brings its share of clouds and grayness and disrupts the wind normally present every day at this time of year. We decide to break camp and head further south, where the storm should affect the weather less and allow us to find wind. We leave the paved road and head down a kind of hard-sand road. The phone network has been out for a while and we follow Jamal and Marcelo blindly to we know not where. To add to the confusion, we arrive at night and set up the tents in the dark. This place has something – we can hear waves on one side and we can see a lagoon on the other. At dawn, the potential of this mysterious spot is finally revealed to us, with the blue-green sea on one side and a sort of lagoon surrounded by low grass on the other, ideal for practicing all the disciplines we came for.

The wind is forecast to be light, but it starts to pick up slowly in the early afternoon. We get busy with our tasks, Max and I on twintips and the strapless team in the sea. We take out the 14m and ride in this lagoon full of soft, muddy sand. My feet hit the bottom once and I swear to myself not to fall again after that. It reminds me of the pond of my childhood where I learned to kite. We take advantage of the spot from all angles between the sea and the lagoon, the sunset and the sunrise. We are starting to enjoy the nomadic life. Our guides do everything to make us feel at home and we lack nothing. We eat with our fingers, each meal well presented on camping tables. Omani food is really tasty and rich, exactly what we need after a day spent on the water. After three days at this spot we decide to tackle the journey back to Mascat, stopping along the way. For the third – or maybe fourth time, I’ve lost track – we pack up all our equipment trying to put it away methodically to find it later. It inevitably ends up getting mixed up and we spend a long time trying to find what we need. This situation happens on all the trips I have been on…

The road seems endless… we cross seemingly deserted villages, continue on long straight lines that go on for hours and hours, stop to refuel and then hit the road again. This journey to our last spot is by far the longest. We are going to a bay with a long right-hand wave, ideal for the surf team. Max and I aren’t complaining as we’re happy to trade our twintip for a little sweet surfing. After a good night’s sleep, we park up at the top of a cliff and overlook the bay. The waves seem to roll on forever; I feel like I’m dreaming. Everyone is starting to get tired and I know that for another freestyle session Max and I would have dragged our feet a bit… But for a surfing session in perfect waves… we rush down to the beach, fatigue gone out the window. Max and I find ourselves in the water first, and even if Olivier doesn’t want to film us because of our rather average level, we ride the waves with smiles on our lips. Mitu and Hendrick quickly join us, followed by Marcela and Francesca. Even Olivier will have his little session during the lunch break.

The trip ends in the best way and we couldn’t have dreamed of a better spot to close this Omani adventure. We slowly start to prepare for our return to reality. The equipment must be dismantled and stored in the boardbags. Everything is full of sand, and one screwdriver to dismantle 15 twintips… not the best. We enjoy our last moments together, recalling sessions and planning the next ones. Everyone will return to their own home or to a different country after this trip. Even though we might not want the trip to end, there must be an end and a beginning to everything, and there will be more trips. Thank you Oman, thank you Jamal and Marcelo, and the entire team.

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