What else do you do other than kitesurfing and surfing?
In the sea I do SUP, tow-in and foiling. If conditions aren’t right for any of my water activities (which isn’t very often!) I will cycle or swim in a pool. I have a kite school in Porto – strukite.com – which keeps me busy during the summer time and allows me to be free during the winter for kite trips and to compile footage for my sponsors.
You seem to be constantly getting barreled on your frontside going right, whether kiting or surfing. When was the last time you went left?!
I think that the last time I rode proper lefthand barreling waves was in Indonesia in 2014 and maybe the last time we were together in Cape Verde! All the major spots in Portugal are rights where I have learnt a lot and where, of course, I feel much more comfortable. Unfortunately when I started to kite I couldn’t change my stance after 10 solid years of surfing like I see some guys doing. Even going left in surfing is a much bigger challenge.
What is your favorite trick to do on a wave?
My favorite trick is a normal downwind aerial and my favorite move is barreling! Positioning yourself inside a barrel is one of the hardest and most thrilling things in kite wave riding.
Do you ride your Curl+ with wax? When do you prefer wax to a front footpad?
Yes, I always ride with wax. I started to surf with wax and can’t change my mindset now! It just feels too weird to have that extra centimeter of rubber under the front foot.
Do you feel the same rush kiting smaller, punchier waves as the big ones?
Yes I love any kind of wave riding. If the waves are good I feel like a kid at Christmas time.
Are there many other riders who join you in riding Nazaré or Supertubes? Who inspires you or challenges you?
There is a kid from Guincho – Afonso Paes Fernandes – who sometimes joins me in heavy Supertubes days. We had a session in Guincho eight years ago that was the biggest day I’ve ever seen there and he handled it pretty well despite the tricky conditions. With the right mindset and training he can go to the next level. Since James “Storm” started living in Portugal and José “Silverkitesurfer” started joining me in the big sessions at Nazaré and other secret spots, it’s helped me a lot in making the right calls. I believe that James in the future is going to add some meters to the world record, which he deserves after showing so much commitment. I also follow the Hawaiian guys at Jaws, like Patri and Jesse, who are always putting on a show to demonstrate what can be done in those monsters with a kite.
What was your favorite wave session of 2023?
Haha Tom, you know very well – you were there! Insane barrels and good friends on a remote island off Africa, an amazing combination… [Ed: as seen in issue 52]
How much would it cost someone – who is ready – to get into massive waves, such as jet ski costs?
A lot Pablo, a lot! I have a jet ski with Hugo Abreu in Porto that we use to surf big barrels around there and for our kite school rescue. If you buy one, be ready to spend at least 10k and if something goes wrong in the surf the bill can be very high. If you go for a kite session in Nazaré and book a rescue jet ski driver it can cost you from 500€ to 1000€ depending on the conditions. I did a season as a jet ski driver for big wave surfer Marcelo Luna, and I can tell you that the price is actually cheap for the job and risk involved. Safety first!
Amy Strzalko, Eleveight team rider
What has been your biggest kitemare to date? Mine was getting hooked by a trawling fishing boat… true story! What was yours and how did you pull yourself out of it?
Mine was a long time ago, maybe 2003, involving a death loop with a C-shape kite and a “suicide” leash on the back of my harness. Safety was awful in those days. Luckily, after 150 meters going backwards and almost drowning, the kite fell in the water and I had half a second to release the kite. At Nazaré the worst was a wipeout in 2018, but I managed to kiteloop myself out of the situation, praying that the kite wouldn’t jellyfish with so many opposing forces applied.
What is the scariest situation you’ve ever been in outside of kiting?
Actually it was only last year on a surf trip to Madeira. I was surfing four-meter waves at a rocky spot in Jardim do Mar and a huge set came and I was caught inside. I was ejected towards the shore, passing between two huge rocks. I was underwater waiting for the impact but amazingly neither me nor my board suffered any damage. When I reached the channel I couldn’t believe I was alive.
Caroline Morris, Eleveight Content Manager
You seem to always find some secret spots and conditions that mere mortals miss out on. What are your tips for scoring legendary sessions?
“Mere mortals,” haha! I think it is a matter of years of studying the weather and understanding in reality what the forecasts can provide. Be aware that I have also had a lot of failed sessions – it is all part of it – you always learn something. For example, I once took a three-hour flight to an island to check if it was possible to kitesurf big waves there and ended up surfing only one-meter waves then flew back the next day. It’s funny that every time I do my kite wave clinics people are amazed by how much information is important to know to score good sessions. People have to understand that before doing amazing turns in the wave they have to be at the right time to catch them and that means a lot of weather and surf forecast knowledge.
If you wipe out in a wave and drop your kite, how do you relaunch the kite quickly and what do you do when pulled under the water? Do you ride with a safety leash or without?
Arthur, if you drop the kite in big waves, let it go! No, I don’t use a safety leash when it’s heavy but I always use a leash on my surfboard. It’s a floatation device that can get you out of dangerous situations. Ride safe.
Bennet Hoop, Eleveight team rider
What was the personal positive outcome you took from the experience of realizing the biggest wave kitesurfed? What would you recommend other kiters to do to make their personal dreams come true?
I believe that you should set goals in your life and work hard to achieve them. People might tell you that is impossible or too hard to even try something, so most of the time the best thing is to keep it to yourself until you actually do it. The first time I kited big waves at Nazaré I had with me Jorge Leal taking footage and Sergio Cosme on the jet ski, and no one else had any idea what was going on! The outcome will make you feel truly alive and is an ultimate sensation of personal fulfillment…■