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TheKiteMag 52 The Last Frontier Duotone Toby Bromwich4 copy 1200x800 - The Last  Frontier

The Last Frontier

Ever wondered what it’s like to kite in front of a 100-meter wall of ice? Duotone team riders Liam Whaley, Matchu Lopes and Reno Romeu headed to Alaska to find out. They spent hours on the road, on the hunt for some unique kiting in mind-blowing scenery. Despite the icy water, or perhaps because of it, they were rewarded with unforgettable memories and these insane shots…

WORDS: Liam Whaley
PHOTOS: Toby Bromwich
TheKiteMag 52 The Last Frontier Duotone Toby Bromwich14 - The Last  Frontier

The trip started in Anchorage where we met up with local pilot Scott who has a small seaplane. He was a little perplexed by the amount of gear we had – cameras, kites, surfboards, foils… Seaplanes are designed to fly light… He flew us in two groups, as we couldn’t all fit in at the same time, to the glacier at Inner Lake George. Flying over this frozen landscape, you’re hit by the contrast between the green mountains and blue ice. Seeing the crevasses and details of the glacier was quite overwhelming. The first group dropped off had to fend for themselves while waiting for the second group to arrive – holding on tightly to the cans of bear spray… The weather was quite cloudy and it wasn’t very windy, and it was scary when the wind died, sitting in the freezing glacier water, knowing our only rescue was a tiny dinghy. The water runs off the glaciers so is about 3 degrees Celsius… But we managed to get close to the glacier and as Reno said, “Seeing the ice mixed with rocks and kiting in front of it was very memorable, very peaceful.”

“We took a steel icebreaking boat captained by a man called Captain Hooktowards LeConte Glacier…””

Once back in Anchorage we hit the road in our all-terrain vehicles provided by partner Porsche and headed north to Valdez. It was a long drive between Anchorage and Valdez, with some beautiful scenery along the way – massive cliffs on one side and river valleys on the other. Luckily on this trip we could stop for a rest whenever we wanted as the vehicles were fitted with roof tents. It was often pouring with rain, but inside the tents it was super comfortable and warm, and it was a cool experience to chill on top of the cars. Matchu couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of bears or other wildlife however… In Valdez we chatted up a local fisherman who took us out into the windiest spot in the fjord and Toby nabbed some atmospheric shots despite the cloud and rain. Matchu was finding the freezing water quite hard: “I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, and couldn’t really hear or see much because of my hood.”

So then it was time to head further south and luckily the weather improved and the sun came out. We took a steel icebreaking boat – captained by a man called Captain Hook – towards LeConte Glacier, which was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever encountered, and as Reno describes, “was something from another world, like a movie.” There were icebergs floating around which got bigger and bigger as we got closer to the glacier. The wind also got stronger closer to the glacier, so we hurried to set up our kites, on an iceberg I might add! We kited right up against the glacier walls. Kiting directly in front of a 100-meter wall of ice was such a surreal feeling. The scale was hard to comprehend, even being there in person. It was also a crazy experience kiting between the icebergs, jumping over them, and playing around them, especially because the conditions were really good this day. I have never done that before, and the feeling was insane.

TheKiteMag 52 The Last Frontier Duotone Toby Bromwich10 - The Last  Frontier

We did have to be careful as sometimes huge chunks of ice, as big as skyscrapers, fall off the glaciers – when you hear a crack you know something’s going to happen!

One of the craziest moments of the trip for me was when I caught a magic gust. I remember taking off and immediately feeling that the wind was different – I felt a warm gust and instead of flying forwards I hovered a couple meters above the water and was going backwards. I reacted quickly knowing that this was an opportunity to get a magic gust. I swung my kite from side to side and suddenly I was flying 15m high. Once I reached the top I started looping and went even higher. I must have looped the kite about 15 times whilst rotating at the same time. It was pretty scary because there were massive icebergs below me and mountains on both sides of me. After almost a minute in the sky it was really time to come back down so I started purposely steering the kite down. Eventually I made it down and rode away. What a rush! Reno also got to experience this for himself; check out his clip on YouTube.

“After kiting, we thought it would be a good idea to hit the water without wetsuits…”

After kiting, we thought it would be a good idea to hit the water without wetsuits. I often do ice baths, and I love the feeling you get after doing them, so I told myself that I wasn’t leaving Alaska without jumping into the glacial water in board shorts. It was definitely a shock to the system. Jumping in so fast instead of getting in progressively made it a lot worse. Anyway, I’m really happy I did it. The whole trip was absolutely amazing, I was constantly impressed by our surroundings. But I’ll let Matchu have the last word: “I am so glad to have been able to do something like this and be in a place like that, even though I was FREEZING my ass off all the time…

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