Men who ride [on] mountains

OPENING SPREAD - Men who ride [on] mountains

Words: Jesse Richman
Photos: Davo Hidalgo and Forrest Dein

Certain moments in life stand out more than others. With so many paths to choose from – all of which are essentially unpredictable – it's up to us to seize the moment to stop and appreciate it all. When everything slots into place and beauty surrounds us, all the work, all the hardship, all the struggle: it all seems to be worth it.
One afternoon in the small mountain town of Cuesta Del Viento, life is not like normal. It is Kitefest. There is an electric vibe in the air that can’t go unnoticed. Zooming into the center of the action we find seven men with seven kites doing everything they can to amp up and inspire a crowd. Knowing that the more they put on the line, the more energy the crowd will reflect back at them. This fuels the riders to go bigger, and things get crazy.

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I ride past one of my best friends hucking a huge strapless front roll, past another friend sending a Blind Judge 5 and then by his brother who's flipping around faster than anyone can keep track of. The only thing I can do is smile, thinking to myself, is this for real?!

Argentina Kite Fest 2017 Photo Davo Hidalgo 1 - Men who ride [on] mountains

I look off into the distance and see golden rays beaming down at us as the sun crest's away over the dusty mountain range. I taste fresh water dripping down my face, smell crisp mountain air as it whips past me, grip my control system hard as I feel the power increasing to an exciting level. When the power is perfect, and the timing is right, I send it! Putting all my strength into one side of the bar, rising above my fellow kiters and up to a level with a great view. It’s here that my moment of awesomeness comes. The fully stoked Argentinian crowd goes wild: screaming, shouting and radiating with wild energy. They don’t have a kite in their hands, but they have a drink to pass around… Good friends by their side, pumping beats flowing through their bodies and they are ready to dance all night. For this moment though, they look up at me, I look down at them, and we kite loop together and feel each other's stoke. Both loving and appreciating how awesome this moment is, driving off each other’s energy, we use it to fuel our personal fire and then amp up the vibe of the entire party.

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The Team

Jesse Richman [Hawaii]: King of the Air, amped to send it!
Patri Mclaughlin [Hawaii]: Strapless Master ready for anything.
Carlos Mario or ‘Bebe’ [Brazil]: Freestyle world champion with a smile bigger than his flatwater pop.
Carlos Madison [Brazil]: Crazy, wild, stoke… Only knows one speed and that's full speed. Both on the water and at the party!
Alex Neto [Brazil] Style Master. Smooth and slick the entire time.
Reno Romeu [Brazil]: Decorated athlete, nomad at heart…
Evandro Del Silva [Brazil]: Style that shines brighter than his diamond earrings.
Forrest Dein [Hawaii]: Chiller, hipster, filmmaker. Always ready to get the shot.

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On The Water

Cuesta Del Viento is far wilder than almost all kiteboarding destinations on the planet. With a literal translation to ‘Gulch of Wind’. The mountain lake glistens in the morning; glassy as can be with the mountain reflection appearing as far as you can see. Crystal light blue water, warm sun shining down and a pretty surreal feeling in the air. By midday the wind starts to kick in, bringing the place to life. The water becomes textured and starts to get stirred up, and some eager kiters will be straight out there. By late afternoon it’s on, with pumping winds well above 30 knots. The water is filled with wind swell and is now a dark brown tint as it's thoroughly beaten in with the mountain dust. There will be between 20 and 50 kiters in the water now, getting after it. Most are out there to boost to the moon. By sunset there will be gusts well over 40 knots and the only place not dusty is on the water. This is where you will find the hardcore riders trying to get the biggest jump of their life.

Argentina Kite Fest 2017 Photo Davo Hidalgo 10 - Men who ride [on] mountains
This place has an acquired taste, but if you have the desire for big air kiteboarding, it’s hard to beat. The riding here is similar to the big air riding of Cape Town. Throughout the weekend there will be a few organized moments on the water with the freestyle contest, the pro rider expression sessions, and the wild costume race. The rest of the time everyone just rides…

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Off The Water

For one weekend a year, this town lights up and hosts the biggest party around, with around 5000 people driving up to the mountain lake, all for a good time. The beach transforms and gets built up to handle the madness. There are multiple music stages, numerous food vendors and several bars serving drinks non-stop. This year the place was also scattered with Dinosaurs. Why? I think the question is “Why not?!”
The Argentinian vibe is to not give a shit, just have fun, smile and share the stoke. There is booming fun party music going all day. Everything from remixed reggae to pump up beats that usually coincide with the strength of the wind. When the wind picks up, so does the party! Come sunset the vibe is off the charts and everyone can feel the amp, watching the kiting and loving the fact that they are at the front end of a wild night.

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As soon as the kites come in, the party moves straight to the dance floor. The deep house beats lure in all, now gathered around the dance floor, the party flow is in full force. The fact that there are a ridiculous amount of beautiful women in Argentina is quite remarkable, their beauty only matched by their desire for fun.
At some point, everyone will take a break. The schedule is far from normal, but around midnight it gets to be time to go chill, take a shower and sit down for dinner. After everyone relaxes, then the party reconvenes at one of the town bars. If you show up before 2am there is not much going on, by 3am the night will be getting wild. In Argentina, the great times go all night. Giving everyone just enough time to relax before they do it all over again the next day…

Check out the short film made by Forrest Dein on the 2017 Kitefest – viewable at the Jesse Richman Premier Club.

This article originally appeared in TheKiteMag #19. To subscribe, go here.

Argentina Kite Fest 2017 Photo Forrest Dein  10 - Men who ride [on] mountains

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