Paradise Found

Words: Jason Hudson
Photos: Jason Hudson & ComeKiteWithUs

Imagine pristine flat water lagoons reflecting palms and clear blue skies. Imagine lush clouds swirled by constant breeze, a palm covered palapa, warm sun, and silence only interrupted by the chirping birds and lapping waves. Imagine beautiful people with less than a fraction of clothing covering their tanned, toned bodies. Picture the sweaty, drunk, humid nights in a bohemian restaurant along the beach. The wind and waves reduced to a static sound that wafts through the darkness. And you, armed with only flip flops and a few pesos, sit digging your toes into the sand until you find that cool layer underneath. Can you smell the delicious food? Can you taste the margarita salt and the tequila? One would argue you’ve found paradise and you drift gracefully into a stare at the stars that peak through the night’s clouds. In addition to some of the best beach vibes in the world, you’re surrounded by exceptional kite conditions. The two seem to go hand in hand, more often than not. The constant and consistent trades give you the option of ocean wave riding small waves along the whitest, powder sand beaches speckled with picturesque palms. A year round consistent forecast makes the Yucatán Peninsula one of the best riding spots in this region of the world. On par with the rest of the Caribbean, Yucatán, Tulum, Cancún and surrounding regions depict a scene so beautiful, that even the most beautiful prose could never do it justice.

This adventure, like many others, began with an exchange of emails and a few phone calls. “We’ve got this sick place in El Cuyo, Mex” the voice on the other side of the phone exclaimed, the thin electronic-sounding voice cracking through speaker phone. John Ruffing, from ComeKiteWithUs, is excitedly talking on about the consistency of the wind and picturesque scene in Mexico. “We’ll get you set up at Casa Morph, bring a 10 meter, it’s gonna be on!” The voice continued while Chris Bobryk scribbled cryptic notes about accommodations onto a yellow legal pad. “Got it, take the bus from Cancún…” Chris repeats back, “head way north, a hammock on the porch… got it.” he confirms. Simple as that, the scene was set, the pin placed into the map and expectations were set for a little coastal camping and kiting in Mexico!

We’d both been to the region before, but there was something promising this time, something unique. Disregarding the cryptic directions and questionable accommodations, Bobryk was more interested in seeking out some of the world’s most unique bodies of water. Yucatán offers huge coastal lagoons with flat glassy surfaces and miles of coastline. Chris is no stranger to last minute strike missions to Mexico and Central America. I met Chris in Hatteras, North Carolina ages ago. He was just a teenager from Michigan amped on being active and looking for an escape from the lingering mid-western winters. Bobryk’s passion for kitesurfing is larger than anything I’ve scene, he is clear how he wants to spend his day – kitesurfing or generally being active. Aside from that, he can be found consuming culture to the fullest with a big goofy grin.

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The Slow Road

The commuter plane skipped down the Cancún runway, immediately exposing
advertisements for Corona and Señor Frogs. Taxiing down the long path, the orange glow of the soon setting sun turned the sky a hazy orange. With the tops of the palms swaying aggressively in the salty breeze, boarding a bus and heading north would be necessary to unveil this potential paradise. In and out of sleep on the bus ride north, it would become immediately evident that renting a car would have been the quicker choice. Just as eagerness to get off the bus grew to an unbearable point, the coast gave way from the eco-touristy Tulum into the Yucatán country. The roads, notably, less maintained and less traveled as the crowded bus bounced into the looming dark. The bus rolled to a stop in El Cuyo to exchange for a taxi and on the way to Casa Morph. Once arrived at the final destination we were welcomed in person by John, our voice on the phone and Ryan Curtright, long time kite instructor and world traveler. After exchanging a few pleasantries, the direction would be to these suspicious hammock accommodations. Following John and Ryan down the foot path into the property, it was becoming evident that these ‘hammock accommodations’ were far better than expected. A full sized villa at Casa Morph would be the offering. Right out of the frying pan and into the fire, the festivities were already underway. Not skipping a beat, the night faded heavy and late into celebration; and as the sun would rise over the beautifully flat expanses, it would be paradise found.

Signpost shot - Paradise Found

Miscommunications

Much of the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula is rich with incredible blue waters lapping on white sand beaches. The peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. The climate carries Floridian similarities; humid hot with lots of relief from the constant cool breeze. Even with the obvious accolades, this region is sparsely populated outside of the obvious tourist destinations. Mayan relics dot the coastline with beautifully preserved ruins. Formal landscaping and stacks of ancient stone perch high on coastal cliffs with watchful protection over the tropical blue gradients of Caribbean water. The name Yucatán itself is said to have come from the most historic of misunderstandings. Documented in letters to Charles V, Hernán Cortés asked a local “Que es esto lugar? What do you call this place?” Confused by this language and the question, the local answered in perfect Yucatec Mayan “Uic Athan” or Yucatán. Later it would be discovered to mean I don’t know what you’re saying.

The geography of this place is perhaps what makes it such an incredible destination for eco sports like windsurfing and kitesurfing. The Yucatán Peninsula is part of the greater Yucatán Platform, a mass of soluble rocks and lowlands. The combination of miles of low lying country rich with sink holes, creates a multitude of lagoons along the coast. Notable in historical significance as well; the mass extinction event, thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs, is buried deep below Chicxulub. An explosion equal to 100,000,000 megatonnes of TNT decimated the land mass and ripped up the earth. Only a mere 65 million years later, the crater is now buried under 1km of limestone on the north western tip of the peninsula.

Flamingo shot - Paradise Found

The lagoons along the coastline are perhaps the main reason for this adventure; one in particular is the Pink Lakes of Las Colorades. Perhaps you’ve seen it in an internet article titled “Five Out Of This World Places To Visit” or “Top Ten Places To Instagram About To Make Your Friends Jealous”. The Pink Lakes of Yucatán are exactly what they depict. Bright pink waters positioned in contrast against the Caribbean blue waters and white sand beaches. The lakes are for salt production; huge shallow lakes with banks of natural solar salt to be pushed around and dehydrated by the sun.

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PFinsta - Paradise Found

The pink hue of the water is caused by red organisms, rich with beta carotene, that thrive in this environment. The area is a fascinating micro-ecosystem, it is no coincidence that pink flamingos flock to these parts; the plankton, brine shrimp and other pink organisms make up the majority of their diet, making the awkward looking birds turn pink. This destination is an amazingly surreal combination of colors that occur in beautiful natural harmony – pastels of pink against light blue and crisp white powdery sand has absolutely the makings for an epic photo shoot. With this in mind, a strike mission to this region would become the backbone of the journey to this part of the world.

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Feel the burn

With gear and crew packed back into the rental car, we were bouncing back down the road towards the resort. Heads drifting with fatigue from the long day on the water, a voice shouts out “My legs… they’re on fire!” Everyone turned with alarm at the scream. Asiling (an Irish friend), was scratching at her legs as we all looked on with concern and confusion. Chris, barely nodding awake from a post session nap, noticed his legs were touching hers in the cramped back seat and suggested that the burn might be from the lake water. The highly salty water from the pink lake at Las Coloradas had transferred to Asiling’s leg causing a burn. The waters of these lakes, though beautiful, are often times upwards of 40% salinity; workers who frequent the water are said to rub shea butter on their skin to protect themselves. Chris, didn’t seem to notice the burn. His focus was genuinely on the session, conditions and making the most of the epic scenery. This is a perfect summation of Chris’s style, and perhaps the catalyst behind his move to RRD.

Chris made the recent decision to move to RRD after a summer meeting in Italy with the team. It was here that Chris discovered parallel passions with the brand. Simply put, Chris enjoys maximizing his time on the water and RRD was in a position to help him keep those goals. “It’s about getting out there as much as possible,” Chris explains. “[RRD] makes gear that will allow you to push yourself as hard as possible while sharing the stoke with everyone around you.” It is as simple as that, a philosophy of endless riding and perpetual stoke, what more could brand and athlete ask for? It is a pretty basic concept; Chris’s passion for sport has led this charge in his professional career. His enthusiasm for kiteboarding has amped him to research and innovate outside of the box, often looking to snowboarding, wake sports and surfing for inspiration on new tricks. This crossover mentality is essential to the progression of kiteboarding.

The next big thing?

This coastline of Mexico is unique and precious in its rarity. From a tourism perspective, this region offers so much in the way of culture and exploration. Stay near the beach for the solitary vibe painted in high tropical contrast of whites and blues, or explore the jungles, ruins, ancient relics of the region. The wind conditions are near consistent up and down the coastline; the best strategy is to pick a spot, post up, and shred your brains out. There are likely hidden gems like this all over the world… so the question is, how do they remain hidden? For one, not writing about them probably helps. Second, is the responsible representation and upkeep of such a place. Lastly, is ease of travel to and from. The Yucatán region of Mexico is fairly easy to travel to; a flight into Cancún and a few hours’ drive (or seven hour bus ride if you make that wrong decision). El Cuyo and the surrounding region of Yucatán is absolutely responsibly managed, resorts like Casa Morph and kite schools like ComeKiteWithUs make it a huge priority to support the local cultures, employ local, and maintain these pristine beaches. So why hasn’t this place blown up? The answer is simple – it is essentially illegal to ride in these lagoons, or any lagoons in this region. Even the quick novelty session at the pink lake was interrupted by the fuzz. Ride in the ocean all day long, the conditions are spectacular; but, when it comes to the flat wind protected surfaces of the lagoons – it’s a fineable offense. Guys like John Ruffing and Ryan Cutright are trying to change this, as it can directly relate to their business.

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Opening up these lagoons could result in a boom of new tourism, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Look at spots like Brazil, Hatteras, La Ventana and Caberete; all epic spots with ideal and consistent conditions. However, anyone that has traveled has stories of the shit shows that envelope every single day – line tangling kitemares of ridiculous and preventable proportion. Perhaps for now, the solitude is this region’s sanctity. Yucatán, yet to be boomed by the buzz can enjoy the little peace and quiet that makes it so unique and desirable. El Cuyo is one of a kind, it is rich in ancient history, it is rich in kiteable (illegal) lagoons, and bountiful with blue Caribbean waters and trade winds on tap. Your next journey here will be a wise choice, as it is only a matter of time before it is realized how special a place like this is, and promptly exploited. As you settle in after a long day on the water and the sun sets on your session, you will hear the sounds of the rustling palms mixed with the jungle birds. The mix of pleasant sounds will create a symphony of relaxation, a lullaby for your voyage. You will fade in and out of that late afternoon nap, the hammock gently swaying back and forth. You mind will drift, it will carry away into tranquility. The salty skin worn tight over tired muscles will be browned by the sun. Reaching your arms up in a stretch towards the colorful, sun-setting sky will release a yawn that falls into a smile at the corner of your lips – it is at this moment you will realize that this is paradise.

This article originally appeared in TheKiteMag #20. To subscribe, go here.

Shot B - Paradise Found

 

To ride spots like these and more, visit www.kitesurfholidays.com

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