Sal, Cape Verde, with its world class waves, has been pumping recently. We spoke to two riders who call it home and have been making the most of the conditions there in an exceptionally quiet season – Duotone rider Matchu Lopes and his cousin, young talent Hendrick Lopes, who recently joined the F-ONE family.
PHOTOS ALEX DO ROSARIO AND FNINGA
I grew up in Cape Verde and kited for the first time when I was around seven years old, but I didn’t get into it straight away. I came back to it two years later and then got hooked. I was taught by many people but most importantly my mom and dad – they have always been there for me. I remember when I was learning, before I could go upwind, they would always walk down the beach to get me and bring me back upwind. As soon I could kite by myself, we all started riding together. It was one of the best moments of my life! When I was around 10 years old my parents and I decided to move to Switzerland to focus on my studying and finish high school there. Over the holidays we would travel to kite destinations around Europe and have a great time. But Christmas holidays were always special to me because we would head back home to Cape Verde to see my family and kite my favorite wave Ponta Preta. Now that I have finished school in Switzerland I once again have the chance to spend more time here and I am loving it. I wouldn’t dream of being born anywhere else. This place gives us all conditions from pumping waves to strong wind, just perfect for all the water sports I like to do: strapless freestyle, surf foil, wingfoil, surf and windsurf.
Luckily my first season back at home has been the best season ever. There has been action every single day with non-stop wind and waves. I think there couldn’t be a better place to be at the moment as we are able to live quite normally, and people are still hugging and having fun. The main rule we have to follow is to wear a mask when we go into a shop but everything else is normal. We are a really blessed island! Kiting-wise I am very happy with my progression this year and am feeling really comfortable on the water in Ponta Preta. I have been training hard and the best part is to hear the legend Mitu Monteiro or my uncle Airton Cozzolino cheering for me when I do a perfect turn or get barreled. I really look up to my uncle Airton – his riding has so much control and he does everything with power and perfection. I also really look up to Mitu – he is an inspiration to so many people and I am really grateful to be riding by his side. His riding is just unspeakable; he’s got so much flow and power.
We recently headed to some different spots for a photo shoot. It was a really fun experience but also super scary – it was my first time riding such big and powerful waves and my first time at some of those spots. Seeing how Mitu was ripping I had to put my fears aside and turn my game up! As soon as I did that I had a blast. We had the spot all to ourselves, and photographers on the beach to capture every moment – it was back-to-back action. It was great to get some training in on big waves, as I would like to compete alongside Airton and Mitu at the GKA competitions and do some GWA competitions too. I went to the first ever GWA world tour in Brazil last year which was amazing! It was my first time traveling somewhere far without my parents and also my first ever competition, and I really had a blast. I learned so much about competition; everyone was pushing each other and I am really looking forward to going back. So I’m hoping the world gets back to normal as soon as possible. And in the meantime I have some projects in my head that I want to accomplish and most importantly I want to have fun in the sea!
Like everywhere in the world Covid has changed our daily lives a lot, and just when we thought things were getting better, countries went back into lockdown and travel restrictions became rigid again. For people like us that thrive on being on the road, these times are particularly hard. On the other hand, in Sal there is no shortage of swell and wind this season – we have been enjoying conditions as good as it gets. The island has been blessed with non-stop swell for weeks, and the lack of tourism has meant deserted kite spots with just a few lucky locals making the most of conditions. But as perfect as it might be, I am always looking for something else: some new challenge, a different feeling, something that keeps me driven.
I had in mind a remote spot, a place I had been once in a past winter, that I held in my memory as a really special day. The forecast was looking promising but not perfect. Unlike my home breaks, this wave requires a special set of conditions for it to work at its best, which happens maybe a handful of times per year. Leaving the comfort of home and the certainty of good conditions to pursue a fickle spot wasn’t perhaps the smartest option, but even if it didn’t match my expectations, just the rush of going to a different location was enough motivation to pull the trigger. Luckily I scored! Looking back at it, it was a good decision, even if the conditions were not the same as the previous session I had had there. It was all worth the effort and hard work to get to somewhere different during this particularly hard time. And maybe it is good that it didn’t quite match my expectations so I remain motivated to go back there again, because variety and new challenges are what keep me driven… ■
This feature originally appeared in TheKiteMag #41. To read the full issue, subscribe here.