BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
The panicked text message from Lauren reads, “I’m on the plane. We’re taking off in thirty minutes, and you’re not here!! Where are you?”
Crap! I’m late. I’ve fallen asleep in a rocking chair in Terminal D at Miami International, and was in a deep slumber. Half asleep I leap to my feet and start running. Out the terminal doors into the main concourse frantically looking for an airport layout map to hopefully tell me where gate J is located. Just my luck, it’s on the complete opposite side of this massive structure called an airport. Run Forrest run!! I’m running so quickly, I actually run past my gate. Two gates later I realize I’ve gone too far and have to back track.
Stumbling up to the gate, it’s very obvious that I’m the last one to board, and everyone is waiting for me. Clumsily I pull out my boarding pass and passport, swipe the scanner, and scurry down the on ramp to the waiting 747, eager to leave for Brazil.
I settle into seat 21A, prop my horseshoe pillow around my neck, and settle into my midnight flight to Fortaleza. In 7 hours I’ll be south of the equator, getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.
“Welcome to Brazil!” the captain proclaims over the intercom as our wheels touch down in the thriving metropolis. All the passengers are groggy and puffy eyed from the uncomfortable vertical overnight sleeps. But I don’t care, I’m in Brazil, and all I want is to get in the ocean and ride. That’s why I’m here.
The adventure is an eight day downwind journey along the Brazilian north coast from Taiba to Parnaiba. 500+kms along some of the most beautiful coastline on the planet, escorted by world champion Mitu Montiero and rising star Sebastian Ribeiro. If I survive, this will be the journey of my life.
Clearing customs, I can't wait to get in the car so I can get to Villa Marola to catch up with Mitu. I step out into the blazing Brazilian sun to happily see the flags at the airport sticking straight sideways. This is a good sign. We’re in the city, and it’s already blowing 20+ knots. My imagination goes wild thinking of how windy it will be on the coast.
We strap the board bags to the roof of our 4×4, and start making our way out of dense Fortaleza, through the tight, busy streets that don’t seem to have any street signs. I have full confidence in our driver provided by Surf Sem Fim. He seems to know the maze of streets like the back of his hand. In no time we make our way out of the crowded urban jungle, and onto the palm tree lined motorway heading west to Taiba.
As we get closer to our destination, our roadway soon changes from hard concrete to soft sand. We stop at the local gas station for a quick tyre pressure adjustment so that we don’t get stuck as we cross the sea of sand that lies between us and our goal, head high waves and nuclear wind conditions. It almost seems like our driver is lost as we cross fields of sand that don’t seems to have an end. The only thing to be seen are palm trees and grazing donkeys who look at us in wonder as if asking if we are lost, because we are obviously not following any road. In fact, there is no road; just a couple of tyre tracks left in the sand from other intrepid soles looking for adventure.
We roll over the dunes and can see the ocean in the distance. Suddenly the 30+ hours of planes, taxis and 4×4’s on the voyage from Cabarete seems like a distant memory, as I’m giddy with excitement to hit the water. Around and over a few more dunes, and we roll into the reception of Villa Marola. I step out of my ride to see the big beautiful smile of my Brazil contact Jalila from Surf Sem Fim. She hugs and kisses me like an old friend I haven’t seen in years. Instantly I feel like I’m home.
In the distance, in the ocean, I can see an F-One kite flying across the skyline. Like a schoolgirl I skip and run down the hill to the beach to see if the kite belongs to the legend. Finally I can see the ocean. Boosting off a wave spinning like a top, I see someone throwing a 360 unhooked strapless handle pass. Yup, there’s no mistake, it’s Mitu…
Seeing me on shore he quickly pulls up, jumps off his board and welcomes me like a long lost brother who he hasn’t seen in an eternity. His huge smile almost blinding me with its energy. “Are you ready to ride? Get your kite and let’s go have some fun!” Hell yes!! I drop my luggage, pull out my 7m Reo, quickly screw on my fins, and run out into the ocean. I can’t believe it, I’m sharing waves with the man who originally got me into kiting. It’s like a dream. I’m so excited; I almost forgot how to kite. After a twenty-minute crash festival my nerves finally calm, and our first session begins in earnest.
We ride our hearts out, trading low fives on the water and stupid shit eating grins. It’s almost surreal. It’s really happening. We’re in Brazil and for the next 8 days, Mitu and Sebastian are our personal guides in paradise. If santa could ask me what I wanted for Christmas, this is it, and way more.
We ride like kids playing hooky from school until the fantastically orange sun sets behind the endless dunes. We roll our gear, and make a plan to meet at the beach bar in an hour for a fresh fish BBQ.
Rolling up to the bar I see Mitu surrounded by a group of kiters all eager to shake his hand and buy him a caiparinha. I pull up on the stool next to him and order a libation of my own. Amazing how alcohol tastes better in paradise. Like kids we share stories of our greatest kite escapades, and they all pale in comparison to Mitu’s great adventures. But he humors us and smiles at our stories of the “massive” waves we all claim to have caught in the past. It’s obvious our giant fish stories are just an average day for Mitu, but he still listens and smiles as he sees the stoke that sharing our stories gives us.
Our fish is skewered and set over burning coconuts to slowly BBQ to a tender delicious meal. Who knew coconut husks burnt so well, and provided such a great BBQ taste! But they do, and it is delicious. 2 hours of fresh fish and even bigger fish tails later, we’re all exhausted and ready for bed. One last story and off to count sheep. Tomorrow’s rider briefing starts at 9am, and then we are off on our amazing adventure. It begins with the first leg from Taiba to Guajigú. 65kms of wave riding bliss.
I can’t wait for 9am!! Now time to catch up on the sleep I seemed to have lost on the overnight plane ride. Tomorrow we begin the great escape…
Images: Justin Dalegret // Bruna Toledo