Matt’s Blog: Having fun in crap conditions
15 November, 2016
Words: Matt Pearce / Images: Ydwer van der Heide
Kiteworld Associate editor Matt Pearce explains why watching the strapless elite shredding in light wind and small waves last month in Dakhla has changed his perspective on kiting in poor conditions.
Like anyone who’s been kitesurfing for a reasonably long time and who’s travelled to some of the better known kiting hotspots around, experiencing some pretty epic conditions in the process, I’ve been guilty of a bit of wind and wave snobbery over the years.
If you’ve gotten used to riding perfectly lit in buttery flat lagoons wearing a pair of boardshorts every October in Brazil, or to tearing apart peeling cross-off perfection in Mauritius (not that I have but you get the idea), it’s easy to get a little jaded when you’re presented with choppy ‘bump and jump’ conditions or lackluster swell and light wind. Sometimes, you might turn up to the beach, take one look at it and decide that, while it’s kite-able, it’s nothing special so you might as well go and do something else altogether. We’ve all heard surfers joke about not getting out of bed unless it’s at least six foot and glassy and it makes sense. After all, a cheap sandwich from a petrol station isn’t all that appetizing when you’ve gotten used to fine dining.
The conditions weren’t exactly firing during the early days of competition at the GKA in Dakhla
However, sometimes you have to just make the best of whatever’s on offer and that’s exactly what I witnessed last month in Dakhla where I was covering the final stop of the GKA Wave and Strapless Freestyle Tour. The reliable wind that Dakhla is renowned for was conspicuously absent during the first few days of the event which meant we were rapidly eating into the seven day waiting period and so, when a workable breeze finally kicked up, the decision was made to start the heats as soon as possible. The winds were offshore and light and the consistent Mid-Atlantic swell that had been pumping during the previous days had dropped off so that, what the competitors had to work with, was a less-than-sizeable shore break and lighter, gustier winds than they might have hoped for. There was, I think it’s fair to say, some consternation among the riders when they discovered they’d be expected to compete in the conditions as they stood but that was what was on offer and so, as the heats began, they took to the water.
Filippe Ferreira – powered and committed in less than 12 knots!
However, while some of less practiced riders struggled in the less-than-epic conditions they were being presented with, this is when the truly experienced riders from within the competitive field showed just what can be done in ‘poor’ conditions. Filippe Ferreira, the powerhouse from Rio, attacked the small waves with such venom and aggression, eeking every ounce of power out of his kite that could be summoned, while we saw riders like Mitu Monteiro and Airton Cozzolino producing waveriding performances far beyond what I’d previously considered possible in light wind.
Keahi, the event winner, making riding in waist height waves look fun!
Rather than struggling to cope, the riders were tearing the sub-optimal conditions to pieces and showing just what can be achieved in waves that many of us might dismiss at first glance. What this highlighted to me is that a bottom turn is still a bottom turn and a cutback is still a cutback and, while it’s obviously more fun doing them on a big open wave face, you can still commit to them every bit as hard as you would in bigger waves. The satisfaction is still there and you’re still progressing… even if you’re not going to be winning any Billabong XXL awards in the process.
Matchu getting vertical with all the flair he can muster even in the mush!
While the conditions did, towards the end of the event, improve to the point that we were able to witness an incredible final day of competition, that wasn’t what stuck in mind oddly as I travelled home from the event. It was watching the riders nailing silky smooth wave 360s in crumbling two foot waves, a move I’m now super motivated to try myself the next time I’m out in mushy onshore slop (which is often), and the sheer amount of style and finesse that some of the riders were able to produce even in ‘crap’ waves that’s inspired me to think a little differently next time I find myself out in conditions that don’t quite live up to the standards that I’ve, perhaps rather snootily, set for myself.
The trials were super high performance with very little to work with. Inspiring!
When it comes down to it, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got and nobody is too good to not be out on the water when the wind’s blowing. So, if you see my van at the beach anytime soon, when the wind’s marginal and the waves are anything but perfect, I’ll be that guy in the shore break falling off and having a laugh in the process. That’s until my relentless positivity fails me and I end up going home in a bad mood to watch kite flicks and try and book flights to Namotu Island anyway…