Each year, thousands of kiteboarders pack their bags to spend their holidays in one of the best countries in the world to kiteboard, Brazil. A massive country made up of 26 sates expanding 7,491 kilometers of coastline and home to thousands of butter flat lagoons. For the average kiteboarder headed to Brazil, their final destination reads Fortaleza bringing them to one of the many epic kiteboarding destinations in the state of Ceara. However, this travel story is about another part of Brazil. A place that seems a world away and yet still carries with it some of the dearest qualities that many of us have come to know and love about kiteboarding in Brazil. The marvelous city, famed for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, mosaic sidewalks, sprawling favelas, vivid street art and home to Christ the Redeemer as well as 6.3million people, Rio de Janeiro isn’t only one of Brazil’s most vibrant cosmopolitan cities but is also a destination to be included on any kiteboarders must-see list.
It had been on my personal list for quite some time now, having visited Brazil every fall for the past five years and not once stopping in on my good friend and teammate Reno Romeu who calls Rio home. I’ve heard the stories from Reno for years now, ‘Rio has perfect flatwater, waves AND a lifestyle that can’t be matched’. So when he invited me to join my other North Kiteboarding teammates, Tom Court and Sebastian Ribeiro for a ten-day trip in his home city, I couldn’t wait.
I had landed home from my previous trip not even a mere 48 hours before my Rio departure, exhausted as always but I could barely sleep in the days leading up to the trip because I was so excited. Reno welcomed me at the airport in his usual unassuming and friendly manner, driving the scenic route around the city so I could get a glimpse at the stunning beaches and intermittent lush green mountains and then it was straight to one of his regular churrascaria’s for a casual mouth watering steak lunch.
In the short walk from the steak place to our apartment, I could already tell that I was going to like this place. It bustled with life. Everywhere I looked, young people exercised on the bright mosaic boardwalks, surfers ripped the sizeable shore break, paddle boarders explored the depths offshore. The city was alive and buzzing with activity.
As soon as the others arrived, we headed straight for a session. Reno warned us that it would be a bit of a drive but it would be worth it. Navigating the packed highways that wound their way from meandering coastline through bustling city and around the jungle topped peaks that Rio is known so well for wouldn’t be quick but with Reno at the wheel, it would be as efficient as possible. Heavy on the gas, quick on the horn seemed to be the best way to get from point A to B and two hours later we were unloading the truck at a spot we coined ‘coca-cola lagoon’ due to it’s uncanny resemblance to the familiar beverage. Although the water was a somewhat unsettling color, it was actually quite clean and we learned that the brown red hue was actually caused by a native algae that populates the lagoon.
Although our morning was spent in the hustle of the city, dining at classy restaurants and quickly immersing ourselves in the swanky beach life that surrounds our new neighborhood, we had been quickly transported to a world that felt incredibly familiar. Tom, Reno and I had a perfectly powered 10 and 12m freestyle session in glassy smooth waters that rivaled any lagoon I’ve ridden in northern Brazil. Only one thing was missing….we were completely alone. We had the entire lagoon to ourselves minus a few on-lookers who showed up on the shore to see what was going on. Sebastian even scored a brief wave session just on the other side of the small strip of sand separating the lagoon from the Sea. The trip was already off to an epic start.
Our drive back to the city wasn’t short as Rio’s traffic isn’t for the feeble but feeling completely satiated from the session, we didn’t mind one bit. In the next days we rode at our favored, ‘Coca-Cola’ lagoon, more formally known as Praia do Foguete, we also regularly rode at a spot with a significantly shorter commute located just a stones throw away from our apartment called Barra da Tijuca.
Barra da Tijuca is everything I imagined Rio would be. We would pump and rig our kites at the K08 kite club where we’d rinse off in the outdoor showers, snack on delicious Acai and sip frosty post-session Bohemias from our sun shaded hammock hangouts. Our biggest concern when kiting at Barra da Tijuca was simply navigating the bikini-strewn beach between the launching area at KO8 and the water’s edge. Although the area is the designated kiteboarding spot, you are certain to be greeted by sun kissed cheeks, colorful umbrellas and beach goers planted across the wide stretch of beach. Barra da Tijuca is known for it’s sizeable shorebreak something Reno and Sebastian have come to know quite well, the two riding together yet Reno using the incoming waves as kickers and Sebastian taking them down the line on his wave board. Tom and I fell seamlessly into step with our Brazilian teammates launching off kickers and enjoying the spot for it’s smooth winds and beautiful backdrops. With the city looming just north of the spot, it was easy to get absorbed in the stunning cityscape on your tack out.
A few days in to the trip and we were already scoring sessions and making the most of our days in Rio. With a weak forecast for the next couple days, Reno put on his tour guide hat and showed us a few more reasons why he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We went wakeboarding and wakesurfing in the center of the city on Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, we climbed to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the impressive statue of Christo Redentor, we dined at delicious restaraunts and partied at high-end night clubs transplanted to the middle of the jungle for one-time exclusive events.
Only a short couple days of no wind and the forecast was back on form. We loaded up Reno’s truck and strapped in for a long day. Reno had been telling us of Arubinha since we’d arrived, boasting about it’s hard dryer wind and buttery flat waters. We pulled up to the spot and were eagerly greeted by a dozen or so friendly locals and could see that Reno had not lead us astray. It was just as promised, a long narrow sandy point with perfect cross-offshore winds. It was even flatter than our beloved Coca-Cola lagoon. Tom, Reno, Sebastian and I kited for hours. We rode until the sun went down and we could barely muster the energy for another trick. Leaving me with the same feeling I often get only after long days spent at my favorite lagoons further to the north.
Having felt quite at home kiteboarding in Brazilian beach towns after the past half decade of visits, at the end of our epic ten day trip, I couldn’t believe it had taken me this long to experience another part of this beautiful country I have come to know and love. Not only because the kiteboarding was spectacular but because visiting Rio gave us a chance to experience a cultural and historical side of Brazil that I hadn’t understood before.
This text was recently Published in The Kite Mag Issue #14