Follow the crew at REAL kiteboarding during our annual photo and video shoot in Cozumel, Mexico. This is when we get all the new 2005 kiteboarding gear and test/tune it on the water. We’ve chosen Cozumel this year for our photoshoot, and also for our Winter Kite Camps, due to excellent wind and weather conditions, as well as friendly locals and uncrowded beaches.
Postcard #1 : Cannon Ball Run!
Today is a long day. We start in Cape Hatteras finishing up the packing of all the kiteboarding gear that needs to go to Mexico, both for our 2005 photoshoot and also for all of our Winter Kite Camps. In total we have 12 coffin style board bags (from Dakine, NSI and Liquid Force), 1 triple surfboard bag, 9 Dakine Split roller clothing/accessory bags, 7 Slingshot Fuel kite bags for carry-on, and 7 Dakine backpacks. In all, 36 bags, most of which are at or above 50-70 pounds!
To get to the airport, we rent a 5x8 foot enclosed Uhaul trailer. The gear fills all of the trailer, plus the back of two of the REAL trucks. We know we are in for a massive haze at the airport when we go to check it all in. Our flight is scheduled to depart Norfolk at 6am on Tuesday Jan 4th. Who the #$%^& scheduled this flight??!! Only days after New Years, we are pulling an all-nighter, leaving Buxton at 12 midnight and headed for Norfolk, Virginia. We arrive at Norfolk at 4am and start bringing the bags into the airport. We are flying Continental and the airport has just opened as we arrive. We hit the counter just as they are opening, as we know it will take every bit of 2 hours to get us checked in and on the plane. Thinking back to that morning, I didn’t even realize we were in Norfolk due to how tired we all were, and I fly out of there several times every month!
Don’t ask me how, but we end up getting all the bags on the plane for $600 total charge for excess baggage. The power of the jedi mind trick is strong Luke! We have to sprint for both planes as we are late to the first one (it took 2.5 hours to check in) and then this makes us late to the 2nd plane. We make both, which puts us into Cozumel by 11:30am. The final approach to Cozumel makes it all worth it! Jello blue water frothing with whitecaps!
Our Cozumel REAL coach Raul and his daughter Jadie meet us at the airport. We clear customs but are missing all of our coffin bags. They had to come on a later flight as our plane was too full. Hey we understand, we’ll make an exception! They do apologize to us and say they will deliver the bags by the afternoon. We win! I’d much rather have them delivering all of our 13 board bags than us having to lug and load them, plus we are all wrecked from being up for close to 48 hours by now. We head over to our house at the “Country Club” and check into our rooms. Our place is insane! One big house with tons of room and another smaller house with a pool in between the two. Plenty of places to hang out, big kitchen, Xbox, outdoor shower, the works. Plus our hosts Nichole and Lisa are super friendly and helpful.
That afternoon, some of us hit the water for a quick riding session at the Country Club, the rest take a quick sleep session to catch up on some Z’s. Speaking of Z’s, Zack Young and Andy Gassner are already on the water riding the new 2005 Wipika Matrix kites with CLS 5th line and the new 2005 Wipika Mauricio Pro 130cm kiteboards. Zack is totally stoked on the new gear. The Matrix flies super well and is the most stable kite he has ever flown. The 5th line is working flawlessly, allowing instant depower and easy relaunch. Both are in love with the board as well. Shaped by Jimmy Lewis, this board has a glossy deck and a composite bottom making it bombproof for sliders and kickers (hey it’s a Mauricio Pro model right?) You can ride it with straps and pads (included) or with binding. It’s 15.6” wide, so it has plenty of power and pop.
The riding at the Country Club is world class with sideshore conditions and a long white sand beach. The water is Listerine green on the inside and dark blue on the outside. You can’t imagine a more beautiful set up for kiteboarding….
That night we hit La Chosa, a local favorite restaurant and ordered a fresh red snapper. The fish is fresh, still swimming that afternoon. It is also HUGE, easily filling two people. You can eat it plain or “break some off” into a tortilla and smother in a choice of sauces. Basically you eat until you are about to burst because it is so good you can’t stop. So are the margaritas! They say don’t have three “or else”, so we stop at two. What a day! Long but well worth it!
Postcard #2 : Wave Ranch Ole!
We wake up early today as many of us have forgotten to set our watches one hour back to the local Cozumel time. Mexico does not observe daylight savings time, so we are one hour behind the East Coast, so if you normally wake up at 8am, the first several days you wake up at 7am Cozumel time.
The breeze is already pumping with a lot of east in it, so today will be a great day for the Wave Ranch. This is a spot on the other side of the island with waist high waves and wind from the left. We get to it with assembling the gear and building all the boards. Even with 10 people working full out, this takes us two to three hours to assemble more than half of the gear. This is more than enough to get on the water so we load the cars and head over to the Wave Ranch. Thanks to Britt and the girls, we are ready to go with coolers full of sandwiches, snacks, beer, water and soda.
We run into some problems on the way. Nothing serious…. But both rental cars are having problems with holding gas! One has gas flying out of the gas cap and the other is leaking gas out the bottom of the car. Duck tape fixes the first car but not the second. We end up returning the 1st car for another VW Safari like the duct tape monster. There are a lot of Volkwagons here as they continued to make and sell the original VW Bug here until last year. There are also tons of VW Things (Safaris).
We arrive at the Wave Ranch and the conditions are perfect. Knee to waist high waves on the inside and waist to chest high waves on the outside. The wind is steady with most guys rigging 14-17m kites and girls going for 11-13m kites. On the water, kites in the air included all the new 2005 Slingshot Fuels and Diesels in the 11m through 17m size, from Liquid Force their new 12 and 14m Spectrum IIs, and from Wipika, the new 2005 Matrix and Core in 11, 13.5 and 16.5m sizes. For boards, all the new 2005 Slingshot Misfits and SX, Jimmy Lewis Model 3, Bitch Witch, Rad F and Surfboard production boards, Stretch Bumps, Wipika Mauricio Pro and Serums and from Liquid Force Elements, WLFs, MLF, Drops, Drop LTDs, and the new LF Aura/Aura LTDs specifically designed for female riders. Dakine sent us a killer care package that included 2 of every 2005 harness to test during the photoshoot. Talk about tons of gear. Anything and everything was there and ready to ride!
That night we make a big pasta diner back at our place at the Country Club. Tons of Mexican rum is flowing, along with all your favorite Mexican beers. After dinner, Tekko, Loop, Sammy, Justin and company headed out to Viva Mexico for ladies night and then Sr. Frog's to top it off.. They get back to the “REAL Compound” about 5am. Needless to say they don’t feel too well the next day, but their stories from the night’s antics sure are sure worth listening to!
Postcard #3 : Tacos, Tacos, Tacos!
Another day at the Wave Ranch. Life is good! We arrive at the ranch earlier today since we don’t have to set up any more gear. It’s a little windier so most of the guys are on 13-15m and the girls are on 9m-13m. The ramps on the inside are perfect for all the guy’s wake tricks. Colin, Tekko, Slezy, Justin, and Sammy are all going off on the inside with unhooked indies, hoochies, tantrums, 360 handle passes, etc. Corey and Raul were launching huge jumps and making it look way too easy. The girls are ripping too and we have so many with Brittainy, Lindsay, Enily, Nadia, Amy and Jadie all launching jumps off the waves with nice grabs and spins, then surfing some good ones on the way in. How many photoshoots have 6 girls or just as many girls as guys? Everyone is totally stoked with the conditions and are having a great time riding all the new gear.
The girls are freaking about the new Liquid Force Auras and this already seems to be a favorite among them. They are also hoarding the small Jimmy boards like the 125cm and 133cm Model 3 and the 128cm Bitch Witch. Brittainy wrote her name on the Slingshot Diesel 13m saying it feels smooth, easy and re-assuring like the Wipika Hydros. Colin and Sammy seem to be stuck to the ’05 Fuels, mostly 13m and 15m sizes. Who can argue with One Pump, it’s hard or impossible to go back once you have tried one. Andy Gassner has been killing it on the LF 14m Spectrum 11 on short lines and a pulley bar. He hands the kite off to Slezy who pulls maneuver after maneuver in his sleep. Z takes session after session, riding for 6 or more hours a day, all on the new Wipi Matrix with CLS 5th line. He is blazing upwind and the kites seem to have tons of range as he stays on the 16.5m for all of the riding both days, whether the wind is at its peak or lull of the day. We joke around and get him to let go of the bar repeatedly and every time the kite 100% depowers and falls to the water ready for more action when he is ready. His relaunches are lightening fast as well.
That night we get back to the compound and everyone is a little quieter and relaxed after three good days of riding and partying. We head out to another local restaurant and feast on chicken and seasoned carnita tacos until we can’t eat anymore. This restaurant is cheap and fast,……and GOOD! They taste so good, I was waiting for these for years! Cold XX beers wash the flavors down and make the night another perfect one.
Postcard #4 : New Breeze Fills In
The breeze has shifted to a more northerly direction allowing us to explore the North and Northwest coast of the island. These spots are where you’ll see all the blue water jello shots and video coming from. Flat water with wind in the side shore, side onshore, or slightly side offshore depending on the exact wind direction. The riding spots in these directions include the Country Club, The Lagoon and the National Reserve further to the north. All of these spots are exclusive launches to riders booked into REAL camps and/or accommodations on Cozumel Island.
For our REAL clients riding at the Country Club before or after your camp, it is important to follow the local riding rules. These include launching and landing to the north of the houses and also to wind up all your lines immediately after landing your kites. No kites should be stored on the beach with lines not wound up. Adhering to these rules will guarantee access to this small, private beach for the long haul.
Postcard #5 : Flat Water Daze
Once the breeze shifted to the north, our first day of riding included a boat trip to the north of the country club launch in the national reserve. We packed up the cars and headed 10 minutes north along a dirt road until it opened out to a large lagoon with boats anchored all along the perimeter. There we met our captain Alberto who helped us load all our gear into his mexican fishing skiff, normally used for bonefishing with fly rods. These boats are perfect for kiteboarding out of, as they have tons of open space and very little to snag kite lines on. Once the boat was loaded, we headed north out of the lagoon and towards the channel where we threaded a very small channel full of breaking waves (crystal blue breaking waves) and then motored along the undeveloped coast to the north. No buildings, no hotels, no people, no nothing. Just pure white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, and waving green vegetation. It was our own private kiteboarding paradise! (This is also the stretch of beach, and when I say beach I mean several miles of beach, reserved for REAL Kite Camps for the duration of the winter season!) You couldn’t imagine a more serene, secluded, picture perfect kiteboarding location!
We reached our destination in the reserve and quickly unloaded all the gear. After the fifteen minute boat ride, constantly looking at the insane riding conditions, our riders were chomping at the bit to get into the water. Kites ranged from 8.5m to 14m depending on the rider/size. Sammy was first off the beach with a ’05 Slingshot Fuel 11m (hard to beat a one pump off the beach) and Litewave 135cm. Slezy was 2nd off on an ’05 LF Spectrum II 14m with his LF Drop 132 ltd. Brittainy was next on a Liquid Force 10m Spectrum II and a Jimmy Lewis 139cm. Raul hit the water next with an ’05 Fuel 13m and the Jimmy Mexican Flag. Jaide left the beach with the Jimmy Bitch Witch1st on a Wipika Core 8.5 but then came back for more power with a Wipika Matrix 11m, both kites new 2005’s with 5th line CLS system. Andy Gassner rode his favorite kite, LF Spectrum II 10m and the Slingshot SX 151 board.
The riding that day was great with plenty of power and action. Tekko played the part of the floating target by wearing his helmet with a huge bulls eye painted on it. “Jump over me,…close to me!” was his chant and everyone had a field day running him down. All the riders got to ride and test all the new ’05 boards and kites this day and it was easy to switch gear from Alberto’s boat just by pulling alongside. “Hola Alberto, I’d like to ride the new LF Element 128cm!”. Bam, you’d be riding a new board in seconds, perfectly powered and ripping with only your friends. We could only imagine how much our campers were going to freak out when they witnessed this new riding location!
The grand finale of every day at this location is the big downwinder back to the lagoon. Justin Davis grabbed Jaide’s gear (Wipika Matrix 11m with an Slingshot SX 137cm) and hit the gas all the way home. Joining Justin was Andy Gassner on his LF Spectrum II 10m and Jimmy Lewis 133cm. Miles upon downwind miles of clear blue water and nobody in sight. Both were boosting huge grabs, rolls and kite loops the entire way back to the beach….the rest of us kicked back in the boat at cruising speed, swilling cold Mexican beers and taking in the sunset sight of good friends having a great time.