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Great Barrier Reef


Cabrinha travel story

Cabrinha's unge lovende kitesurfere fra den anden side af kloden har været på eventyr i nærheden af Cains, nemlig ved Great Barrier Reef. Super flotte billeder !


Great Barrier Reef Perfection
words Hudson, photos Ian Trafford

rider profiles
Jesse Richman
age: 15
home: Maui, Hawaii
recent competition results: KPWT France 2008 Overall Champion
other sponsors: Dakine, Powerbar, Surftech, H2O Audio

Keahi de Aboitiz
age: 15
home: Sunshine Beach, Australia
recent competition results: 2008 Australian Freestyle Junior Champion and KiteSurfing Junior Champion, KPWT New Caledonia 2007 Open 4th place
other sponsors: Kite Action, Shotgun Surfboards

Brock Cleary
age: 15
home: Auckland, New Zealand
recent competition result: 2008 New Zealand Freestyle Junior Champion
other sponsors: WSP

Jamie Barrow
age: 23
home: Auckland, New Zealand
recent competition result: 2008 New Zealand Freestyle Open Runner Up and 2007 Champion
other sponsors: Burger Fuel, WSP

Hudson Godfrey-Smith
age: 26
home: Melbourne, Australia
recent competition result: 2008 Australian Freestyle Open 4th and 2007 Runner Up
other sponsors: NPX

It was June and that meant the beginning of another cold winter in Australia and New Zealand. For most kiters, that means pulling on their thickest wetsuits and dreaming of the summertime conditions being enjoyed on the other side of the world. Sure, we get our share of great sessions during the year and summer in Australia would rival anywhere in the world for some of the most idyllic conditions imaginable. But winter is a different story and an opportunity to get away from it is not to be missed.

Cabrinha’s top national riders were joined by rising international star Jesse Richman on the winter getaway trip of a lifetime. Piggybacking on a meeting of the best Cabrinha retailers in the region to check out the 2009 products, including the Crossbow and Switchblade IDS kites, the group chartered the Taka, a 100 foot boat, for four days of memorable action on the famous Great Barrier Reef north of Cairns.

Far North Queensland, including Cairns, Port Douglas, Cooktown and the few hundred kilometres of beaches between them, is Australia’s only reliable winter destination with warm temperatures and wind averaging 15-20 knots most days. But more importantly, due to the effect of the rainforest covered mountains along the coast, just ten or so kilometres out into the Great Barrier Reef the conditions are always 10 knots stronger and rarely overcast. The Bureau of Meteorology weather station at Green Island, accessible by a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns and rideable except at low tide, will attest to the regular 25+ knots of wind during the winter months.

Our hotel on water for the four days, the Taka, includes four decks with cabins for 30 guests split between the first and third deck. The second deck is the common area with a lounge and two plasma screen TVs, wireless internet and the dining area and kitchen where the dedicated chef prepares three solid meals a day plus snacks in between. The open top deck is about 10 metres above sea level where we stored the equipment and where the two RIB tenders are hoisted from each day.

The sizeable vessel that she is and with a cruising speed of 11 knots, the Taka was capable of taking us anywhere we wanted to go within a few hundred kilometre radius. Leaving in the evening gave us the chance to steam overnight and we woke up on the first morning already at Lizard Island, having covered more than a hundred miles while we slept.

That said, the overnight voyage was pretty rough with the strong wind whipping up some solid chop and rolling wind-swell, even staying within the outer reef that protects from the open Pacific Ocean. Jesse and Keahi were green within minutes of leaving the protection of the rivermouth and harbour at Cairns and left their dinners, two almost untouched plates of food, to seek relief outside on the upper deck. They were joined throughout the evening by more than a few of the other guys on the trip and by the next morning it was obvious from the bleary eyes who had suffered the night before. From then on the motion sickness pills were in hot demand anytime we were going anywhere and it was a good thing that the crew were prepared with a stash of Travacalm that prevented a repeat of the first night.

Day 1
Arriving at Lizard Island, the Taka squeezed its 30 foot beam through the narrow pass in the reef that surrounds the lagoon and dropped anchor a few hundred metres from the long sandy beach. The lagoon was striking in it’s perfection with literally miles of flat, crystal clear turquoise blue water bordered by beaches, huge granite rocks and cliffs and enclosed by the reef and few smaller islands. The skies were clear, the sun was warm and the wind was blowing all day, something that wouldn’t change for the whole trip and rarely does between May and September.

A short ride to the beach on one of the tenders and we were frothing at the opportunities provided by the location and the conditions, as well as the new 2009 kites and boards we would be riding for the first time. The strong wind meant only small kites would be needed so the Switchblade IDS 6s and 8s along with the Crossbow IDS 7s and 9s were all given a workout during the next four days, along with a prototype Convert IDS 7 that made it on the trip. Easily as impressive as the new kites with their great feel, improved performance and IDS, the 2009 Custom and Caliber kiteboards and the new Sync backless-bindings were a huge hit. The Sync bindings provide a noticeably more solid connection with the board that allows for more control. On the new boards, the improved flex and unique new bottom shapes that extend through the tip and tail give excellent grip and massive pop while still having a loose feel and better forgivingness on hard landings. And that’s not to mention the sick new graphics!

Out on the water, the scene was hard to imagine. The perfect conditions, incredible colours of the water and the rugged Lizard Island backdrop set off the new gear amazingly. But even more so, the enthusiasm and energy of the grom riders Jesse, Keahi and Brock was giving the whole place a vibe that is hard to match. It’s the kind of vibe that was summed up when Jamie said “It’s doesn’t get any better than this. Seriously, the only thing that would make this even a little better would be some chicks on the beach.” Unbelievable as it sounds, not even a few minutes after Jamie said that, we turned around to see a group of girls walking over the hill and down a path to the beach.

We later found out that they were uni-students from Texas visiting as part of an internship at the marine biology research station on the island. I guess it’s not every day that a chartered boat parks itself in the lagoon at the very remote Lizard Island and a bunch of kitesurfers take over the beach, so when they were alerted to the activity the whole group came down to check out the action. The rest of the afternoon was almost comical as the ten or so girls cheered and yelled our names as we rode past the rocks aiming to impress both them and the camera with risky handlepasses and overpowered wakestyle tricks. They hadn’t seen kiting before and the loudest cheers were saved for big boosting jumps and mega-loops… oh, and for Jesse “we love you” Richman.

Seriously tough, the riding was as impressive as the scenery with Jesse, Keahi and Brock feeding off each other’s energy and pushing their limits in the strong wind conditions. Twenty-five knots and small kites like 6s and 7s are not normally the best for progressive freestyle and wakestyle riding but we definitely made the most of it and Jesse’s competition tuned consistency was remarkable given the conditions. Obviously not being 15 years old, Jamie and I had some size advantage to manage the strong conditions and I saw Jamie throwing plenty of mobes and slimchances in both boots and straps.

After the previous night’s rough conditions everyone was relieved to anchor the Taka in the lee of Lizard Island and enjoy a calm overnight mooring to sleep. That said, after a full day of riding it probably wouldn’t have mattered much since everyone was pretty knackered.

Day 2
The calm night’s sleep wasn’t as long as some would’ve hoped for when the loud banging of the anchor chain being winched up gave everyone a very early wakeup the next morning, around 5am. We were on our way to the Cod Hole, a world famous dive site at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef about 30 nautical miles from Lizard Island, to check out the scenery underwater. The few certified divers on the trip were joined by most of the others on their introductory dive. For those that hadn’t been scuba diving before, this experience would have been extraordinary and only required a short video introduction before strapping on a tank, mask and fins and jumping in the water. Making your first dive at such an incredible dive site is something that would make any first time swimming pool diver jealous.

Underwater, the scene was even more extraordinary than above with great visibility and an amazing variety of coral and fish including the giant potato cod from which the dive site gets its name. We also saw a reef sharks as well as hundreds, if not thousands of smaller fish. Apparently, this area of the Great Barrier Reef was used to do “research” for the Finding Nemo movie a few years ago and there were plenty of clown fish to be seen hiding amongst the colourful corals.

Those who weren’t up for diving enjoyed snorkelling around the shallower reefs but, from all accounts didn’t miss any of the action and saw their share of fish and corals as well as a giant cod and sharks. After the diving, we dropped mooring and, only 9am by this point, set a course for Eagle Island, near Lizard Island.

We arrived around 11am and found the island to be an even more perfect setup than the previous day at the Lizard Island lagoon. Eagle Island is a long narrow sand island that stretches about 300m in length almost perfectly perpendicular to the wind direction so the water is glassy on the downwind side. The wind was strong and again we were using small kites.

The riding was so good that it was impossible to get us out of the water until after dark, despite the captain’s request to leave before sunset so that he could navigate the Taka around the coral reef surrounding the island. In the end, he moved the Taka further away from shore during the afternoon so that we wouldn’t have trouble leaving without the light. The lack of light also meant that Ian had to pull out his flash to continue shooting the action which turned out some great shots. We probably could have kept riding until long after sunset but the truth is that we were exhausted after many hours of riding and anyway, Ian’s memory cards were soon at capacity.

Day 3
After another night at Lizard Island, necessary because we needed more petrol for the tenders, we were back at Eagle Island for the third day. And you guessed it- it was windy, again.

We rode most of the day until late in the afternoon, including jumping over the sandbar at one end of the island. With our last night coming up, we would have to start heading back towards Cairns by sunset if we wanted to get another session in on the last day.

A repeat of the first night, the fourth night steaming back towards Cairns was rough, even made a little rougher since we were heading straight into the wind and against the prevailing current. But this time around the Travacalm was downed in advance and instead of suffering with the conditions, Keahi and Jamie were toying with the waves crashing over the back deck. At one point Keahi was convinced to lie down on the deck in between “sets” so that the next big wave would crash over him. It looked a bit like copping a hundred buckets of seawater in the face all at once but apparently, as long as you kept your eyes closed, it was fun.

Day 4
The next morning, we arrived just after sunrise at Vlasoff Cay, a small sand island created by ocean currents that drop coral sand on the reef where they accumulate. This cay is one of three near Cairns a short distance north of Green Island and is only about 50 meters wide. It’s big enough to rig a kite but in the strong wind, the chop would wrap around the island from both side meaning there wasn’t much flat water.

But, there were some small kickers and Jesse, Keahi and Brock were enjoying the variety after a few days of pretty much glassy flat-water riding. Jamie’s elbow was playing up and it seemed that he’d had his fill anyway so he didn’t ride. I was late onto the water and had literally one run before Keahi landed an unhooked indy-glide upwind and ended up diving the kite straight into me. With IDS we were able to flag the two tangled kites and swim upwind back to the shore to sort out the mess. Anyway, that was enough for me and we called it a day in time to head back to the boat for a late lunch and the short trip back to Cairns.

Relaxing on the top deck of the Taka as we headed back to the wharf, there was no doubt that we’d had a fantastic and memorable trip that was incredibly unique. The combined energy and talent of the groms along with the beautiful location and the great weather and wind made the trip without a doubt one of the best I’ve been on.

travel quick facts
Northern Great Barrier Reef

where is it: Cairns is 1,700 km north of Brisbane and 2,400 km north of Sydney in Far North Queensland

how big is it: Cairns has a population of about 120,000 with high proportion of backpackers making for an interesting nightlife. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants to suit any budget.

getting there: Cairns International airport services direct daily domestic flights from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as well as international flights direct from Auckland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. You can also drive but it’s a pretty long way.

when to go: May to October is the dry season with south-east trade winds. December to March is the wet season and is very hot and not often windy. The temperature in winter reaches about 28 Celsius most days.

where to ride: The most popular kiting beach is Yorkey’s Knob, about 20 minutes drive north of Cairns city centre. Four mile beach at Port Douglas, another hour drive north and a popular holiday town, is also a great spot. If you’re up for a day adventure, try taking the ferry to Green Island in the morning and back in the afternoon. Keep in mind that the riding is best on the high tide and risky on low tide.

other things to do: There’s heaps of other activities to enjoy around Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef when it’s not windy. If you’re keen to do some cross-training there is a cable park about 5 minutes from Yorkey’s Knob. The rainforest and mountains nearby are great for mountain biking. There’s tons of scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing and other tour providers. Or you can relax at one of the resort spas.

Lizard Island expeditions: If you’re interested in joining a trip like this one to the remote Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island and Eagle Island, email for more information.

Roadtrip Marokko
Rejseguide: Vestaustralien