FEATURE Keahi can do this too... Fair? Not really.
Words & Photos Jody MacDonald
The seemingly never ending nirvana-voyage that is (now) the Cabrinha Quest continues… This time round Jody and the crew welcome Cabrinha’s bright young things and the man himself on board – and we get to see that if the waveriding didn’t work out for Keahi then a return to the old spray tray is always an option…
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k i t e s u r f - ma g a z i n e . c o. u k
THE QUEST CONTINUES
’m trying to get a better vantage point to see Keahi De Aboitiz but I’m having a hard time finding the right spot through all these palm trees. There are so many that it feels like a maze fence. I keep looking up to make sure I’m not going to get bonked on the head with an assailing coconut while at the same time maintaining a good view to get some photos. Sure enough a coconut hits the ground 10 feet away, making a loud and stomach-churning thump in the sand. French Polynesian sand to be precise. This is French Polynesia. We are in Magellan territory. Gaugain. HMS Bounty. Ring a bell? The last 24 hours have involved four flights to a dinghy and finally to our boat, Discovery. Not just any boat…The Cabrinha Quest to be exact. The Cabrinha Quest has been here the last few months trying to find the best kitesurfing secret spots, the ones no one can get to or more importantly the ones that haven’t been found. We’ve been at this for a while now. The last time I was here was in 2008, my partner Gavin McClurg was at the helm. Now it is Seon Crockford. The faces have changed, but their salty blood is the same and the mission is as true as Polaris points north. The iPad runs out of juice “Mmmm, that coconut milk is goooood”
“ We have been here for the last few months trying to
Circus skills 101 Now as I manoeuvre around the French Polynesian palms, French Polynesian sand and French Polynesian coconuts I can’t help but think how these islands must have looked when the early explorers found them. “I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description.” I think to myself – remembering a piece from James A. Michener, Tales of the South Pacific. French Polynesia is made up of five main groups of islands. Tahiti is in the “Society” group and the most famous. We’re not in Tahiti. If you’ve never been here, it’s everything you can imagine and more. Not many people live here but that’s just one of the many things that make it perfect.
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find the best kitesurfing spots: the ones no one can get to and the ones that haven’t been found ” And plenty of tales to tell
Turbo engaged Photo Jason Wolcott
You see cocomut trees, Jody sees a Health and Safety situation, Keahi sees a nice spot for a nose grab...
k i t e s u r f - ma g a z i n e . co. u k
THE QUEST CONTINUES There’s a theme: more palm trees, more Keahi.
The Beatle’s Abbey Road album cover Polynesian style
Sight reading the music...
These aren’t the overpopulated islands of Asia that are trying to thrust their way into the modern era. Maybe your coconut water was born here; maybe your vanilla essence, but that’s about it. That said, the very lifeblood of this place is understandably tourism. This is where a lot of the world’s honeymooners come to enjoy the view, drink Mai Tais and dream of what life would be like to live it so simply. This is my third time through this region, and every time I am more and more enchanted. On the surface it is of course the postcard beauty, but look a little more closely 34 M A R C H A P R I L 2 0 1 4
and it is the tradition, the culture here that is holding on as tightly as it can to the past. Will it lose its grip? I’m not going to tell you where in French Polynesia we are as the locals who have shown us such hospitality prefer it that way. They want to be left alone. For good reason. So I may be writing about pristine, remote kiting perfection but I don’t want you to come here. I’m more interested in letting you know that these places still exist and to leave you with hope because we’ve been just about anywhere a boat can go over the last decade, and
sadly there aren’t many places like this left. Because I think when it all comes down to it, don’t we all want to know that these places still exist? And that’s precisely why the where isn’t important. It’s the why… When we get on board we immediately start looking at charts, trying to figure out our plan of attack. Except these charts aren’t the huge paper nautical charts that you imagine gathering around and poring over while you dream about exploration. These charts are on the iPad. I feel cheated. If I’m going to explore these amazing islands, I want to feel like an explorer! Magellan didn’t have iPads, and neither did the Polynesians of the very near past, who are the most famous navigators on Earth, traveling with perfect precision between islands hundreds and hundreds of miles apart with no more than the sun and stars and swell and stories from their grandfathers to steer their course. No GPS, no compass, definitely no iPads. So maybe these novelty trips are beginning to lose their novelty, but over the years we’ve gotten really good at it.
k i t e s u r f - mag a z i n e . c o. u k
THE QUEST CONTINUES
“Hey guys, wait up. What did I say?!”
Gravity 1, Pete 0 We have a formula that works: get picked up from the airport with an itemised list of local spots to check out; Google Earth coordinates, GPS, iPad, and head out. It’s only natural to evolve but it was more fun when we didn’t know anything. I retreat to my cabin for something to obliterate our sense of control and wait for the adventure to begin. Pete Cabrinha is on board. He’s in his element. He has spent a lifetime in these kinds of places yet his wanderlust and kid-like curiosity infects all of us. Keahi De Aboitiz and Moona Whyte are along for the ride, their respect and love of their boss obvious in their dedication to their craft. We’ve got a cameraman and me to document life onboard and off this Quest. This is just one of the stops on the five year journey. It has everything The Cabrinha Quest expedition seeks out: vibrant culture, rugged travel, wind, waves and remoteness wide-open to discovery. And “Discovery” our vessel is uniquely equipped to take us there. So we go. The adventure unfolds, like it always does. Waves lap the hull, trees sway in the breeze, huge smiles just grown and grow, stretching into permagrins that last well past the last day 36 M A R C H A P R I L 2 0 1 4
of the trip. I am burned to a crisp wading in perfectly clear shallow water encircled with coral bommies thriving with tropical fish taking photos of athletes who spend most of their waking days riding similar waters all around the world, but here everything is somehow a little more special. A little more wild. A little more precious. Why? Is it the dozens of waterfalls that plunge to the sea through the jungle off our stern? Is it the smells and succulents being delivered regularly from our chef? The visiting Humpback whales? Is it the laughter in the evenings as we learn to play the Ukulele with Pete? Of course it is all of these things and more. We may be using iPads to steer our course – we may be taking short cuts. But as Pete and I laugh and sing and the days strum by with nothing but wind and sun and sea to keep us occupied, I’m rewarded constantly with the grandness and yet simplicity of this Quest. We are like the islanders around us, hanging on with everything we can to a way of life that is being bulldozed by “progress”. It is magnificent, and like all things it can’t last forever. So I take it one day at a time. Which is the only way we ever can.
“ Waves lap the
Another day, another slice of heaven
hull, trees sway in the breeze, and huge smiles just grown and grow ” k i t e s u r f - m a g a z i n e . c o. u k