I have to admit something that will likely reap some funny looks. Jody and I are told by just about everyone who comes out here that our job is incredible. We run a boat that is going around the world seeking remote and special places to kiteboard and explore that most people will never see. OK, put that way I too think it sounds pretty grand. Hell, it’s why we put the expedition together in the first place. But until this trip with Best Jody and I were both seeing a pretty small light at the end of a very long tunnel. No days off, no income, lots of debt, rarely doing any of the things our owners and guests got to do in abundance. Maintenance, cleaning, chores, always racing to be ready for the next group and never really catching up have been adding to up to very long days and very little peace. Yes, we’ve got a great office, but you start to lose perspective. You know you’re in trouble when turquoise water and gorgeous sunsets are glossed over like yesterday’s paper.
But if my job has just a taste of what we’ve had the last ten days, I can handle those bad ones with room to spare. Even though my knee is buggered and Jody’s been incapacitated with a cracked rib after getting pegged by a wayward board while shooting, we’re both keenly aware of how awesome The Best Odyssey can be with the right group of people. Forget the absolute wild beauty of Los Roques; forget the perfect kiting conditions; forget all the things that make what we’re doing so unique and truly special. Give me cool people and all that stuff is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
On Wednesday we exchanged crew and said hello to Aaron Sales, editor of Kiteboarding magazine and Lulu Vroman and Enily Vater from Real Kiteboarding who won the “pimp your shop” contest that Best put on for an all-expense paid vacation on The Best Odyssey.
We got off to quite a start. First, a nice session at Francisqui to wake everyone up after their long travels, which installed perma-grins for the remainder of the trip. Kiting in Los Roques is kiting in dreamland.
Then things got a little scary, or at least…interesting. We had another gorgeous lunch compliments of Nico, who continues to astonish everyone with his creative culinary talents; and were prepping to sail to Crasqui when a park ranger showed up and slapped us with a citation. Turns out one of the local charter boats ratted us out for doing charters, which is illegal. But as we aren’t operating charters and have nothing but owners or people associated with Best Kiteboarding, who is our sponsor, we merely had to clear the water. I thought taking Alvaro with me to the authorities couldn’t hurt, being fluent in Spanish and well, adorable (we all thought so, it’s not just me!). Sure enough, Alvaro, a couple Best T-shirts, a magazine with a Best ad and lots of pleading charmed the officials enough to give us another week. Then the fun really started.
We launched Aaron and Alvaro off Discovery, who planned to kite with us 5 miles downwind to Crasqui. As soon as I got Aaron off some guys from a nearby boat started screaming at us. I went over and was confronted by a very disgruntled official from the National Guard. Apparently kitesurfing was not allowed in this area as it was just in front of the airport. I pointed out that the kites flew no higher than our mast and we would be immediately heading far away from the airport, but the man was adamant (and quite drunk). Before I could get things under control the guys jumped in their Lanchita and raced off after Alvaro and Aaron, now well underway. I got back to Discovery, we shipped the anchor and joined the chase. Alvaro made it back to us and jumped up on the stern, looking a bit sheepish after getting screamed at by the guards. Aaron was then similarly accosted, but Aaron doesn’t speak Spanish and couldn’t understand what the guys wanted. But when one of the guards pulled a gun and started waving it around Aaron thought returning to us might be the best move.
What a fiasco. Our new guests had been on the boat for less than an hour and one of them had already been confronted with a gun! OK, the Best Odyssey promises high adventure but this was a little ridiculous. Enily, Alvaro and I pleaded our case in the kindest way we could and eventually were told to simply wait (we were now in the middle of the ocean with two kiters and their kites flying off the stern) for them to return with another citation. We disabled the kites, had a few stress relieving laughs, waited a half hour for our “citation” and finally made the call to just sail away. This worked perfectly well. We had a great sail and never did see the unruly lot again.
For the next 5 days we would sail, kite, play cards, eat incredible food and simply enjoy the company of wonderful new friends in a remarkable area. One evening Aaron asked each of us what the highlight of our trip had been thus far. The answers were quite telling: Jody and myself- “last night’s dinner” (baked red snapper with a sweet pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, bacon and cashew crust served over grilled zucchini, sun dried tomato polenta with a buerre blanc and balsamic glaze sauce); Enily- “last night’s dessert” (panne cotta with strawberry coulis); Lulu- “today’s snorkel” (this came a close second for several of us- it was brilliant); Gavin Butler- “all the life” (birds, fish, turtles, rays, all in great quantity); Alvaro- “everything- the kiting, food, company, dirty clubs” (card game which has everyone hooked); Aaron- “getting here the first day, after all the long travel, seeing the water, seeing the boat, realizing it was all real. Meeting everyone and feeling the anticipation of a great adventure to come.”
Those comments capture it all. Notice
is hardly mentioned. Even though everyone kited so much in such great conditions that even Alvaro had to take a long break from getting blisters on his hands. We rode butter flat water; we rode over gorgeous reef; we watched Alvaro do things that are simply bewildering; we rode on water so many shades of blue and green you can’t believe it’s real. We’re on a Kiteboarding expedition around the world, but when all the little human pieces of the puzzle come together it hardly matters whether the winds blow. Our small community shared in an amazing adventure. That adventure defines my job, and that’s the perspective I needed to get back.