"As the crisp shiny fabric unfurled with the hiss of inflation I got a whiff of that new kite smell"Every winter I keep saying that I would love to go on one of the F-one surfaris, you know the ones on the videos of exotic locations like the south pacific and south americas etc. After repeated rubbing the right way of Raphael, head honcho of F-one. This year I finally got the invite I craved. I had no idea where, and did not really care because I trusted Raphael’s great track record at choosing fantastic rarely visited spots. But I was surprised when I found out we were going to Madagascar. I knew about as much about this far off island as your average punter knows about kitesurfing... not very much at all. Of course the cartoon movie was referred to by everyone I told, so no-one was really any wiser. A few weeks later I was on the plane to Asia and then via Mauritius to Tananarive the capitol of Madagascar. A long flight, made longer by the diversion to a tiny regional airport right across the country since fog precluded landing in Tananarive. So about 1/2 day late "Island style" and only slightly bothered I made it to the rendezvous in Tananarive with the F-one crew.
These guys were pretty relaxed having been on the island for a week kiting every day dawn till dusk. We had plenty of time for relaxing as the flight out was also delayed 1/2 a day ! I got the full rundown on the sakalava region up north, where they stayed on Babaomby Bay or Mer d'emeraude. French is the common language in Madagascar, it is now a republic but the colonial heritage adds a wonderful spice to the African Asian culture. The history of the island is interesting and bloody, voodoo still having a strong presence. But playing tourist was on the backburner, we were here to kite and surf. So leaving the squalor and lights of Tananarive behind for the squalor and dust of SW Madagascar we flew over the island for my second time that day, highlighting what a barren wasteland most of it is. Wild and wooly lemur jungles were nowhere to be seen. Just desert and infinite variety of cacti. A short taxi and hour long boat ride by starlight found us at Anakao ocean lodge, our base for the remainder of the trip. Waking early to the sound of roosters a beautiful panorama of white sand, bone coloured cacti and crystal ocean confronted me. A swim to ward off jetlag, then lie on the beach as the sun warms the air. Perfect temperatures, perfect scenery and my good fortune seemed complete when I discovered the perfect breakfast buffet. Over breakfast I spoke with some of the team riders, Mitu a really cool rasta man and Pauline who warned me about the razor shells of Anakao. It was refreshing to meet pro riders this approachable and humble.
But this was only the beginning. My mission to try the new F-one kite, the Bandit Dos 2009 model beckoned. Mid morning the late risers watched over their coffee in amusement as I pumped up the 10m Dos, there was barely any wind at all, and no surf visible but I was happy to be eager beaver. As the crisp shiny fabric unfurled with the hiss of inflation I got a whiff of that new kite smell, and ran my hands over the crafted scuff guards. It was love at first sight. The attractive shape of the Delta C-shapes harks back to two line kites, something I really appreciate. Unrolling the bar I discovered I had grabbed Etienne’s short line bar, oh well its not like I was going on the water….. or was I. A few passes through the power zone and I decided to try with the 6’0 bamboo surf strapless. Did I want to change to standard lines asks Raphael, hell no, I could not wait, besides sub 10 knots meant going downwind anyway…. Or was I.
The coffee drinkers no doubt smiled as I unhooked and dived the kite to step onto the board, accelerating instantly I zipped away from the beach working the nippy 10m to generate apparent wind. Then realising there was little need to work it, just settling in for an astonishingly zippy cruise across the lagoon. The characteristic smooth power and precise handling of the Bandit seemed better again with the Dos. And I revelled in the speed and efficiency of this fastest kite in the world. Carve tacking with the help of incomparable depower I watched my wake to discover that in fact I was going upwind at an alarming angle ! Short lines notwithstanding. The next 4 hours I was glad of having put sunscreen on as I explored the bay, visited two nearby islands and even found some fun tiny waves at a break called jelly babies about 3 km upwind of the lodge. There were sandbars for flat water, coral reefs for scaring fish, and deep channels for scary fish. In big swells a surf break called Flame balls awakens on the reefs, this was the prize Raphael pursued but today was not the day. It was however a magic day to get to know my new baby, the Bandit Dos 10m. Near one island I hailed a pirogue (locals fishing canoe) which carried a bikini clad French girl. Using broken frenglish I asked if I was allowed on the island. After a word with the boatman she said I would be OK to go ashore, but then remembering the warning from Pauline about razor shells I decided to continue kiteboarding. A wise move as on my return later that day I found out the razor shells had deeply lacerated 2 of the other kiters !
The breeze steadily increased until it was pushing 15knots, absolutely perfect for a constantly carving unhooked downwind run back to base. Where I found everyone out on the Dos kites revelling in the warm seabreeze. As the sun set over the kiteboarding I shared a beer with a few of the media guys who frothed about their experience with the Bandit Dos. Precise, intuitive, versatile and more glowing reviews, to all of which I had to agree. A kite this exciting is rare, a radical departure from the bow, hybrid SLE average. The consensus from media reporters and team alike was that the Dos surpassed all expectations. Definitely more than just a Bandit II. So apart from a horrid boardshort rash, it was the perfect introduction to what will once again be the clear choice of all 2009 kites. F-one Bandit Dos.
That’s just a glimpse of the Madagascar trip, there are articles in all the magazines including Kbmag, also online traqua.com and www.iksurfmag.com
And the hi res "ADDIKT" video is available from m8 retailers or online at f-onekites.com
Big thanks to Raphael at F-one f-onekites.com
- Babaomby island lodge: babaomby.com
- Anakao Ocean Lodge : anakaolodge.com
photos courtesy G.
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