FOUR IS­LANDS IN FOUR DAYS

Carve - - CONTENTS - PHOTOS & WORDS BY LAU­RENT MA­SUREL

Lau­rent Ma­surel went off the charts in the is­lands with Vince Duvi' and Jus­tine Dupont. They got waves but found so much more.

Up to now most stuff you've seen from the Cape Verde ar­chi­pel­ago is from one is­land: Sal, and al­most all one spot: Ponta Preta. This long right catches plenty of win­ter swell and is con­stantly off­shore or near as damn it. Easy ac­cess from the air­port is an­other big plus.

Jus­tine Dupont and Vin­cent Du­vi­gnac ac­cepted my chal­lenge, to ex­plore for other spots in the ar­chi­pel­ago's mag­nif­i­cent wild land­scapes and to seek ad­ven­ture. With a search spirit re­wards will al­ways equate to the level of the chal­lenges. Not only this we could live the Cape Verdean way among the lo­cals, far from flat, mo­not­o­nous, touristy Sal.

Surf­ing four is­lands within four days on one swell... Strictly speak­ing, we don’t ad­vise you to try the same be­cause, in the Verde you'd bet­ter take your time. Ac­cord­ing to the re­laxed lo­cal state of mind, nat­u­rally adopted by surf com­mu­ni­ties, be­tween happy and hippy rid­ers. Frankly, we surfed only three is­lands, we only slept at the air­port of the fourth one! Just time to lose my lug­gage, my credit card in the bugged ATM and to re­alise that Jus­tine had missed her flight!

Our chal­lenge was to show that, be­yond the world-class Ponta Preta, other kind of waves exist: point­breaks, A-frames, slabs and even beachies. sev­eral dif­fi­cul­ties are to be over­come how­ever. Cabo Verde is a less ob­vi­ous ex­plo­ration des­ti­na­tion than the Ca­naries. For ex­am­ple: get­ting spot info, travel times, swell specifics and of course an ef­fi­cient and cheap lo­gis­ti­cal set-up.

Info gath­er­ing was the first dif­fi­culty. In­ter­net or not, the spots of Sal are the only listed ac­cu­rately. Even the Storm rider Guides have only de­scribed Sal. So, the ac­cu­racy of info on such spots is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant: a mis­take of 10° de­grees and swell passes away or is blocked by an­other is­land. If the swell isn't big enough and en­ergy doesn’t man­age to wrap around a cape … you need ac­cu­rate swell fore­casts and then to cross the info with the work­ing of each spot. Then there's the wind. Yes, the trade winds are eas­ily fore­seen but they could be stronger than fore­cast and/or strengthen by very lo­cal con­di­tions (Ven­turi Ef­fect with moun­tains). Sur­prises or even dis­ap­point­ments could hap­pen! You need a plan B to avoid build­ing cas­tles in the air.

You could get some help from the lo­cal rid­ers. But there are no lo­cal rid­ers. The Sal rid­ers don’t move at all and the rest of ar­chi­pel­ago is Terra Incog­nita! That’s why it was so im­por­tant to meet Car­los Elias, our guide with Ste­fano, he's a surf/ wind­surf teacher in the surf school. Im­pos­si­ble to be in the right place with­out Car­los. For ex­am­ple, you'd never guess you can catch a north-west swell on a south-west coast. Lim­ited time to make mis­takes, given that the tran­si­tion be­tween two spots, two coasts or even two is­lands. You risk be­ing late with an al­ready passed swell, or with a bad tim­ing for the tide (less than the UK, but enough to dis­turb these shal­low rocky spots).

Get­ting around takes time. Apart from Sal, the is­lands are moun­tain­ous, the roads are full of pot­holes. It took two hours to go 25 miles from one spot to an­other. Go­ing through a moun­tain pass at around 5000 feet, with­out see­ing any other ve­hi­cles, only some sheep is stan­dard. A four-wheel ve­hi­cle is com­pul­sory, and if pos­si­ble with a lo­cal driver. You need to take into ac­count that spots could be far from the roads and you need to walk in the desert to reach them. Jus­tine and Vin­cent even spoke in terms of base camps one and two, like a Hi­malayan ex­pe­di­tion!

It’s cool to have a fi­nal goal to surf sur­pris­ing spots in the mid­dle of nowhere. But you need to de­serve it and to be philo­soph­i­cal. Reach­ing the spot is al­ready a mis­sion and un­for­get­table ex­per­i­ment. Even if it’s not a world-class ses­sion, you can take ad­van­tage of all the other things: you're alone with your friends in a dream land­scape.

'To get all the waves you want up to ex­haus­tion,' said Vin­cent. Then com­ing back to a re­mote vil­lage, drink­ing some beers, eat­ing some fresh trop­i­cal fruits in a mid­dle of a lo­cal fi­esta. It’s a lux­ury to be al­most the only tourist, ready to un­der­stand the lo­cal ecosys­tem and you turn into a so­cio-eth­nol­o­gist.

Maybe you won’t get ten foot hol­low waves with 300 me­tre walls, but six feet is OK. And small days work your fan­tasy ma­chine to come back on clas­sic con­di­tions. You need to avoid frus­tra­tion and turn it into mo­ti­va­tion for the next time. With­out mo­ti­va­tion you can’t dis­cover such an au­then­tic, re­mote area. Surf trips make you dis­cover the real world far from the usual tourist ar­eas.

One pit­fall to avoid: bud­get Rootsy mis­sions can mean a cheap trip. But when you add flights, four wheeler rental and lo­cal fer­ries/flights…

Food and ac­com­mo­da­tion at guest­houses are cheap, but ef­fi­cient means of trans­port can be ex­pen­sive. You have to rely on lo­cal guides who

“DUR­ING THIS KIND OF TRIP, YOU RE­ALLY FEEL THAT SURF­ING IS SO MUCH MORE THAN MOST SPORTS.”

can choose the right op­tions (ferry-boat/boat/ plane/four wheel car…) and can ne­go­ti­ate the best price.

Sure it will be cheaper than a Sal trip. Sal is Euro­pean prices! It’s the be­gin­ning of the mass tourism with the huge Riu com­plex in Santa Maria, which I guess is the in­evitable fu­ture of Sal.so, para­dox­i­cally, on some other is­lands, lux­ury is in the sim­plic­ity and en­vi­ron­ment... not in the price. Last mo­ment flights for a swell, can be steep: £600-800. If you can book in ad­vance with flex­i­ble dates it could be £400-500. Same rule for in­ter­nal flights. Last mo­ment it's not so cheap. Board bags are ac­cepted but come early to in­crease your chance to get your board bag on the same flight as your body!

Ferry con­nec­tions are pos­si­ble be­tween some is­lands. Prices are re­ally lo­cal and fair! Some small is­lands are only reach­able by fish­er­men's boats so world-class spots could be a ride away.

Jus­tine and Vin­cent are among the best Euro­pean free surfers. Jus­tine made her name at big Nazaré and Aileens. Vin­cent styles through bar­rels in Hossegor or In­done­sia. It’s their job now: to stim­u­late your de­sire to move, to dis­cover. They want to ful­fil their free surfer soul with these kind of trips: fore­cast, trans­port and tim­ing chal­lenges to be mas­tered. Ef­fort and sat­is­fac­tion are not only in the ac­tion of surf­ing but also in the ac­tions needed to achieve it.

'It's an­other way to go be­yond the com­fort zone other than a Nazaré ses­sion,' said Jus­tine, who wants to come back with her charger boyfriend Fred David.

The world is a play­ground. Dur­ing this kind of trip, you re­ally feel that surf­ing is so much more than most sports. Surf­ing shows you the way, you only have to choose the path and share it with your best mates. You can share info as well be­cause these spots re­quire so much en­ergy to reach that they won’t ever be packed.

Car­los Elias, charis­matic founder of Sabura Surf Academy (only surf ad­ven­ture school on this group of is­lands), was an in­dis­pens­able guide. The Lis­bon surfer fell in love with Sao Vi­cente and his lo­cal wife seven years ago. Fond of kit­ing and surf­ing, he in­stantly un­der­stood the surf po­ten­tial of this is­land and the oth­ers. It’s sim­ple, no­body came to surf here. Why not to cre­ate a surf school be­cause there's al­ways at least one spot work­ing (in­clud­ing beach breaks for be­gin­ners, well ex­posed to north and south swells). And why not sug­gest ex­plo­ration for ex­pe­ri­enced, ad­ven­tur­ous surfers on the tech­ni­cal re­mote reefs and point­breaks. More­over wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is ideal and so clear: 23°C in win­ter and 27°C in summer. More­over, you can't be bored on this is­land. Min­delo, is ac­tu­ally the cul­tural cap­i­tal for the whole ar­chi­pel­ago, a com­pe­ti­tion ground for painters, sculp­tors, dancers and mu­si­cians. With­out Car­los, who lived our ad­ven­ture with us, we would have never been able to find the Sao Vi­cente nuggets.

Vin­cent couldn't have chose a bet­ter board colour to com­ple­ment the turquoise walls. Nice feng shui...

Jus­tine en­joy­ing the wel­come warmth of the less cold bit of the At­lantic

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