16 December 2016
FREEDOM Kite Mag Goes to the Mexico Kite Week
A first-hand account
It’s not everyday you get an email inviting you to the other side of the world, to camp out in the middle of the desert and do nothing but the important things in life. Yes, of course, like kite, surf and chill.
It was time to pack for the next adventure.
What’s unique about this particular camp is unlike most kite trips, you don’t need to take kite or surfing gear! Apart from your own harness and your cold-water rubber, everything you need for this adventure is ready waiting for you.
It’s refreshing rocking up to the airport with only one bag instead of the normal rigmarole of getting hassled by the check-in agents for having too much gear, then having to trawl through airports and taxis with your arms full and three trolleys all fighting each other. One bag feels so good!
Landing in LA, we made our way to Brown’s Airport, San Diego, where we were greeted by the friendly owner of the camp, Kevin, who also pilots one of the several charter planes that gets everyone safely over the border.
What a great start to the adventure; getting a front row seat in the small airplane we busted through clouds, tip toeing over desert mountain ranges and arrived at the camp in full swing with a nice moderate side shore breeze and waves rolling through.
Hopping out of the plane I felt that familiar ping of excitement you get from getting slapped in the face by a steady breeze mixed with sunshine on your skin. The surroundings are breathtaking. Space…nothing but a few scattered motor homes and open desert surrounded by rocky mountains (called the Mesa) and a beautiful point break with lines peeling off and a few early arrivals already tearing the lines up.
The camping ground is pretty damn cool. It’s no 5-star resort but if you’re a fan of camping (and in particular a fan of camping without having to set everything up) then you will find it very comfortable and inviting.
Everything you could wish for in is here. The tents are roomy (for one, ok for two) clean, and cosy. The entire camp ground is covered in carpet, which means walking around without shoes is no problem and feels pretty damn nice.
Once settled into your chosen tent you are then taken on a tour of the candy store. Well, candy for extreme sports fans. The reason for bringing little gear is the camp is full of all brands of kites, surfboards, SUPs and mountain bikes that they loan to you upon arrival. This is included in the price. Just let them know what you’re feeling like and they’ll quickly hook you up with quality and relatively new gear.
Coming from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia I was concerned the cold water would be not so nice. But the sun still sizzles, so as long as you have a nice, relatively new 4mm or so steamer you will hardly even notice the 17 degree water. I was lucky enough to be sporting a brand new Neil Pryde Edge 5/4 Steamer and booties, which meant I didn’t even feel the chill one bit.
You can visit SoloSports from Spring right through to Autumn, with wind being generally consistent most days. Its windiest time is May-June (with wind lessening up until September) and this is also when Ben Wilson hosts his coaching clinic at the camp.
If you want to learn how to ride surf style strapless, or perfect/better your technique then Ben and his team is probably, in SoloSports' host Kevin’s own words, “The best man on the planet to teach you”.
Ben Wilson Coaching
Ben has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to his discipline and coaching camps, so his experience, dialed-in approach to coaching and relaxed but direct instruction to getting you riding better is unmatched.
Part of my stay at SoloSports was to jump into one of his coaching camps and have my own style reviewed and really push the progression of my riding and, in particular, my style. On the first day Ben will ask you what you would like to learn/improve. My focus was on my style and to achieve more critical/vertical turns.
I asked Ben what the main thing riders at his camps generally needed to work on: he said body position and technique as well as kite position.
“It all works as a whole and if one thing is out then it’s all going to be off balance. You need to be utilising the whole surface of your board, have your kite in the right position before initiating turns, have your body and feet in the right stance. Sometimes just a few simple corrections to people’s technique in these areas completely changes their experience and ultimately improves their surf kiting in leaps and bounds.”
A big part of Ben’s camps is the dedicated photography and video capturing of the sessions.
“You can really learn a lot by watching your riding and comparing it with others. Not everyone has someone they can get to sit and film them on the beach for hours, so we take care of that at our camps and then review the footage the next morning. I find this in particular has the most dramatic effect on helping people to change bad habits.”
After an in-depth daily two-hour tutorial from Ben it was time to hit the break out the front. During the talk a nice 17 knot breeze had steadied out and the crew was itching to get out there. On the week I was there we had some great wind ranging from light to very windy (25 knots), so having an arsenal of different size kites to choose from was fantastic.
The launch from the camp is not the most friendly, but the guys there do a good job in helping you to get out there safely. You pump up from a carpeted launch pad at the camp, which is a good 3-4 metres above the beach, so your kite is held while you run down to the beach and straighten your lines out. So all in all it’s not too stressful, but you do have to line up to get out there so just a little patience is required to get out there safely.
Once you’re out there, there is plenty of room to shred, even with a full camp. I had a really fun session on the first day, the point at the camp had some fun sections but wasn’t lining up 100%. But further down the beach is another wave called Chilli Bowl, which was firing. Perfect for the intermediate kiter with rolling head high, long walls. Minute long rides aren’t uncommon.
Windsurfers love this wave, and it has been featured in many windsurfing mags over the years. On the outer banks the wind is consistent and full but as you get in closer to shore the 4-5 metre cliffs can shadow your kite, and it’s so tempting to ride it right into shore as the wave gets steeper and cleaner. Kicking off on the inside you need to keep your kite high and do your best to float back into the wind line. When the wind is strong it only takes a few tacks and you’re back to home base.
The alternative is not the nicest. If you need to come in down at this break you will see why it’s more suited to wind surfers. There really is nowhere to safely land your kite and most likely you will get a few tears from the rocky landing terrain. If you really get stuck there’s a fishing village nearby who, with a Team America distress wave, will happily come and help you out. For a friendly price tag, of course! All part of the adventure, hey? Best advice is to take a kite buddy with you if you’re going to head this way and let the guys at the camp know your intentions.
In a nutshell, the kiting and overall experience at SoloSports is pretty damn epic. I cruised passed seals, dolphins and even whales. Just being away from everything purely to focus on kiting is something I haven’t experienced in a while. I’m usually always having to cut my session short to go and send some emails, go to the shops, clean the house or do some domestic or work-related bullshit chore. I guess that’s what makes these kite holidays in the middle of nowhere so damn sweet. It’s just kite, eat, sleep, repeat. With some beers thrown in, of course!
Food and Drink
Talking about beers, the bar is all-inclusive. Sounds dangerous, but you will be so tired from kiting all day you will fall asleep before drinking the bar dry. There is a local drink Baha Fog that you must try, which consists of an icy cold Corona, with tequila and lime poured into the top gap of the bottle. Actually, damn nice, I’ll be making more of these at home!
The meals are very tasty, well made and hearty. Think American-style with a Mexican influence. BBQ ribs, baked seasoned potatoes and corn, fresh salad with a side serving of roasted jalapeños, beans and fresh tortillas. You definitely will not go to bed hungry.
After a great meal that content feeling of sore jelly legs from kiting all day will take over. Everyone generally crashes out pretty early at the camp and at sunrise the next morning (not that early due to the surrounding high mountain range) you will see why. You’re in a tent, in the sun, so sleeping in is possible if it’s overcast but a little sweaty if it’s a clear spring morning. So harden up and get up early and you will most likely be greeted by off shore winds and super fun waves for SUPing, surfing or, in the event of no swell, there’s an awesome array of quality downhill mountain bikes and a full trail map of the surrounding hills.
I had a great week at SoloSports with consistent wind for five days of the week I was there. Ben’s coaching gives the trip additional purpose and goals rather than just the pure hedonistic indulgence of a holiday. I definitely felt I progressed my riding level a lot during the camp. Just having that consistent wind, and long and easy going waves to practice on are perfect for taking your skills to the next level.
ARTICLE ORIGINALY PUBLISHED IN FREEDOM KITE MAG. SUBSCRIBE ONLINE