Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Drenched in Turquoise

Caribbean Cruising with the Ladies

A sequel to last year’s Sum of 5 project, the leading ladies of the Duotone freestyle team reunited in one of the most iconic kiteboarding regions of North America; the Caribbean.  Drenched in turquoise and engulfed by luscious tropical backdrops, the crew sailed 500 kilometres in search of wind. Starting the trip in Martinique, part of the Antilles Island chain, the ladies scoped some epic places only accessible by boat that burst with potential to rival any of their favorite flatwater spots. Yet day after day, Hannah Whiteley, Francesca Bagnoli, Paula Novotna, Pippa Van Iersel and Colleen Carroll kept missing the one key ingredient that any kiteboarding trip just can’t go on without; wind. After almost a week of struggling to find anything more than a puff of wind, it was time to change plans and leave the enticing lagoons that speckled the eastern coastline. 

Leaving Martinique was a tough call as the forecast was only marginally better in more southern waters meaning that the days spent sailing could all be in haste if things didn’t improve. The temptation of kiting at these relatively unknown spots, pulled at the curiosity of everyone onboard instilling hesitatation to pull anchor. However, without a solid breeze, they would never come to know their potential anyway.  

So they charted the route and headed south, bound for the Grenadines and the promise of stronger wind near Union Island. We had the chance to catch up with the ladies (and gentleman) on board the Caribbean Kite Cruise Catamaran and find out more about the potentially epic trip they had.

Paula, tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be on a photoshoot cruising through the Caribbean with your team mates?

Paula Novotna: It feels really nice to be on a catamaran with four other team mates, having a lot of fun and exploring the beautiful Caribbean. We didn’t have much wind in the beginning but that wasn’t such a bad thing because we got to explore and do fun things that we normally wouldn’t get the chance to do and we were able to spend more time out of the water together.

Did you ever end up getting wind?

PN: The second week, we finally got wind. Kiting with all of these amazing girls feels so inspiring and motivating. Most importantly, it’s just so much fun to kite all together, push each other, help each other and enjoy this beautiful paradise.

Francesca, this trip sounds like the dream.  Tell us, what’s the catch? 

Francesca Bagnoli: We were planning to do the shoot in Martinique but there wasn’t any wind so we travelled down to Union Island more than an 18-hour sail for the chance of wind, which was a bit of a gamble. But it actually ended up being really good because we had the opportunity to see so many other islands where the nature was incredibly beautiful.  So really, no, there isn’t a catch. 

Hannah, what’s it like for you traveling via boat?

Hannah Whiteley: It’s a whole new experience coming to these islands on a boat as opposed to staying in a hotel. As a team, I feel it creates a stronger bond between us living together so closely. I love the perspective onboard, looking back at the land and also into the depths of the openness of the ocean. It brings such a sense of tranquility and freedom. Part of what makes an experience so good is the journey. I’m really enjoying discovering the Caribbean and sharing these special moments. It’s a beautiful part of the world.  

Vincent, is this your first time on a girls’ trip? How do you fit in with all the ladies?

Vincent Bergeron: No, it’s not my first time on a girls’ trip but it is my first time really being alone without any other guys on the shoot (besides the captain) and it’s pretty easy. I’m stoked being with all the ladies. Despite everybody in my entourage back home telling me that it was going to be bad with lots of drama and hair pulling; this doesn’t happen. It’s a strong team; they know what they want and what they need to do and most of the time they listen to me. So boys, take notes from the women!

Pippa, this is your very first official team photoshoot. How does it feel getting the chance to do such a trip and work on a project like this with your team mates?

Pippa Van Iersel: To be honest, I didn’t expect it and I was positively surprised when Colleen called to ask if I would like to join the shoot on a catamaran in the Caribbean. She talked me through her ideas and how it would work, I heard what she said but at the same time I was already picturing the team shredding in magical places around the boat. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I feel honored and especially grateful to get the chance to experience this with the team. I am proud to be part of this journey.

So tell us, what was a highlight of the trip for you?

PV: During the 18 hour sail to Union Island, we had a stop in Buccament at sunset. Hannah, Colleen and I went for a swim and spotted a cave along shore. After scoping it out and making sure there was an exit, we decided to swim through the cave.

Right before entering we looked at each other, I could see a mix of fear and excitement in their eyes. I entered first followed by Colleen and then Hannah. The sound of bats scared me but I mostly had a wide smile on my face. There was a part where it got super narrow with a strong current and I couldn’t go forward anymore. The current dragged me forward and backward. I felt Colleen’s hand pushing me through this part. We both made it; Hannah got herself through by using the walls of the cave to hold on to when the current would drag her backwards. After we passed this point, we swam around the corner and saw the light coming from the other side. It felt unbelievable and special to experience this together. The feeling was indescribable.

Hannah, in addition to being an adventurous swimmer, you love to spend time in the water. How many hours do you think you spent swimming on this trip? 

HW: I think I feel drawn to the ocean, like I just want to spend as much time in the water whether it’s windy or not. Coming from the northwest of England, I never go to just swim in the sea because it’s cold and not so nice but with the turquoise of the Caribbean, how could you not want to spend every extra minute of the day in the water? It was also nice because, one by one every girl from the crew joined me on a swimming mission.  

Anything, that got in the way of your laps?

HW: I can’t explain why but for some reason I grabbed a shower cap from the hotel we stayed in the first night. This came in handy because the first day on the boat I split my head open and had to keep it dry for the next five days. This way, nothing could keep me out of the water!

Colleen, any interesting boat stories to share?

CC: I was sleeping in the forepeak, which means I have a pretty small cabin with two ways to get in and out. One way is by climbing over the bed that Vincent was sleeping in and the other is through the top hatch. At night, I would use the top hatch to get up and use the bathroom so that I wouldn’t have to climb over a snoozing Vincent. One night it was particularly dark and my eyes hadn’t adjusted but I continued to find my way to the back of the boat. One second I was standing on the deck and the next, I was half in Vincent’s cabin, dangling from my other leg that was caught by the deck. It knocked the wind out of me and scraped up my leg but the hardest part was actually not bursting out laughing  Even with all this ruckus, inches from Vincent’s face, he never woke up.  

Tell us about your best session from the trip?

CC: On our sail back up to Martinique, we got super lucky with the best wind direction we could have asked for and smashed our expected 18-22 hour sailing time, cutting it short by more than 5 hours. This meant that we were able to squeeze in one last session in Martinique before heading straight to the airport.

We were still a bit restricted on time as sailing to the spot is a slow process so a few local kiters offered to pick us up and show us their favorite spot, Le Vauclin. They came first thing in the morning and even brought us chocolate croissants! When we got to the spot, the wind was perfect 11 metre conditions; the most power we had for the whole trip. The spot was flatwater with a gorgeous mangrove backdrop that connected to a rugged hillside spotted with cacti. The locals brought Vincent out on their boat so that he could shoot the session since the best flatwater was around the corner from the launch. All the girls were landing some of their best tricks of the trip and the local’s 12-year-old son, Elliot, joined us to show us the latest moves he’d been working on. For me, this ended the trip on a high note, going straight to the airport with wet hair, salty skin and a bit tired from a great morning on the water.

Side Bar

Need to Know

Getting There:  Union island has direct connections with the neighbouring islands of St-Vincent, Barbados and St-Lucia with the company  SVG Air. Union island also has connections with Grenada.

Popular ports are : Unions Island, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, Martinique

Best Time of Year: November to July during the trade wind season. The strongest winds are from December to April. The most consistant month is June.

What’s it cost? $1550 for a one week cabin cruise 

Skill Level: Beginners to Advanced riders. 

How to Book: caribbeankitecruise.com

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