WORDS BY SAM LIGHT / PHOTO BY MOLELII
I have always wanted to go to Union Island and the Grenadines. I have heard nothing but good things about the southern islands in the Caribbean chain, the most untouched, untraveled, raw Caribbean vibes. When I heard about the Slingshot shoot on the Wind Voyager boat I was so excited!
Having spent a week on the boat in the Mediterranean last year I knew the Slingshot crew were going to be blown away. We have done plenty of shoots sleeping on blow up mattresses on a shoestring budget, but this trip is the ultimate kite shoot in my eyes. Boat trips are kind of like a van road trip but even better. It’s so good and easy because all the gear and crew are always on location, ready to go, at all times!
The boat was anchored in Union Island, a very small idyllic island south of the Grenadines, with a population of less than 3000. It’s a bit of a pain traveling to Union Island, which is what keeps special places so special. The best places are always the hardest to get to; if it was easy everybody would go. I flew direct from London to Barbados and then flew down to Union Island on a small eight-seater plane, there were only two people and myself on the plane down. I spotted our boat Cartouche from the plane flying in as it’s twice as big as all the other catamarans in the bay! After landing it was a quick ride on the tender out to Cartouche.
Let me explain in short just how cool Cartouche is, it’s a 95-foot catamaran. There is only a handful of catamarans in the world that big. It has four en suite double cabins, four crew at all times and an extra two crew members that help facilitate fun activities. Ian and Joel are coaches that learnt their craft at Real Watersports and they sure know how to have a good time and create seamless fun. They have just about every toy you could ever want on the boat. A jet surf board, diving gear, two seabobs (Google it), five foil boards, every Slingshot board and kite. There is a jet ski that comes out of a garage at the back like something off James Bond! There’s something wrong with you if you don’t have the time of your life on the boat!
We had a solid Slingshot team to make the most of the opportunity; starting with Karolina Winkowska, one of the greatest female shredders of all time. Fred Hope, foil wonderkid who’s carving his own path in the industry dancing on a foil. Patrick Wieland, filmer/drone pilot extraordinaire. Alex Fox, artist/brand manager and leader of this motley crew. Molelii, a photographer and myself, the veteran photo shoot guru! It was a streamlined crew as there was only so much space on the boat.
We started the trip on Union Island at Frigate Rock which is an idyllic flatwater spot, perfect for mooring the boat and kitesurfing straight off the back. Turquoise water and white sand beaches scattered with palm trees make it hard to take a bad picture! We spent the first 24 hours here to bag some content. The wind was light for the first day but foiling has changed the game and we were all flying around on the new foil range in 10 knots. Only stopping off for refreshments and more sun screen while your kite flies off a cleat at the back of the boat. Karolina even managed to get out on a twintip. After the session we jumped straight in the hot tub to soak it all in! I don’t think any of us have ever experienced such luxury; the dinner table was already set with white gloves (to ensure no finger prints) and we sat and enjoyed fresh tuna steak and talked through the shot list and schedule for the week.
Unlike a lot of the Caribbean the wind in Union Island is strongest in the morning this time of year and the forecast looked good for a sunrise session. We set our alarms for 5 a.m. to catch that morning golden hour. We hammered out a load of product shots using the over/under port so you can see both above and below the water as it’s crystal clear! We knocked out loads of important shots until we stopped around 10 a.m. for an insane breakfast on the boat. We rehydrated and went for a cruisey GoPro foil session. After a late lunch we packed up the tender and headed into the beach at Frigate. The boys set up a long lens on the sticks and we went about trying to land some cool tricks. It was a huge first day! We probably got more on the first day of shooting than we ever have before! After a hard day’s work of about six hours on the water it was time to get in the hot tub on the fly bridge and crack a well-earned beer!
Riding for a photo shoot is very different to freeriding; we have a shot list and we grind it out until we have everything we need. There are so many variables to contend with so you can’t always stick to a fixed plan, you have to be able to adapt to the conditions to get the most out of every moment. People think we just have a jolly up during the shoot, but we work our socks off all week; it’s the most physically demanding week of my year; waking up at 5 a.m. every day for the sunrise and spending all day on the water grinding the shots. Your body falls apart, it doesn’t matter how much sun screen you put on, you’re still sunburnt as we are in the sun for at least ten hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to do what I love for a living and have these opportunities to go to amazing places, but we work hard for it. It’s not like we’re smashing beers every night; we’re in bed by 8 p.m. Creating content motivates me as much as freeriding, getting a good shot of something simple is as good as landing a trick you have never done before. It’s all about making the most of these opportunities!
That next morning we had another crack on the twintips before pulling anchor, hoisting the sails and heading to our next destination. Fred would not stop foiling so we left him out on the water and he kited alongside the boat as we sailed about 40 minutes to Petite Saint Vincent and the sandy island of Mopian. The wind was just enough to foil so we foiled our brains out all afternoon. Petite Saint Vincent is a tiny island with a posh hotel on it and a cracking beach bar. The wind dropped and our caption Angelo spoke highly of the cocktails so we thought it would be rude not to go ashore and sample the local produce. I can concur the cocktails were great!
The next morning we sailed to Tobago Cays, one of the prettiest places in the Caribbean, if not the world! Tobago Cays is a small cluster of beautiful islands with crystal clear water and a nice big reef protecting the windward side. This makes it the perfect spot to anchor your boat in the sheltered area and explore the islands and reef. It is so breath taking, they filmed parts of Pirates of the Caribbean here. As you can imagine it’s a popular destination for charter boats, there was loads of boats but that made it really fun kiting amongst them as they looked on in awe, as our squad of foils weaved between the tall masts. We stayed here for a few days because there’s so much opportunity to get good shots. We spent an afternoon shooting over/under shots on the reef, and a morning shooting off one of the islands. We even managed to go snorkelling with turtles.
We had pretty much got everything on our shot list by this point, everything else was now a bonus. We had one last shot we talked about that would involve everyone on deck; the money shot of us kiting alongside the boat, under sail. It needed everything to line up without any hiccups. The media crew jumped in the tender for the crossing. Fox, Fred and myself launched off the boat and kited around while they hoisted the sails. Cartouche set sail on a broad reach towards Union Island. It was so cool kiting around the boat, but it was really hard and scary to kite in front of the boat, the wind shadow was so big your kite would fall out the sky, it took a team effort but we got the money shot! As we went past Palm Island we noticed some swell on the point. We pulled in, dropped anchor, jumped on the tender and spent a few hours tow-in foil surfing. It was a lot of fun and we all got some good waves, the icing on the cake!
That evening we continued on to Union Island for a cocktail on Happy Island. Happy Island is a bar built on the reef, less than 30 feet wide, built on conch shells next to the anchorage of Union Island and the kitesurfing spot. When it gets windy the kitesurfers jump over the island as the onlooking sailers watch in awe. We spent the last days hoping to do some freestyle and jump over Happy Island but there wasn’t much wind, only enough to hydrofoil. Which just means we will have to come back and do it again next time!! What a trip!
Total weight of boat: 95 tons
Total horsepower: 425
Total capacity of water tanks: 3000 liters
Height of mast: 39 meters
Length of boat: 95 feet
Toys: Jet ski, 2 seabobs, jet surfboard, RPMs, SSTs, Rallys, Hydrofoils, surfboards, paddleboards, diving gear for all the guests, hot tub. What more do you need?