Two South African extreme sports enthusiasts will attempt to battle their way into the history books by kitesurfing a gruelling 430km route down the East Coast of Africa in The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition. Hailed as one of the most ambitious kitesurfing expeditions ever planned off the African coast, this epic voyage promises to be the ultimate fight between man and the elements.
Extreme Adventurers Embark on a Kitesurfing Odyssey
During this thrilling endurance test, Durbanites Zack Buchan (36) and Ross Walters (35) will set out from Ponto do Ouro in Southern Mozambique on Monday, 13 August – weather permitting – on an intense journey down to Durban. The expedition has been timed to coincide with the prevailing north-easterly winds along the Northern KwaZulu Natal coastline at this time of year. However, an unexpected cold front hitting the coast could pose serious challenges as driving south-westerly head winds would severely hamper their efforts.
Although the straight-line distance is 430 kilometres, the team will end up doing significantly more as kitesurfers will tend to zig-zag as they move down the coast.
The intrepid pair is planning to kite for up to eight hours each day, covering between 70 and 100 kilometres depending on weather conditions. If the conditions are favourable and their equipment holds up, they can potentially complete the journey in five days, but realistically it is expected to take between eight and ten days. “Your body really takes a beating in kitesurfing so this journey will be about endurance and pitting ourselves against the elements,” stated Buchan at a training session in Durban yesterday.
In addition to fitness training, rigorous preparation has been required to ensure that the team is primed for all eventualities as the route presents numerous trials for kitesurfers. As they plan to kite just behind the backline for the majority of the journey, the most imminent threat will be losing a board or crashing a kite in big surf whilst on a rocky stretch of coastline.
Added to this, there is the prevalence of marine life. Whilst the warmer waters off KwaZulu Natal are notorious for sharks, they will also have to contend with crocodiles while around the St Lucia estuary.
With so much riding on equipment, both Buchan and Walters have sourced the very latest in kitesurfing technology. To make the most of the expected wind conditions, they will have their pick of three kites ranging from eight to 12 metres. The optimal kite size is influenced by wind conditions with the larger kites suited for lighter conditions while the smaller kites are used in heavy winds.
The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition will be using Ozone Reo kites and Xelerator waveboards supplied by Kitesports. According to Sinesa Misic of Kitesports, Ozone kites have only recently been introduced to the South African market, while the surf-type boards are perfectly suited to this challenge.
“The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition is an ideal opportunity to showcase the performance capability of the Ozone Reo kites. The kites have been constructed specifically for excellent wave riding, quick handling and ease of relaunch, which means that they can seamlessly adapt between rigorous trials such as this ultra-distance attempt and leisure kiting,” explains Misic.
Safety is also a priority and a support crew will be following the team from the land with GPS trackers and will be able to communicate with them via two-way marine radios. The kitesurfers will also be equipped with electrical shark repellent units and they will each have an emergency beacon which, once activated, transmits a mayday signal that will mobilise the nearest search and rescue operations. In addition, there will be an emergency evacuation helicopter on standby provided by Helivac.
“This journey has its dangers and if one of us is seriously injured, just knowing that we have a direct line to Helivac and its helicopter emergency evacuation will give us peace-of-mind,” Buchan adds.
The sport of kitesurfing can trace its roots back to the 1800’s, but it was only the experiments of German and French inventors in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with further developments in the nineties by the Roeselers in the USA and the Legaignoux in France, that resulted in the birth of modern kitesurfing. The sport has shown explosive growth since then with an estimated 210 000 participants in 2006 to the current status quo of kitesurfing edging out windsurfing as an Olympic discipline at the 2016 Rio Games.
Steph Bester, CEO of expedition sponsor The Unlimited, says this extreme initiative dovetails with the company’s ethos. “This amazing attempt is extreme enough for us to put our name to – we believe in doing the extraordinary and these adventurers will achieve just that as The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition will push the limits of ordinary human endurance,” stated Bester.
Follow the amazing journey of The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition with daily updates on www.theunlimited.co.za.
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