Sept 9, 2007
Author: Gabriele Steindl
A lot is being written these days about Brazil: this mind-blowing country with lovely people, incredible nature, and perfect conditions for kitesurfing. Most articles, however, cover northeast Brazil only, namely the state of Ceará and sometimes a bit further south to the state of Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba.
Having visited and kited the spots along the northeast coast for the past three years, I decided to check out some new kite-grounds and head down south to the island of Florianópolis, the capital of the state Santa Catarina. With an area the size of Maine and a population similar to that of Norway, the state of Santa Catarina is a land with distinct esthetics: mountain ranges contrast with the coastline, punctuated with beaches, bays and inlets and dozens of islands. In terms of architecture, cities such as Blumenau and Joinville have retained the same typical building style from the time the first immigrants colonized the state, contrasting with the capital, Florianópolis, a young-and-modern paradise.
Florianópolis, with an estimated population of 360,000, is considered Brazilian’s “best capital for living” as violence and poverty levels are reduced. Blonde children with blue eyes and a strong regional accent make you wonder, Am I really in Brazil? Florianópolis also has 42 beaches around the island each diverse, an international airport, different hotel chains, and plenty of restaurants and bars. Three bridges link the island to mainland Brazil—the locals refer to it as “the continent.” In spite of the modern development, Florianópolis kept its old traditions and habits and fascinates by its variety of nature and entertainment possibilities. Floripa, as the city is known locally, is widely recognized as the surf capital or the “Hawaii of Brazil” and renowned for year-round consistent swell, diversity of breaks and crystal-clear water catering to all surf abilities. Santa Catarina is also host to the annual and only WCT Surfing World Cup stop in Brazil.
The different faces of the island are impressive: northern beach resorts Jurerê, Daniela, Canasvieiras, Brava and Ingleses are touristic and get very busy during the summer. Eastern beaches like Joaquina, Mole and Moçambique, are among the best surfing beaches and popular with young people. Beaches heading south include Campeche, Armação and Morro das Pedras, which are all very beautiful with a rustic charm and awesome waves. Isolated and unspoiled beaches, like Lagoinha do Leste and Naufragados are at the southern end of the island and can only be reached by trail. The Conceição lagoon is a famous natural attraction, and the centrepiece of the island—sports, cuisine and entertainment are first class. Peri lagoon is quieter and great for nature walks.
Cultural highlights are the maritime forts, Santa Cruz de Anhatomirim and São José da Ponta Grossa, archeological sites and Azorean villages, which are windows into the vibrant culture and history of this European island people. The city centre is pleasant and can be explored by foot.
Home of windsurf world champion Kauli Seadi, Florianópolis is the perfect place for any sport involving wind and water. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that kitesurfing is growing at a fast pace with constant winds from all quadrants and water around. The island offers a diversity of conditions from shallow lagoons to waves of all sizes, or you might want to test your endurance by going around the island. A number of kite schools have established themselves around Floripa and you can find everything you need in terms of equipment and instruction on the island.
It’s a year-round kitesurfing destination, however, don’t expect anything like the wind statistics from up north (April-December almost 100 per cent), assume an average of three-to-four days of wind per week. Brazilian spring occurs September-December and is the best time to come, with stronger wind (usually kites 7–12 m2) and more reliable in terms of wind probability. Winter brings big swell often related to strong south wind (perfect for most wave spots), requiring you to fly kites 9-16 m2. In autumn (our winter) the wind is weaker and blowing from the north-northeast, ideal for kites 9-16 m2. The winter (our summer) is Floripa’s weakest wind time of the year, and when you’ll require 12-16 m2 kites. Despite these seasonal guidelines, the predominating wind directions are north-northeast and south-southeast and are moderate-to-strong in nature. Therefore, bring all your kites as climatic conditions are unpredictable and can vary.
Climate and water temperature
Florianópolis has a subtropical climate with rainfall well distributed throughout the year. Summer (our winter) has the highest rainfall and quick showers as well as thunderstorms, all of which are common at the end of hot days.
Cold fronts coming from the southern Atlantic and Antarctica bring rain to the region. These can be followed by days of strong southern winds, which clear the sky and the sea but can cause the temperature to drop. Therefore, bring a rain jacket, long trousers and a warmer jumper.
Contrary to the popular kitesurfing states up north (like Ceará, Paraiba, etc.), the water in the south of Brazil is way cooler and you will need a wetsuit. It’s amazing how fast the temperature can change from one day to the next, depending on swell, wind direction and time of year. Some days you’ll freeze your ass off in a shorty, the next the same shorty will be more than sufficient. So bring all you’ve got plus Lycra and boardshorts for the lagoon.
Getting around Florianópolis
Having a car is of big advantage for getting around the island. Renting a motorbike and having all your gear mounted somehow is another option. There’s also a decent bus network around the island however, there are no bus stops at the best kitesurfing spots. Hitchhiking is safe and a common way of getting around Floripa.
Florianópolis is served by Hercílio Luz International Airport for both domestic and international flights. All major Brazilian airlines fly there with São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as the main hubs.
The prices can vary according to the time period and promotions. GOL Airlines operate flights similar to companies like Easy Jet in Europe and Northwest in the U.S., offering cut-price airfares. Other major airlines like TAM and Varig also operate flights to Florianópolis.
Favoured by Mother Nature, Florianópolis is considered an outdoor gymnasium for extreme sports. Sand dunes, lagoons, waterfalls, hills—the options of outdoor activities are endless.
The nightlife in Floripa is amazing. You’ll find everything on the island from small bars and kiosks along beaches to vibrant samba clubs while others can choose to sip Caipirinhas at a low-key reggae bar. The main concentration of night clubs, bars and restaurants are in the city centre and Conceição lagoon. During the summer, the northern area offers a wide choice of nightlife venues. Live gigs are big in Floripa with international stars performing year round. During my stay, I had the pleasure of enjoying one of my greatest all-time favourites: Ben Harper, live!
In regards to accommodation, Floripa has it all: camping, bed and breakfasts, mid-range hotels, pure luxury houses and apartments to rent... you’ll find a huge selection around the island.
Lagoa da Conceição
The Lagoa da Conceição, a picturesque lagoon in the middle-easterly side of the island, is the main kitespot of Floripa. With 55 kilometres of clear waters, it’s a perfect kitesurf playground. The lagoon offers decent conditions regardless of the wind direction however, the wind is more consistent when coming from the north rather than the south.
Launching can be tricky as a number of launching spots are restricted due to the landscape and inaccessible private properties. The few spots that kiters are allowed to launch from are tiny and can get crowded, therefore launching from the water is common habit. Once you have your kite in air, you’re allowed to sail anywhere in the lagoon. The lagoon boasts several sandbanks, surrounded by waist-deep waters, perfect for beginners and practising tricks. Due to the difficult launch on land, most schooling is done from boats.
The “hotshot surf beach” of the island, Praia Mole is the place to be. I’ve never seen as many beautiful, sexy, bodies (girls and boys) on one single beach. The beach itself is stunning with lots of bars, live bands and great waves, which require east or southeast swell.
Kitesurfing is good with wind from the northeast and southeast, which enters side-shore. Unfortunately, due to the crowds on the beach, kiting Praia Mole is only an option when the sky is overcast or in the low tourist season as launching and landing is impossible on busy days.
Wind: northeast or southeast entering side-onshore
Praia da Galheta
You can get to Praia da Galheta by an easy trail close to the rocks on the left side of Praia Mole. The beach is a preserved state beach and even more beautiful than Mole with way less people. The waves are consistent and hollow with both lefts and rights. Don’t be surprise if you see some people naked at Galheta beach, it’s a nudist zone, however an optional one, so don’t worry, you don’t have to take your clothes off to stroll or kite here.
Wind: northeast or southeast entering side-onshore
Praia do Campeche
This is a beach with perfect waves; depending upon swell direction, hollow lefts and rights along a 3.5-kilometre stretch of pure beauty: super-fine white sand with a view of the gorgeous island Ilha do Campeche, approximately two kilometres out. Big swells from the south and southeast enter perfectly, especially during cold fronts with waves reaching up to three metres in height. Ideal beach for down winders with lots of places to launch and land.
Wind: northeast or southeast entering side-onshore
Located on the northwest side of Florianópolis, Daniela beach has no waves. However, it offers excellent conditions with winds from the north-northeast and south that enter perfectly.
Wind: north-northeast or south entering side-onshore
The largest beach on the island. This is a 14-kilometre stretch, preserved with no buildings or commodities, provides a quiet, uncrowded place with powerful, tubular waves, both lefts and rights. The motto on Moçambique beach: Choose your spot and kite by yourself. The swell is east and southeast.
Wind: northeast or south entering side-offshore and side-onshore
Jurere / Canasvieras / Cachoeira
Beaches on the north-westerly side of the island. No waves. However, perfect kiting with wind from the northeast.
Wind: north-northeast entering side-onshore
Brava / Santhino / Ingleses
Alternative beaches that are rarely kitesurfed. Northeast and southeast wind enter nicely, allowing for good waves that require swell from the east. The waves are strong as Tom Carrol, a surfing legend and the first surfing millionaire after signing a contract with Quiksilver in 1989, broke a few boards rocking the waves here.
Wind: northeast and southeast winds entering side-onshore
Açores / Pantano do Sul
Fishing communities situated on the south side of the island, Praia Açores and Pantano do Sul are uncrowded and directly hit by cold fronts from the south ensuring strong and constant winds.
Wind: south entering side-onshore
Out of town
There is kitesurfing about 100 kilometres south of Florianópolis in the most beautiful countryside, rich in flora and fauna, with some of the best waves in Brazil. The main spot is Ibiraquera, close to the city of Garopaba, which is perfect for kiting with different conditions: glassy, clean and shallow-watered lagoon to nice shore break waves with side-shore wind. It’s a dream for kiting. The best swell is east and southeast and works best with wind from the northeast. When the waves kick in, there are many surfers in the water, however, the long, sandy beach is safe and offers enough space for everyone. You can get here either by bus from Floripa (they’re in good condition, cheap and secure) or rent a car. Either one it a good option. When coming to Florianópolis, a day or multi-day trip to Ibiraquera should be on your agenda.