Sept 12, 2006
Author: Axel Reese
Just north of Fortaleza, Cumbuco has evolved into a kitesurfing mecca. Thousands of kiteboarders from around the world have visited the region and are blown away by the consistency of the wind. North, Carved and Best are all doing R and D here, travel agencies offer kite tours, and more and more photo shoots for well-known brands are taking place.
There are several new kite centres, a few more restaurants, and an infrastructure for kiters: pousadas, hotels, shuttle services, kite repairs, shops and Internet cafés. North of Cumbuco, a five-star hotel with a 23-hole golf course is being built, and the local life increasingly revolves around kiters. And there’s no end in sight. Cumbuco, and with it the whole region, is quickly becoming an epicentre of kiteboarding.
First and foremost: Going kiting in Cumbuco every day is as natural as getting a caipirinha at the bar. The wind consistency of the past years between June and January was almost 100 per cent. The remaining months still hit the statistics at above 60 per cent. And local kite centres run classes every day.
The sand dunes behind Cumbuco are the engine and guarantor of the wind. The sun heats up the dunes and makes for side-onshore thermal wind coming from the right. At night the wind shifts to offshore because the ocean is warmer than the land.
The seemingly endless four-kilometre stretch of sandy beach at Cumbuco is perfect for kiters of all levels, yet it’s far from overcrowded. While the kite action centres around the Eco Paradise Hotel, kiting does take place west and east from there as well.
In comparison to the surrounding spots, Cumbuco only offers smaller waves. At low tide, there is hardly any shorebreak, and at high tide it doesn’t get much bigger than a metre. There is a smaller sandbank farther out at the beginning of the city where you might find decent waves during low tide.
Lots of kiters enjoy not having to drive anywhere. They simply grab their kite and board, walk down the road to the beach, and are on the water within minutes.
Only a narrow strip about 100 metres wide separates this freshwater lagoon from the open Atlantic Ocean. This lagoon is the in-spot of the region. In the day, it can actually get crowded, with over 30 kites colouring the sky. Additionally, you have the kites from the schools claiming airspace. The wind comes up very early; from 5:30 a.m. on, you’ll be greeted with good light and a fun breeze. That way you get in your first session with no crowds while your fellow kiters are still snoring. Late afternoon offers similar conditions. When most people head home for Cumbuco or Pecem, the crowd quickly thins out.
Tip: Leeward of the lagoon rest some small barracas (beach huts), the only somewhat dangerous area of this hotspot.
Pecem is a wave spot with sideshore winds that is seldom frequented. A handful of kiters are considered a crowd. The wind is gustier than at the surrounding spots because the launch is leeward of the large sea bridge. You’ll be better off using a slightly larger kite than you would at Cauipe lagoon. The launch is directly leeward of the rocks. You will also share the water with the ever-present local surfers. They are relaxed and are happy to see kitesurfers in Pecem. On the water they cheer you on, and when we rigged they were anxious to help out.
You will generally find waves here of up to a metre in size. On a good day with strong winds and a good swell, you may have waves up to three metres high. During low tide and the following two hours the waves are the best. The lower the water, the larger the distance between the waves becomes, and the cleaner they are.
Taiba lagoon lies 10 kilometres west of Pecem, which means it’s about 30 kilometres from Cumbuco. Approximately 80 metres separate this little lagoon from the Atlantic. Just as in Cauipe, this playground is fed by water from the interior and therefore is a freshwater lagoon. The lake, surrounded by a fantastic dune landscape, is almost in the middle of nowhere.
This lagoon used to be bigger and deeper. Now you can stand everywhere. Usually the barraca is open, and you can buy drinks and snacks and get a break from the sun. The lagoon is regularly used by the Best crew. Alex Shogren, the boss, R and D man Peter Stiebel, and team rider Clinton Bolton test their equipment here. The crew has also put up a kicker and a slider.
While Cauipe lagoon can handle a good 30 kiters, 10 kiters make Taiba crowded.
Tip: Leeward there are some rocks. Some are quite visible, others are submerged.
Paracuru, a good hour west of Cumbuco by car, is heavily frequented by kiters on a good day. The spot is in a lonely location, about eight minutes outside of the village of Paracuru. Around the barraca the crowds are dense, but if you go 200 metres to the left or right, things are more relaxed.
The spot offers choppy conditions and waves that break farther out. On a good day with swell they can reach up to two metres and can be ridden down the line. Inside the reef, the water gets choppier when the tide is high.
The wind is sideshore from the right and still stronger than at the Cumbuco spots. If you’re lucky, you may get to observe turtles outside the reef.
The barraca on the beach is the meeting point of the kiting scene. There you can enjoy fresh fish, cool drinks and a shady place to rest.
Tip: Stay clear of the fish fences (leeward) and pay attention to rocks barely submerged on low tide.
West of Paracuru there is a flatwater basin: the river mouth of the Rio Curu. On one side this spot is bordered by mangroves, and on the ocean side by a sandy beach. For the most part, the water is shallow enough to stand in.
Lagoinha is at a steep part of the coast and largely in the hands of vacationing Brazilians. As you enter the village you almost have to stop, get out of the car and take in the wonderful views. Here, at the eastern end of the village, the locals enjoy clean, breaking waves. Be aware that the wind gets gusty due to the peninsula.
You can reach the western part of the beach with a normal car, at least during low tide, or go ahead and rent a quad for a few hours. With the kite on your back, you can make it here from Cumbuco in 15 minutes.
Mundau is a tiny fishing village, perfect for quiet holidays, far away from most tourists. A must-see, it’s a wide, sandy beach at low tide, dotted with a few boats anchored there. Due to the beach’s flat profile, you first encounter flatwater, then choppy water and, farther out, sometimes chaotic, sometimes clean, running waves. You’ll also find local surfers carving turns in the waves. At high tide, the Rio Mundau delta becomes a kite spot as well. On low tide there are too many sandbanks, but on higher tides this spot turns into a fun but gusty flatwater playground.
Icarai is between Cumbuco and Fortaleza and offers nice, clean waves. The lower the tide, the cleaner the waves. Here, too, the wind is sideshore to side-onshore. However, this spot is not frequented for kiting.
Closest airport: FOR (via GIG or GIU)
Best winds: June to January
Average kite size: 10 m2
Cost factor: $$$ -$$
When should I go?
While October and November are most popular, people are becoming increasingly aware that the winds past Christmas and New Year’s are just as reliable, and without a match worldwide. All spots, except the lagoons of Cauipe and Taiba, can handle more kiters than there are now.
Which kite sizes do I need in Cumbuco?
With an almost 100 per cent chance of wind from June to January, you’ll want to bring 8 m2 to 14 m2 kites. In July, August and September the wind is the strongest. That’s when you’ll be using smaller kites around 8 m2. November and December you’ll mostly use 10 m2 to 14 m2 kites. In January be sure to have a 14 m2 with you, and from February to May, you should take kites up to 18 m2 along.
Do I need a visa?
If you’re traveling with a U.S. or Canadian passport, the answer is yes. Ninety-day visas are available and extensions can be arranged once in Brazil.
Kite schools and kite travel specialists
Hi-Life Kitesurf School, kite-surf-brazil.com
Kitecenter Cumbuco, www.kitecentercumbuco.com.br
Kiters Paradise, kitersparadise-cumbuco.com
Kiteboard Cumbuco, www.kiteboardcumbuco.com.br
Kite Brazil, kite-brazil.com
Ozone Travel, ozonetravel.com
Blue Wind, in the centre of Cumbuco