Reed Bauer and her boyfriend Vetea Boersma remained determined to reach Brazil for a kite trip amidst the challenges of travelling during Covid restrictions last September. This is how they got on...
WORDS: Reed Bauer PHOTOS: Antoine Verville (unless otherwise stated)
After an insane summer of progression in Hood River, September rolled around and it seemed the universe was determined to bring this ball we had rolling to an abrupt halt. Temps were dropping, sunlight was dwindling and the wind was becoming less friendly with the passing of each day. Of course that wasn’t all; Covid-19 was ramping up in our home town and talk of stay-at-home orders, quarantine and travel restrictions became the topic of every conversation. We knew that our next move needed to be made quick. And responsibly. Research done. Phone calls made. Tickets purchased. Tatajuba in Brazil – here we come!
Reed, ready to ride
Reed, ready to ride
Anyone who’s ventured to airports in this epic pandemic-pause knows that the air travel experience, especially internationally, is a bit odd to say the least. Nonetheless, it is doable and worth it.
Our itinerary began with a flight from Portland International to George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, TX. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was extremely apprehensive about the Covid situation and how Vetea and I would manage to stay safe while flying across the world. My nerves were eased after boarding that first flight. We flew with United Airlines all the way through to Sao Paulo. Each airline has a unique Covid protocol that they’re implementing to best keep their passengers safe. United’s includes using electrostatic spraying to disinfect most of the aircraft before departure, using hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters throughout the plane to circulate air and remove 99.97% of airborne particles and they also use UVC lighting wands to disinfect sensitive surfaces (i.e. touch screen displays, pilot’s controls, outlets, etc.)
In addition to these measures, Vetea and I made sure that we were doing our part to keep ourselves (and everyone else around us) Covid-free. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said it wasn’t a hassle and that it wasn’t tedious… because it does feel that way during the travel, but it’s the price you have to pay to play during a pandemic. Our hands were most definitely cracking from the absurdly frequent application of hand sanitizer, our ears were throbbing from the pull of our mask straps and we went through about about a million alcohol wipes, religiously wiping down every surface we touched. But hey, we made to Houston.
PDX to Houston was the warm up. Next up on our schedule was a flight out of Houston, followed by a big ol’ 21 hour layover in one of Brazil’s hardest hit states, Sao Paulo. We spent hours, and I mean HOURS attempting to link together an itinerary that would avoid Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, but unfortunately we just couldn’t make it work.
Are we there yet?
We figured that the safest way to go about this massive layover (yuck) was to avoid common areas as much as possible. We did some research and found that there was a ‘hotel’ called Fast Sleep located inside the airport, so we booked a ‘room’ there. Our plan was to hunker down for the bulk of the layover and leave only when necessary. Upon arrival in Sao Paulo we exited the plane and were greeted by the hot Brazilian air, sun that seemed too bright to be real and the hustle and bustle of a very crowded, foreign language-filled airport. We ventured through customs, claimed our gear bags and then lugged them across the airport to a weird hidden corner where our accommodation was situated. ‘Home’ at last - Fast Sleep. You may have noticed that I put the word ‘home’ in quotes. We knew that our quarters at Fast Sleep were likely be on the small side, the hotel was located INSIDE the airport after all. But what we discovered upon entering Room 8 was something that resembled the closet that Harry Potter lived in under the stairs. Nevertheless, this coffin-like room would be our safe place for the next 21 hours. The next morning FINALLY came and we boarded our final flight from Sao Paulo to Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. By this point, Vetea and I were seasoned pandemic travellers, and the precautions that, at the beginning of the journey seemed like things we had to ‘remember to do’, had now become second nature. Once we landed in Fortaleza we boarded a shuttle to the small, secluded paradise of Tatajuba. We booked our shuttle ahead of time (which is key to ensuring the smoothest travel possible) and chose a private ride to limit the number of people that we’d be in the van with. It was the more expensive option but, again, you gotta pay to play.
The drive was fascinating, especially for me, as it was my first time in Brazil.
We wound our way through busy little towns filled with brightly painted concrete buildings on cracked paved roads. People rode motorbikes and Vespas through the traffic on the single roads that ran through towns, women carried big crates full of fresh fruit back to their homes and restaurants and kids laughed as they ran out of the convenience shacks with candy in hand. To my surprise, everyone wore masks. It was beautiful, it was culture; the reason that I chose to travel in the midst of a global pandemic. As we drove, the bright buildings became more sparse, the cracked pavement eventually turned to sand and, instead of kids with candy, we were now passing cacti and desert brush. We crossed over questionable wooden bridges, took what felt like twenty five random turns, almost got stuck in the sand more than three times and then we arrived. At long last, we opened the car door at our final destination, the charming, remote fishing village of Tatajuba.
Tatajuba / Photo: KiteWorldWide
Tatajuba Photo: KiteWorldWide
Pousada and peace
Pousada and peace
Riding opportunities where the river meets the sea / Photo: KiteWorldWide
Riding opportunities where the river meets the sea Photo: KiteWorldWide
Located just an hour’s drive west of Jerioacoara, Tatajuba sits where the Tucunduba River meets the south Atlantic Ocean. Despite its small size, Tatajuba offers a variety of spots and riding conditions, all within a short walk from the pousadas. The main spot, the river mouth, is situated directly in front of the pousadas. You can rig and launch on the beach and you’re just steps from the water. This spot is the best at medium-high tide. The lagoon is large and offers plenty of space for everyone. This is a perfect place for beginners to progress with its waist-high depth and only small chop on the water. Don’t be fooled though, as this spot caters to advanced riders as well. Ride around a bit and you’ll find buttery-flat sections, perfect for freestyle and / or big air riding. It’s a blast watching the show that the high level riders put on each day at the river mouth. At low tide you’re about 100 metres from the water. A short walk to the open sea and you can ride some fun little waves. The shore break at the ‘wave spot’ is great for kite surfing and strapless freestyle. Or, if you’re more keen on twin-tip riding, the waves here act as perfect kickers for boosting and big air tricks. The wind in Tatajuba is some of the strongest that you’ll find in the state of Ceará. It blows almost constantly from June through January, anywhere from 20 to 35+ knots. The water is warm enough for bikini or boardshort riding. It’s truly a kiteboarder’s paradise! We were greeted in Tatajuba by our good friends Janek Gregorzeweski, Mike MacDonald and Jasmine Cho. Together we shared epic big air sessions, lots of kiteboarding banter, delicious açai bowls and unforgettable memories. In addition to our kite squad, this trip wouldn’t have been made without our trusty steed of choice, the Naish Pivot. Our boosting bestie, ticket to shore break shredding, sunset session soulmate - this kite did it all and was the perfect set up for our sessions in Tatajuba.
Each and every one of us have been affected by Covid-19 in one way, shape or form. The global kiteboarding community has done an incredible job finding resilience in the face of adversity. We, as a family, have continued to create a pocket of light in these unprecedented, dark times.
Our trip to Tatajuba gave us the hope and happiness to make it through the remainder of the year. We are grateful for this community family and, above all, the sport of kiteboarding. I, along with Vetea and the Naish Kiteboarding family, wish you all good health, good times, and good winds for 2021!
Beachside slice of life / Photo: KiteWorldWide
Beachside slice of life Photo: KiteWorldWide
Sensational sunset sessions / Photo: KiteWorldWide
Sensational sunset sessions Photo: KiteWorldWide