Mar 31, 2008
Author: Gordon Payne
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Ride Guide: Jericoacoara, Brazil
words by Gordon Payne
photos by Silvan Wick
On the Water
It’s difficult to put into words what Jericoacoara, Brazil, is all about. This is a place you have to hear, smell and feel for yourself. My love for this part of the world began in 2004. I was led here by a dream of learning how to wavesail. It’s a long way to travel, but the payoff of sailing every day in challenging yet non-intimidating conditions is unbeatable. Jeri is known as one of the best spots in the world to learn because the waves are big enough to ride but not harmful. A soft, sandy bottom prevents worries from getting washed, allowing riders to improve by pushing their limits.
Don’t worry about a lack of strong wind when planning your trip—Jeri is a windy spot. I keep a daily log of my sessions, and this year I windsurfed all of my 40 days on sails below 5.0 m2. In 2004, I logged 64 out of 65 days on 4.2 or 4.7 m2, and the only day off was for a well-deserved rest. Peak highwind season runs from July through January, the best waves hitting September to December. People come to Jeri from all over the world, so book early with Vela Windsurf Resorts to ensure a place. Beginners may be overwhelmed at times, but by picking your spots, like an occasional lightwind morning session or working one-on-one with an instructor, you can improve as much as any aspiring wave wannabe.
The greatest stress of the day comes after sailing. Do you go to the sand dune to relax and watch the sunset, try sandboarding, check out one on the outdoor movies playing at the Vela Center, or simply rest in a hammock with beer in hand after a hard of ripping? No matter what you chose, you may find yourself heading to the big tree in the centre of town, which I call the “Round Bar.” It’s a great place to find new friends from around the world, while Dani mixes drinks. You can then pick from one of the many restaurants and feast on freshly caught fish, Italian fare, or unbelievable steak.
For a village of 1,500 people, the nightlife is impressive. This is the only time you’ll need a watch in Jeri. Set it for midnight, when all the action starts. Wander down main street as the action shifts from bar to bar or between various drink stands. The locals are amazing dancers, performing the popular Brazilian forró. Join in as the locals will teach you the steps, and the partying will go all night. Be careful how many caipirinhas you drink; you may wake up on the sand dune watching the sunrise. The mixing of local and visiting worldly cultures makes for unique and fun partying in Jeri. Don’t worry too much about the late nights hurting your sailing; the Vela Jeri’s owner, Fabio Nobre, doesn’t turn the wind switch on until 11 a.m., giving you a little recovery time.
Sailing the Jeri point break is exceptional. One day, for a change, a visiting German journalist, Dimitri Lehner, and I try a downwinder past the dune. With miles ahead open for exploration, we figure there is fun to be had hoarding the variety of beachbreaks to ourselves. The waves are head-high, and the wind is filled in and slightly onshore. We ride downwind to a spot called Mangue Seco, a two-and-a-half-mile distance. Our arms scream in pain, and Dimitri informs me that we just did at least 80 top and bottom turns on waves along the way.
The next four hours are mind-blowing. We have an incredible break all to ourselves, which we take full advantage of by slashing apart waves and hitting lips with reckless abandon. I’m having the time of my life when Dimitri suddenly breaks his mast on an over-rotated loop. We are a long way from town. He begins the short swim to the beach, while I begin trekking back upwind to get help. The Vela staff is amazing—they have already seen Dimitri break his mast through the resort’s binoculars. They’re always looking out for the guests, and by the time I make it back, Dimitri arrives via a lift from staff members Nilson and Biba. We watch the sunset, enjoying beers and icing our blistered hands.
Travel Guide: Jericoacoara
Where to start: Contact Vela Windsurf Resorts by phone at 1-800-223-5443, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for help with all travel needs.
Important entry info: North Americans need a tourist visa and passport to enter Brazil. Check the Brazilian Consular website (U.S. citizens see brasilemb.org, and Canadians see brasembottawa.org) for instructions. Plan ahead, as it can take anywhere from two hours to two months to process. Document dating is critical, so make sure you arrive in Brazil within 90 days of the visa’s issuing, and be sure to have at least six months left before your passport expires.
Vaccinations: If you have visited one of several countries on the “hot list” within six months of entering Brazil, then you will require a yellow fever vaccine. It never hurts to check with your local health authorities for recommendations before traveling.
Flights: Contact Vela for flight recommendations. To get to Jeri, you must travel to Fortaleza (FOR). This is where you connect with Vela and have arranged land transport. TAM Airlines provides the easiest and most direct route that originates in Miami (MIA) and reaches Fortaleza by way of two stops (without changing planes). Flights leave Miami in the evening, making connections from elsewhere in the U.S. or Canada possible.
Money: Cash (U.S. and Canadian dollars) is king. Do not take travelers cheques. Credit cards are accepted at the Vela Center and at some of the swankier hotels, but there are no ATMs in Jeri.
Accommodations: Hotels range from $50 to $300 per night, and they all provide a tropical breakfast with your night’s stay. Contact Vela for more info.
Internet access: For those who can’t leave their work at home, you can connect to the area’s WiFi service by purchasing a Surfcard ($3 per hour, $9 for five hours).
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