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Jan 30, 2017

In a Kitesurfer’s Dream: The First Edition of Kite Tech

With the idea of combining sports, technology and entrepreneurial spirit, the Kite Tech concept was born—becoming a reality only a short time later for their first event in stunning Dakhla.

WRITTEN BY

Lorenzo Fornari

Brought together through a shared love of kitesurf, the creators of Kite Tech are a diverse and creative bunch: Morgane RidoretDreamkiteXavier Duportet; Arnaud de la TourHello Tomorrow; Christophe TallecWe Design Services; Hugo Compas; and Alexandre Mulliez. This star-studded tech startup event took place in a part of the world I never thought I’d have the chance to visit, let alone participate so closely in—even getting the chance to learn how to kitesurf in Dakhla’s austere yet vibrant setting.

Here is everything you need to know about the first edition of Kite Tech—the firsthand account from a first time kitesurfer.

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Dakhla lagoon. A bird watcher’s paradise and a kite surfers playground

Dakhla

The Southern coast of the disputed Western Sahara territory is a sun-baked martian landscape that suddenly crashes into the untamed Atlantic Ocean. Dakhla’s strategic setting is on a peninsula on one of the most Westerly points of the African continent, making it a natural choice as a stopover location for Allied planes during WW2 on the Dakar-Casablanca route. Today, thanks to the infrastructure, this incredibly remote part of the world can easily welcome kite surfers, and other water-gliding seekers, from all over the world (Royal Air Morocco, the only airline to fly there, takes 2 hours from Casablanca).

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The lagoon is a kite surfer’s ideal playground; a smooth, near-waveless, high-wind spot with water depth varying from just a few cm to a couple meters—which is perfect for total beginners, professionals, and everyone in-between.

Surrounded by sand dunes, it is also dotted by half a dozen surf centers which have popped up in the past few years—testimony to the rising popularity of the location. The barrier to entry in renewable energy sources (solar and wind are perfect here) have been lowered recently and  have allowed for development in the rigid and remote environment.

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Dakhla, kite surfing on mars

As we would find out later in the trip, basic medical facilities are on hand…
Dakhla has a clinic and hospital for more serious situations, but I highly recommend just not getting hurt and avoiding them altogether.

More and this and other stories on Dakhla and kite surfing in a more in-depth article soon. On to the show. 

The main event

Everyone was excited to do some kite surfing as soon as possible. Beginners, such as myself, eager to squeeze into wetsuits and get started, while the more experienced in the group looked over their gear, inspected kites and sharpened their boards.

However, this event is also about technology, startups, and entrepreneurs debating and sharing experiences, exchanging advice and creating a bond beyond what you can possibly hope for at a normal networking conference. Almost a week spent with a perfectly sized, brilliant and like-minded group of 40 entrepreneurs, in a remote location, ensures that the goals of the event were met. Kite Tech nailed it—which is incredibly impressive for a first time event.

Approximately 1/3rd of the time was dedicated to the talks and workshops, and the rest to kitesurfing and socializing, which is where the real magic happened. The authentic bonds between people were made during the friendly (and delicious) lunches and dinners, when everyone was networking and discussing about their business challenges and experiences.

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On the stage: the speakers and my highlights from their wisdom

Philippe Ancelin, Rémi Quique and Harold Quinquis
These three bastions of kitesurf gave us a rundown on the the history of it, which immediately set the mood and immersed everyone into the sport whether you had never touched a kite before or practically slept in one (which is rather comfortable by the way).

Maxime Lainé, CEO, and Arthur Berteloot, CCO
They created a B2B geolocalization platform in 2015 which provides geomarketing services to brands and services, allowing them to send notifications and promotions to customers according to their location. Using this technology as their foundation, they created an app called
WeeSurf which specifically filtered local current and forecast weather conditions. Throughout the week in Dakhla we successfully used it to find the optimal times for best wind and could plan to either kite surf or have talks. Download it now from the Appstore, it’s free.

Alex Mulliez
Alex Mulliez of AuchanDirect – “making elephants dance”

Alex Mulliez
The CMO of giant AuchanDirect.fr, Alex had an eye-opening talk starting with a slide about “making elephants dance”. He then went on to evangelize his belief that ‘lean management’ and ‘organized chaos’ are currently the best approach for the digital age and his industry, but that it should be applied more extensively everywhere. Acting as a ‘worm in the apple’, he started at his grandfather’s company, Auchan, and shook up an entire division in record time. The result: in nearly no time he has made AuchanDirect relevant in the age of the Amazon behemoth.

The Outdoor Journal
We were up! We had the chance to speak about who we are, what we do, and discuss the exponential growth of the global outdoors market, which has grown from a $65B market to more than $500B in less than 7 years. North America, the UK, Germany, and France, making up about two-thirds of the total spending, consumers want more experiences and less things. This brings more people wanting to travel and wanting to do so responsibly. Kite Surf is a perfect balance of this trend where people not only want to work and network, but come away with new experiences and friendships.
Physical activity has always been a necessary part of a healthy mind; mens sana in corpore sano, as the saying goes. We were also able to speak about our imminent launch of The Outdoor Voyage platform which aims to be a marketplace of the best, safest, and most environmentally responsible adventure experiences, gathering the best operators in the world, in all outdoor activity categories.

Matière Grise
Founder of this tech and start-up recruitment agencyGuillaume Lacoste, had a few pieces of advice. A good CTO makes all the difference but it takes a long time to find the right one—according to him, on average, around 6 months. While there are many different ways to find a good match, such as Linkedin, Angel List, personal networking, specialized forums, etc., the amount of time you’ll spend on this—not knowing you’ll find the right person amongst all that noise, you’re better off going with a specialized agency. Agency fees don’t come cheap, but then again, time is money.
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Audrey Franc
A dispassionate plea to everyone  how banks can be a partner for your startup and not just VCs, etc. Albeit their very strict rules, a personal relationship with your banker can open an easier path to getting capital to start your venture. Two main advantages: interest rates have never been lower (it’s basically free money), and investments from a bank avoids you losing control of your company from dilution.

EuroSIMA
Executive director, Franck Laporte, gave a fascinating
overview of a generally little-known association that directly led to the success of what is today a €1.6B industry—in Europe alone.
The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) started in the USA and in 1999, after searching for the perfect location in Europe—based on where the best waves were, of course, chose the South-Atlantic coast of France to set up shop. EuroSIMA now includes all board-based sports (snowboarding, etc), and have branched out with Outdoor Sports Valley (OSV) which is gathering even more members to its cluster. The purpose of EuroSIMA is to federate, promote, educate, and develop the sports industry through events, media creation, development projects, sponsorships, award and much more.

One of the direct results of EuroSIMA and the ecosystem that flourished from it is the first startup accelerator focused on water-based extreme sports, Blue Builder. According to Guillaume Cerquant they have the experience and connections to get startups (such as S-Wings) into the door of big industrial groups that are present not only in that area, but throughout Europe.

Julien Leleu, freestyle kite surf champion, hanging’ loose in Dakhla

Ride & Dream
A perfect combination of four complimentary people; Raphaëlle Douté and her vast experience in the travel industry, Renaud Lerooy with his management experience, Cyrill Merlin pro photographer and sports instructor, and last but not least, Julien Leleu, freestyle kite surf champion as well as photographer. They spoke about their experiences with their sports event agency, which despite being very new, has been doing well for itself. Aiming mostly at team building and large events, they create unique experiences that combine amazing destinations and even world champion athletes to participate hands on with teaching kitesurfing to all levels.

UCPA
An all-inclusive sports travel agency giant, UCPA talked their struggles to stay relevant and competitive in today’s frenetic online travel world. The main changes they’re looking to implement would be their target audience and the mammoth undertaking of changing their digital presence over the next couple of years.

Riders Match
In terms of sports media, Harold Quinquis CEO & Founder at Riders Match gave us a preview of their upcoming evolution of their “best extreme videos” website with a whole new service to track the best sports athletes in the world.

PIQpiq.com sports activity tracker that records thousands of data points in realtime, such as the height of jumps and tricks—even your golf swing or boxing punch. You can play them back later, evaluate your performance and learn from them—or you can just show off your awesome jump height on social media.

One Launch
Magnificent instructions from Philippe Ancelin if you ever want to learn kiting before you hit the beaches.

Woodyboard
Last but not least, Nicolas Guindé brought a couple of his absolutely beautiful handmade kite surf boards. Quite the treat for the kiters to ride on such pieces of craftsmanship and art. Check out his beautiful boards on their site.

More of Lorenzo’s Kite Tech photos, stories, and an exclusive interview with champion kite surfer Julien Leleu coming soon!

All images taken by Lorenzo Fornari / The Outdoor Journal

 

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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 06, 2018

Breaking Stereotypes: Meet India’s Action Heroes

The origins of Rushes dates back to two years ago when the format was conceptualised to throw light on the adventure lifestyle community within India.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

TheVibe Originals presented the opportunity to articulate this lifestyle. Since then, a very compelling series has come about which explores the backstories of a few handpicked extreme sports athletes who pursue their respective rushes.

Produced in association with Mercedes-Benz India, Rushes breaks stereotypes by bringing India’s action heroes in all their authenticity via a branded content series as opposed to having it celebrity-endorsed.

The Outdoor Journal is introducing the following Indian extreme sports athletes as a sampling of exciting talent that will soon arise from the high-potential region in the future.

Kiteboarding in Tuticorin with Arjun Motha and Jehan Driver

What makes Tuticorin an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

AM: The wind has brought people to Tuticorin for centuries in search of spices and pearls. The wind blows here for 300 days. The town is located in between India and Sri Lanka. Tuticorin is in the heart of Gulf of Mannar and had served as a natural port and a safe haven with its bays and safe seas. It has flat lagoons, waves, coral reefs, marine life and most importantly amazing wind for kite surfers and sailors. Making it an ideal spot for wind worshippers. Tuticorin is one of the spots in south-east Asia to have wind throughout the year drawing the attention of many kiters here.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

AM: India is only scratching the surface of the global adventure scene. There is so much raw potential and talent here. There’s so much natural diversity geographically in our country and when coupled with human skills and raw talent, the growth could be explosive. This is only the beginning stages in the birth of adventure sports in India. Nevertheless, it is guaranteed to be growing rapidly and being recognised globally for its potential. India has many undiscovered athletes and raw talent pushing limits and finding their rushes. India will soon be one of the top destinations for adventure and water sports churning out top athletes.

What makes Rameswaram an important place of interest with regards to kiteboarding?

JD: After touring the entire coastline of India we found this piece of paradise! One of the only places where we receive both the North East & South West trade winds where the peninsula allows for ideal conditions for Kiteboarding. With around 300 days of wind to play with we decided to live here & call it home. Flat water lagoons, reef breaks and isolated beaches make the region an awesome learning ground for beginners as well as experienced riders.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

JD: It’s like a bunch of clouds floating around that never met, any guesses to what happens when they do? The scene of adventure sports has always been well developed in India and it is still growing. Thanks to social media the awareness is spreading and acceptance is also growing at a rapid pace.There was a time we had to import physical maps to navigate our own backyard but now with Google earth the world is a different place. We never knew if there were more slackliners in the country but through social media the community connects. Similarly there are more kiteboarders/mountain bikers/surfers, etc in India than we know of.

Follow Arjun Motha on Instagram

Follow Jehan Driver on Instagram and Twitter

Extreme Kayaking in Rishikesh with Bhupendra Singh Rana

“Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.”

What makes Rishikesh an important place of interest with regards to extreme kayaking?

Rishikesh is my hometown and the river Ganges is my playground. This is where I started my kayaking career which to me is a good enough reason for me to call Rishikesh a very special place! Rishikesh is also the hub of extreme sports (known as the yoga and adventure capital of India) and kayaking was born on the river Ganges back in the early 80’s. Rishikesh is the place where the river Ganges comes out of the Himalayas (higher ground to the plain ground). Rishikesh has the best river sections where you can get into kayaking while providing a platform to step up your game to extreme kayaking. Heading upstream to the river Ganges valley there are endless rivers from high volume to steep creeks and even waterfalls. The overall experience in Rishikesh is very fulfilling. Enjoying a cup of chai while watching the sunset over the Ganges is unreal. Also, interacting with the very friendly local river community makes Rishikesh a very special place for me!

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

As I said Rishikesh is the adventure capital of India so I can not think of any other state other than my home state Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is the best mix of a calm lifestyle – you can practice yoga to extreme sports such as mountain climbing or downhill extreme kayaking. Uttarakhand is one of those states where you can do adventure activities year around while other states might be available for few months out of a year.

I love extreme kayaking but I’m also well aware of what it takes to be a pro. I keep fit, educate myself on the areas, rivers, advanced rescue training, advance medical training etc.

  1. I’m a certified Yoga instructor who has taught yoga classes in India, Norway and Africa.
  2. I’m a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
  3. I’m a Trained Wilderness First Responder

Education is the key. The majority of our local kayakers are getting into the sports at an early age but compromising their academic education. Not many people know that I’ve earned my degree in English literature, Indian and world history and political science.

My main goal is to pass a positive message to the community to know what it takes to be a pro at any sport especially rivers. Water is nature’s most dynamic and powerful element. Extreme kayaking doesn’t show any mercy and has next to no room for an error.

Wingsuit flying in Jaisalmer with Udit Thapar

What makes Jaisalmer an important place of interest with regards to Wingsuit diving?

While flying over the desert in Jaisalmer, there is a unique view. The desert seamlessly merged into the sky at the horizon. The light during sunsets is amazing. It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Adventure sports are on the rise as a whole. People are travelling for adventure. The Indian people have an appetite for adventure that is only going to grow. We are not just opening doors in the field of adventure but also slowly conquering the scene.

Follow Udit on Instagram and Twitter

Downhill Biking in Valparai with Vinay Menon

“Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!”

What makes Valparai a place of interest with regards to downhill biking?

I like to drink tea and to ride dirt. Valparai has both! Perfect to get Dirt-tea down the hill! Good trails everywhere with tea plantations touching the horizon, Valparai will wake you right up for your ride! Coming up-close with wild elephants and bison on the ride was the masala in my tea!

The vast number of trails streaming down the hillsides of Valparai will give you unlimited descending options.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

Current state of adventure sports in India? It’s spreading like wild fire! With its growing number of athletes, equipment availability and a more accepting population, adventure sports is gaining popularity in India, I feel.  With exposure to the international scene through various mediums such as social media, an enthusiast can follow and practice adventure sports easier than before.

Follow Vinay on Instagram and Twitter

Underwater Photography in the Andamans with Sumer Verma

What makes the Andamans an important place of interest with regards to Underwater Photography?

The two best destinations in India for underwater photography and scuba diving are the Andaman Islands and the Lakshwadeep Islands. Lakshwadeep have natural coral reef islands, and the Andamans volcanic ones. Both are at a large distance from the mainland country, are relatively unpolluted and have clear waters. The unique geological conditions, clarity of water and relative remoteness make it a perfect destination for scuba diving and underwater photography.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India is a growing market and the potential is encouraging. Thanks to social media and emerging communication, there is far greater exposure to sports. Skydiving, MTB, whitewater rafting, kayaking, slacklining and fly fishing are all finding an audience. These also offer an opportunity to the youth to pursue them with greater earnestness, and they are interested. A decade strong platform has now been established and thanks to our diverse topographies — a lot can be done. We need further administrative support and inclusion of these sports for a bigger impetus.

Follow Sumer on Instagram and Twitter

Slacklining in Bhedaghat with Samar Farooqui

What makes Bhedaghat an important place of interest with regards to slacklining?

The geographical features make the place unique. The Jabalpur marble rocks are iconic and epic. The features, the landscape and the water allow the huge potential for some really fun and epic lines.

What do you think of the current state of adventure sports here in India?

India, with regards to Adventure sports, is at a potential turning point. So far we’ve been really behind in Adventure sports here in India. With regards to skills, safety measures and equipment. It is not easy to find high-quality gear in India, so that usually has to be imported. Our import duties are ridiculously high. This high import duty is making it hard to practice safe adventure sport in India.

Most of the adventurers are using outdated gear in India. Stuff that was being used a decade ago in the west is our current standard. Very few actually bother to go out and stay current with the new equipment that comes to the market. I think we’re at a good point, to begin with, but plenty of work still needs to be done. We need more support from the laws and the lawmakers, we need more support from corporations and philanthropists.

Follow Samar on Instagram and Twitter.

On the project as a whole, Asad Abid, Executive Producer, The Vibe Originals said “We hope more progressive mainstream brands take a lead from a brand such as Mercedes-Benz, to reach out to TheVibe community and makes our formats and community stronger. We hope to make further seasons in the future.”

Follow Asad on Instagram and Twitter

Speaking of the initiative Michael Jopp, VP, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz said, “India is a country of diversity not only in the form of different landscapes that you can visit across the country but also from the varied pool of talent that it houses. Our association with TheVibe and creating Rushes was with the idea of celebrating these beautiful people and places of India. The content features a very emotional story wherein passion and dedication of these local heroes are showcased with their abundant talent and vigour towards one dedicated adventure sport. The same passion and dedication is what we strive to put in our cars and give our best to the customers.”

Footage Courtesy is provided to TheVibe.

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