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The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.

- Alexander von Humboldt

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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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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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