Adventurers pioneer multi-day kitesurfing trips

Two adventurers have a new take on seafaring, using kites as transportation — and as sleeping bags.
Lewis Crathern loops his kite during the Len10 Megaloop Challenge
Kitesurfing lets you head into the unknown © Nick Muzik/Red Bull Content Pool
By Andy Pag

Most kiteboarders are happy with a few hours blasting around their local bay, and rarely venture far from their landing beach.

Not so for Graham Saunders-Griffiths, a British paraglider pilot turned kiteboarder, and German friend Manu Dürr. They set sail for a multi-day unsupported journey along 200km of Thailand's Eastern coastline to test the viability of kite expeditions.

Kite-bivouac on the Thai Coast © Graham Saunders-Griffiths

Drawing on his vol-bivouac experience, the paragliding discipline in which pilots carry a sleeping bag and camp each evening before resuming their flight the next day, Saunders-Griffiths concocted the kite-bivouac adventure while kiting the beaches around Parnburi, Thailand.

“I love the idea of taking off, and not knowing where you're going to end up that evening,” says Saunders-Griffiths. “You're at the mercy of the elements and you have to trust them, trust yourself, your skills and your judgement.”

They travelled light, cramming everything they needed into one small backpack. The bag held a kite pump, repair kit, a hammock, a few Thai Baht and some energy bars. “We’d come into shore and make our way through the jungle in search of some beers and a Pad Thai.”

 

Post-sesh chill on the kitesurfari. © Graham Saunders-Griffiths

Wearing just rash vests and shorts, the pair wrapped up in their deflated kites at night to keep warm — a trick used by paraglider pilots.

“I'm designing a harness which can carry gear for the next trip,” says the 43-year old adventurer. “After five hours kiting with weight on your shoulders, your muscles are burning.”

There were no big dramas but the trip tested their kitesurfing skills as they worked their way around Sam Roi Yot National Park. “It means '300 Peaks National Park' so it's beautiful, but it's a mess of windshadows and turbulence on the water, and it's the one stretch with no beaches to land on.”

“There were a couple of fishing boats out there, but if the wind had died then we'd have been in big trouble. I've been flying paragliders for 16 years so I can read the sky, but it's different out at sea, and no matter how sure you are, it can change quick.”

When the wind doesn't blow, you walk. © Graham Saunders-Griffiths

Elsewhere across the world, other water-based explorers are exploring new ways to expedition. American film-maker Seth Warren is heading to southern Africa next month, where he and a friend will paddle and kiteboard through the Quirimbas Islands on an entirely self-propelled trip from Mozambique to Zanzibar.

They'll paddle over 500 miles on custom-made SUP boards engineered to carry their weight plus another 60kg of gear. But the fun part? The kiteboard sessions in between days of paddling. “It’s a paddleboard-style mission where we’ll be able to kiteboard in spots only accessible by boat.”

As for Saunders-Griffiths, he’s now planning a 700km trip further along the same Thai coastline for early next year. The range of wind conditions along the route means he'll need a variety of kite sizes which will have to be carried by a support team, but he's also exploring other routes which could allow longer unsupported journeys.

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