For this anniversary edition, the entire team at the F-ONE office decided to go full on with the BANDIT theme and return to the origins of its name.
The graphic design team has worked on a very specific design and therefore there was one destination for this year’s trip that immediately came to our minds in the very early stages of the kite’s conception.
Baja California, Mexico was going to be the ideal location to fit with our theme and for our riders to deliver the best of their riding skills.
Last year, the F-One team had no option other than staying within Europe for our annual kite trip, but this year, we rediscovered the definition of traveling. It doesn’t necessarily going far, it just means getting out there and being together.
When the threat of not being able to travel abroad this year was upon us, we never lost hope and put all of our efforts towards making this trip happen. The BANDIT needed to be celebrated in style all together, in Baja.
We had a fine team of our best riders to share the bill: Mitu Monteiro, Hendrick Lopes Liam Whaley, Marcela Witt, Paul Serin, Maxime Chabloz and last but not least Mickaël Fernandez. And to accompany us were our awesome media and long-time partners: Matt Georges and Olivier Sautet. Only our dear friend Ydwer van der Heide was missing this year.
Early in July, 2021 we made our way to Baja California, a desert region nestled on the southern border of the state of California in the US. As we were organizing the trip, we were already getting some warnings: “it’s a dangerous area”, “there are sharks”, “it’s not the right season for wind”… But it wasn’t discouraging enough, we just had to find good guides.
Completely out of luck we were contacted by the Pranik Kite-Club amazing team: Jeanne and Alex, a French-Mexican couple who own a kites school and live part of the year in this region. With their help and their precious knowledge of the area we managed to build an itinerary for our upcoming trip.
As the departure date approached, the riders were impatient, but somewhat skeptical, especially with the fear of travelling during this period of uncertainty where new rules and restrictions appear every day. This trip was a risky bet, but we were ready to take the challenge. After a 24-hour journey, the whole team arrived in La Paz without almost any hitch. The first few days were dedicated to shooting “The Duel”.
Jeanne and Alex had found the perfect setting located about forty minutes from La Paz. A small old ranch that was super modest and looked like nothing in it had change or moved for years. The owners of this typical place welcomed us with kindness and curiosity. It is not often that a dozen people come to make a film at their place and borrow their horses to do so.
The place was magical, worthy of an American western, everything was there: the desert stretches, the immense cactus, the leather horse saddles aged by the sun. It was crazy to think that we would use this setting as a backdrop when for these people it was their living environment. The shoot lasted three days.
The riders went back and forth between their hotel in La Paz and the ranch. It was a demanding task, some had never ridden a horse before, others were even afraid of it. The thermometer needle was hovering around 113 degrees in this dry, almost lunar landscape, making the shoot even more challenging. In spite of this, everyone did their best, it was funny to see them put themselves in the shoes of Hollywood actors.
We were surprised by the ability of some of them, especially Mitu, who’s angry look could have challenged Clint Eastwood’s. Meanwhile, we began to worry about the wind conditions. Only a very light breeze would start to blow at the end of the evening. Jeanne and Alex were reassuring that the next stop on the road trip would be more conclusive wind-wise.
Finally, after three days of intensive shooting, the small crew embarked on a 12-hour drive to Punta Abreojos. The vehicles, a van and an SUV were filled to the brim with equipment that had not yet hit the water. With each hour of asphalt swallowed, everyone was getting more and more impatient to finally do this first session. Through the windows of the air-conditioned vehicles the landscape passed by, miles and miles of desert with sometimes hours without seeing the slightest sign of civilization.
After a long day of driving the team stopped at a strange place that looked like an American motel from the 50s. Of course we are the only guests. In the evening, after a delicious meal based on local specialties that some thought were rather spicy, everyone slept well as the route was so tiring. The next day, after another 6 hours of driving, we finally arrive in La Bocana; a house overlooking the bay and the Sea of Cortez was reserved for us.
We scan the spot below and the few small swells that seem to appear. As soon as we arrive, Mitu, Hendrick and Marcela rig up their equipment to get in the water. The freestylers are more doubtful but manage to get out some tricks in the swell. The wave riders are have a great time on the new Bandit S3.
In the evening we feel that the fact of having finally really ridden has done everyone some good. The next day we headed to a lagoon with the hope of a strong wind and a flat spot to finally test the potential of the new Bandit XV for freestyle and big air. The wind is constant but light, not enough to satisfy Liam, Max and Paul. Too bad; we’ll find better wind the next day. At the same time, Mitu and Hendrick discover a spot with a beautiful tubular wave and a nice right hander that makes them salivate at the idea of riding it.
The wind is offshore and the conditions are not so easy but King Mitu is there to lead as example. These conditions remind him of his native Cabo Verde and the waves of Punta Preta. After two great sessions during the day it was time to go home. As night falls, the temperature suddenly drops, which contrasts with the heat of the day, but it’s not to our displeasure.
With the little internet connection we manage to get, Alex checks the forecast. About 25 knots are expected the next day. The forecasts had not lied and the freestylers can finally satisfy their desire to get into the air.
The wind is a bit gusty but the kites do their job well and the boys can finally score some loops and insane tricks. In the surroundings, the fishermen on their boats have stopped to watch them, astonished.
It’s time to leave La Bocana and head towards Bahia Asunción. During the journey we stop regularly to visit ghost villages which are full of photo spots as strange as they are incredible. The only people we meet are friendly and intrigued.
There are very few tourists at this time of the year and even fewer foreigners. As we drive along, the landscapes change, the cactus that used to be the only vegetation disappear too, leaving an infinite desert expanse that life seems to have left.
And yet there, in the middle of nowhere, we stop at a small seaside resort and its few inhabitants welcome us with open arms. It had been a long time since they had seen a single customer. This is where we will stay for a few days before starting the descent back to La Paz. After almost 10 days here, a kind of routine had started to set in. The mornings, mostly without any wind, were occupied by surfing sessions.
Often a group of dolphins would join them to play in the swell. After lunch and Alex’s forecast check, the group would set off to find the wind. It could take up to two hours in the car to find the perfect spot and we would sometimes arrive before the wind itself. Around 4pm the sand started to fly on the beach and finally the magic could happen. The sessions were so precious that the riders would stretch them out until the last light of the day, tired but ecstatic to be able to ride in such wild and unique places. In the evening, after a few rounds of playing UNO, everyone was tired, falling asleep on the table, already dreaming of the next session.
Finally the time had come to head back to La Paz. The road would be long but you could feel everyone’s relief at having done the job. Memories were flooding in, everyone was proud to have once again taken up the challenge. The trip had succeeded in bringing everyone together and creating a real synergy within the F-ONE team. Although sometimes the conditions were frustrating, this trip to the end of the world had a taste of luxury, and we enjoyed every second of it. A feeling that will remain anchored in our heads is that of absolute freedom.
Thank you for the adventure Baja California, we had a blast.