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Manera’s Galician Pilgrimage Featured in The Kiteboarder Magazine

15 Mar , 2022  

Source: The Kiteboarder Magazine

Words: Paul Serin
Photos: Matt Georges

The doors of the van slam close as the ticking of the sleepy diesel engine warms to a purr. Our wheels roll east in the direction of Galicia, across the south of France and towards the northeast tip of Spain. A bit like explorers looking for a virgin land, or mountaineers looking for a new peak to climb, we are the Manera team, searching for spots and conditions to do what we do best. Our vehicles have no sleeping compartments, so we rely upon flat ground, good old tents and warm sleeping bags. As a longtime member of the Manera team, I have learned to expect a travel experience rooted in simplicity; this is what creates the charm of adventure, and it’s my suspicion that the memories from these trips remain engraved longer when you remove a little comfort.

The journey is long from Montpellier to the Iberian Peninsula, and just before the Spanish border, we make a small stop in Basque Country to stretch our legs. The team is in full attendance, and this year, Hendrick Lopes and Marcela Witt have joined us, bringing new faces and fresh chemistry. I’m riding shotgun in the equipment truck with Mallo; behind us, Julo’s van follows with Olivier, Matt and Marcela, while Maxime completes the convoy with Hendrick as co-driver.

The players (clockwise): Julien post foil, Paul in his fleece, Marcela sets up her board, Robby D’Amico approves, Maxime models the new Halo harness, Mallory installs fins and Hendrick connects his lines.

In the days leading up to the trip, the forecast wasn’t lining up, but all the preparations had been made so we were committed to checking it out with our own eyes. We first stopped in Ferrol, a squat, west-facing peninsula on the corner of the Spanish landmass. Here, there are multiple beach options nestled between rocky fingers, and we found a parking lot overhanging a bay with the wind already blowing 20 knots—a very welcoming gift. A basic principle of these trips, and kiteboarding in general, is that you must make the most out of whatever conditions come your way; we all accept that the time for rest will be when we are back at home. 

Reliable wind and kite handling confidence make for a casual approach.

Matt pulls out his camera equipment and we decide to split the session into two groups to avoid having too many riders on the water; first, the strapless riders will kite, then the twintip team will follow. My excitement to get in the water is too strong, so I rig my gear and work my way to the other end of the bay as to not disturb the photoshoot. The session at Ferrol is crazy, the Atlantic wind is dense, and the jumps are long and feel like they last forever. We swap teams in front of the camera and the favorable conditions put a smile on all our faces. This is a good start and we kite clear into the sunset, which is always the best time to shoot. When the light is exhausted, we begin our search for a camping spot and find a quiet zone that welcomes us with flat ground to set up our tents for a good night’s sleep. On these trips, it’s always hard to have a proper meal in the evening because more often than not, we find ourselves looking for a restaurant open after 10pm. That night we are lucky enough to discover a café where the cook shows us her menu of frozen pizzas and her famous seven quesos meal.

The next day, we find ourselves back on the road and direct our caravan south along the western beaches of Galicia towards Portugal. The Spanish coast is vast, and we are only at the beginning. Our smiles fade a little when we spend more time driving than riding, but it is part of the game. At the end of the afternoon, we land on the beach at Nemina. With the road descending into the south facing bay, the approach feels like a magnificent invitation. The long, sandy beach looks to the south, with offshore wind pouring over the peninsula to the north. There’s a river mouth midway down the coastline with sandbars and finger reefs, and we spot a potential wave reeling in the distance. The wind is very gusty, but the waves are beautiful. Mallo, Marcela and Hendrick rig their Bandit S kites and head south to find reliable waves. We watch as bands of wind swoop over the headland and sporadically touch down throughout the bay. It’s not easy to surf when the gusts are that unpredictable. Watching the surfers rotate through the lineup, it seems like a game of pure luck to get a wave without a monster gust or gaping hole, but since the forecast isn’t looking good for the next few days, the surfers endure the challenging conditions. I must admit, both Max and I would have been happy to go out on the water in Nemina for a freestyle session, but instead, we watch the show put on by the wave team and relax as the sunset disappears over the western horizon. 

Marcela launches a grabbed aerial in the mushed-out waves of Nemina.

Before this trip, I had never heard of Galicia as a surf or kiteboarding destination, but I soon discover that the Spanish coast is incredibly beautiful and natural. The cliffs and infinite rocky crags with white sand beaches sheltered into niches among the infinite peninsulas make the landscape feel especially wild. This little corner of Spain is exotic in its own way.

Hendrick launches a backside hack into the lip.

Every evening, we pitch our tents where we can and we work hard to find food. The advantage of being in Spain is that the locals are accustomed to eating very late. Every dinner is a good time to debrief on what happened during the day, have a few cervezas and put good food in our stomachs. I share my tent with Mallo, and since we sleep in a different place every night, the repetitive motions of disassembling and reassembling the tent earn us quick status as camping pros. Partway into our second week, Mallo and I secretly consider sleeping in board bags tucked into the back of the van, but the humidity and smell of wet equipment isn’t very inviting. The daybreaks are fresh, especially after a good rain, and with incremental exhaustion, it becomes harder to exit the warmth of our sleeping bags each morning.

Consummate professionals, Mallory and Paul learn to rig their tent almost as fast as their kites.

We keep driving towards Portugal, and along the way, we pick up Italian pro surfer Roby D’amico, the newest member of the Manera team. This is the first time that we have a non-kiter on a Manera trip, and I am delighted because it means that we are going to have to find more surf spots. Roby has a communicative good mood; I’ve known him for a day, and I like him already. His energy brings a freshness to our daily ritual and offers a different vision for our daily search. We find a spot with a steep beach break; the wave we found in Nemina was certainly magnificent for kiting, but it was a little too flat for radical prone surfing maneuvers. At this new spot, the current is very strong, and the hyper-changing conditions make it difficult to photograph. Robby paddles out with a smile on his face, scores one insanely good wave, and that’s enough to make him happy…

Read the rest of Galician Pilgrimage at www.thekiteboarder.com

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