Heather's Working Summer Adventures 2010

Reggio Calabria, Punta Pellaro Italy
by Heather Froeming

The idea for our summer "working" vacation in Italy was first, for me to see Italy for the first time, second, to have Marco get back to his roots after four years of being away and, third, to get to know the Italian kiting community. We started in Rome, where Marco is from, and accomplished our first two goals: touring Rome, Firenze, Siena and Vinci, all while enjoying the company of Marco's family and friends.

Now, time for our third goal: networking with the Italian kiters and seeing what the scene was like in Italy. Thanks to Facebook, Marco set up a meeting with Marco Meddei from Windside Kite School in Rome. We went to see his operation in Littorale Roma where the beach was packed with summer beachgoers. The wind was quite light when we arrived but Marco managed to get a couple rides in. He was "jonesing" for some wind. as he hadn't kited for several weeks! We met some of the regular kiters there that had already met Marco through Facebook. After that meeting, Marco contacted us to tell us about the Traversata from Reggio Calabria to Messina Sicily happening the next week.

It worked out perfectly because we were already planning on traveling south to meet up with our instructor, Ulf, who had worked for us last season. He had discovered a kiteboarding paradise in Gizzeria and had even bought a house to renovate there. We knew it had to be good if Ulf had decided to live there! So, the plan was in the works to go to Gizzeria, see the conditions there, and then continue on to the Traversata! Marco was elated and jumping out of his skin to get in the water again!

We packed the car and headed out on our "plan less" journey to follow the wind. Now we were on our trip to have the wind lead us where it willed! We had a beautiful road trip to see a big portion of the Italian countryside and mountains ... absolutely spectacular! There was not a lot of wind on our cruise along the ocean until we rounded a corner and were close to Gizzeria. The wind started picking up and Marco saw the whitecaps! He started getting anxious in his seat. Off in the distance we saw the kites flying. We had arrived.

We went to see some of the kiting spots and schools and waited to meet with Ulf at Hangloose School. They have a very nice, clean and professional outfit there and it really looks like a kiteboarder's heaven—a great hang-out spot with music, food and drinks all right in front of an awesome riding spot. The view is fabulous with beautiful mountains rising as the backdrop.

Later that night we followed Ulf to his house. We were very curious to see it from all the stories he had told last season. We drove straight up into the mountains and kept climbing and climbing and our poor little "Pandino" car was struggling to get up the steep climb. We arrived 1500 meters higher to a small adorable village among the forest in the mountains. With cobblestone streets and small alleys, it was like a surreal dream. He took us to his house, a 300-year-old flat in the midst of major reconstruction. We were shocked. This was a very serious undertaking for our mellow hang-loose instructor. We were truly impressed and could not wait to see it in the daylight. The house was not quite habitable yet, missing some running water and some other stuff, so we stayed with them up the street in another "old" house. Being from the States, and especially California, anything older than 50 years is "old," so I was constantly intrigued with the antiquity of everything.

The next day we toured Ulf's house and it was truly amazing work, with a spectacular view overlooking the forested hills and out to the ocean. It was adorable. We had a typical lunch of cheese, bread, salad and wine. Ahhh, the Italian life. We later went to the top of the mountain to look out over the valley to the sea. Very awe...mazing.

After a nice couple of days we headed south to the four-day weekend event. We met up with Marco from Rome and followed him to Reggio. We arrived at night, had a little trouble finding our way around and finally settled into a place around 1 a.m. Always an adventure! The next day we arrived at the event on the promenade with the Red Bull tent up and all the promotion ready to go. People started arriving and soon it was a kiting spot! After a morning warm-up session, the kiters in the race started getting ready with their life vests, radios, and lycras. I decided to watch, as I hadn't been kiting for a while and I was noticing some very professional riders with racing boards. I felt I was out of my league, for sure. Marco, of course, was ready and waiting. So, off they went, about 25 kiters in the water heading out across the channel to Sicily ... a beautiful sight. About 30 minutes later, we started to see the kiters on the horizon again and they were arriving quickly. We could see about four or five kiters ahead, as they arrived with speed and then .... what was that?? ... is that???? ... is that Maaarrccooo??? It was! Marco was coming in as the third kiter!!!!! This was a beautiful surprise, as he was the first with a twin-tip board and had never raced before ... haaaa. Marcino came in Third!!!!

The day ended with a nice sunset session, and then we were off to dinner at Paolo's house. He was a very gracious host. We talked about the day’s happenings and had a much-needed sleep after an eventful day.

The next day was a bit less official with another crossing without the "race." We hung out and kited and just basically relaxed. Marco was his usual social self, going around to meet everyone. That night they had a pretty formal birthday party on the beach that, well, we kiters kind of crashed, but it was super fun with good food, drinks and music. They know how to throw a party in Calabria.

After Marco's social butterfly routine at the Traversata, he landed a job for the busy week of Ferragosto, the Italian official summer holiday, with Agostino at New Kite Zone. Agostino had organized the Traversata event, had a school a bit south of the event at Punta Pellaro, and offered us an apartment, so how could we say no? We decided to stay on and experience the winds in Reggio Calabria.

The New Kite Zone School is located on a long stretch of beach with really not too much around except for a cool kiter hang-out. For me, that was an ideal spacious spot where you had plenty of room to launch and land your kite comfortably, and you could always find your space in the water. The conditions were ideal for learning, as the wind was side shore, strong, with not too many waves. We dream of these conditions in Tulúm!

The week started out with great conditions and, since it was the week of Ferragosto, most people were off work. The beaches started to fill up with people. We had a couple of mellow days with light wind and afterwards enjoyed some fun dinners and parties at night. One evening, with a group of 11, we drove a half-hour north to the beautiful cliffside city of Scilla, named after the mythical monster who threatens sailors passing through the strait of Messina, a city with a very ancient past! We walked around and could feel the history. We enjoyed a late-night dinner and all returned home exhausted but with our bellies full, of course!

The next day was Ferragosto, 15 August. We enjoyed a light day of kiting and then continued on to the beautiful beachfront party at Roberta's house. This group of kiters know how to party and dance!!!!  DJ extraordinaire Ciccio supplied us with our dose of dance tunes. We all danced for hours and properly celebrated the Italian holiday!

After the party extravaganza, two super-strong days of wind arrived with 30 knots. We arrived at the beach and it was blowing! The ocean had grown quite choppy so it looked like quite a ride with the seven meters. It was super fun catching big air! The poor students struggled a bit, as the ocean had grown a bit more treacherous, with waves pounding the shore and, of course, strong, gusty wind. If you survived that day, everything else would seem easy.

And that's what happened ... the next day was a breakthrough day! The wind was lighter, the ocean calmer, and the students from the week all started to ride. After the previous day's 30 knots, everyone's confidence had grown and it was great to see everyone's progress. It was an awesome day, I learned new tricks, got some big air, and Marco perfected his kite loops! He came out of the water floating on cloud nine and had this glazed, wild look in his eye. An epic day!

The next couple of days we had friends, Diego and Rebecca from México, arrive to share in the experience. They stayed for a couple of days and we all got some good riding time in. After about 15 days we had to close our time in Reggio with a delicious homemade pizza dinner to celebrate Agostino and Cinzia's birthday. We were to return to Gizzeria to hang out with Ulf, or so we thought. But the Reggio clan convinced us to make another slight change of plan and go to Sicily where the wind was waiting for us!

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