In Cumbuco, you only need to take one look at the horizon to figure out what this town is all about. Flocks of colorful kites fill the sky and attached to each of them is the tiny silhouette of a person pulling the strings.
In this small fishing village turned kitesurfing paradise, the wind is the main attraction—and it never stops. Situated perfectly between the Atlantic Ocean and southern sand dunes, Cumbuco has drawn extreme athletes from around the world with its promise of reliably perfect kitesurfing conditions.
An Invisible Draw
The center of the town is quiet during the day. Stray cats roam in search of a shady napping spot and dune buggy drivers loiter, waiting for the next customer. Most restaurants don’t open until late in the day, when hungry kite surfers come to refuel after another day on the water.
Cumbuco has undergone a massive transformation since the advent of kitesurfing and the discovery of the village’s perfect conditions. The town, which brims with surf schools, kite repair shops, and plenty of comforts for tourists, has found its calling in kitesurfing. And as it turns out, so have the people of Cumbuco.
Cumbuco’s Rising Stars
Some of the world’s best kite surfers are born here and to understand why, there’s no better place to go than Lagoa de Cauipe, a small lagoon just five miles away from downtown Cumbuco. It’s here where Cumbuco’s perfect wind is used to the fullest advantage. The lagoon’s surface is calm, and only a narrow strip of sand separates the lagoon from the beach. On one side of the lake, dune buggies pull up, hauling kites, boards, and athletic tourists to claim a kite surfing spot for the day. On the other side, a row of beach bars serve classic Brazilian fare—rice, beans, and fish—and offer partially submerged hammocks, perfect for watching the kites.
On this side of the lake, you are closest to the village of Cauipe, where some of the world’s best kite surfers are born. With the world’s most perfect training ground in their backyard, the children of Cauipe learn young and practice constantly.
Kids, some as young as six years old, clip in and cast off their kites like they were born doing it. They launch themselves on to the water and zoom off, practicing their jumps with incredible command over the massive kites, magically avoiding tangling their strings with those of other surfers. It’s a spectacle no one on shore can look away from.
As the sun sets, the number of kites dwindles with the fading light. Kites are lowered down slowly, folded up carefully, and carried home in shoulder bags. Without the kite surfers, the lake is not much to look at—flat with scratchy-looking mounds of grass. But if you stand knee-deep in the water, warm from a full day in the sun, and close your eyes, you’ll feel the full force of the wind against your body. You’ll feel the certainty in its persistent blowing, as if it has finally found its main stage.
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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer, photographer, and proud American-Brazilian. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto for beach recommendations and caipirinha recipes.