Photo: Bruna Arcangelo Toledo

FAQ for Americans

Why Brazil?

Paradise

Come and see why Brazil is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world! When you think of “tropical”, what comes to mind? Here you will find that the warm waters and white sand beaches are a spectacle to see, and will leave you wanting to return. The tropical climate has also created a lush rainforest throughout the majority of the country, where you can find beautiful animals and hidden paradises.

 

Culture

Brazilians are known to be some of the ‘warmest’ people and have so much to offer— forget the stereotypes! Get to know the welcoming, laid-back lifestyle of the locals, where the good times don’t end. You’ll always feel safe and secure, especially with the kitesurfing scene along the coast!

Don’t forget to eat more than you should.. The food in Brazil in amazing! Fresh fruit and vegetables are a daily privilege, and are products of the rich agricultural environments found in Brazil. Here you will find fruits that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and we can assure you that the açaí will leave you with “saudades”. Enjoy a juicy steak, or some fresh fish— Brazil has it all!

 

Kitesurf

There are various locations in Brazil to kitesurf, but some of the best kiting conditions in the world are found along Brazil’s northeastern coast. This region offers incredible conditions, perfect for kiters who:

  • Want to practice long distance kiting and test their endurance
  • Are interested in progression and improving their kiting abilities
  • Are looking for a new adventure and practice the sport of kiteboarding
  • Most importantly, conditions that are perfect for kiters of all levels

From Cumbuco to Atins you will find good wind, warm water, clear skies for 7 months throughout the year. This region supports Brazil’s high average wind statistic. The kiting locations are in the middle of paradise, and are unlike anywhere else in world! Come see for yourself.

Brazil FAQ (for Americans)

Who wrote this FAQ?

This FAQ was written primarily by Bowen Dwelle, a kitesurfer from San Francisco who has visited Brazil several times, starting in 2008. Bowen is a brand ambassador and on-the-water guide for Surfin Sem Fim.

What are some of the best things about traveling to Brazil for kitesurfing?

  • It blows every day in Wind Land!
  • Incredibly beautiful tropical coastline with miles and miles of sandy beaches
  • Warm, friendly, welcoming, diverse culture
  • Warm climate (boardshorts!)
  • Kitesurfing is a known sport, and people love it!

What are Brazil and the people of Brazil like, in general?

Brazil is a very large, incredibly diverse and vibrant country. It’s just about as large as the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, and has a population of more than 200 million. You can find all types of landscapes in Brazil, and the population has history in indigenous people as well as immigrants from Africa, Europe, and Asia, resulting in a very very diverse and cosmopolitan culture. In my experience, Brazilian people are friendly, open, helpful, well educated, well traveled, and interested in meeting and interacting with visitors to their country.

For more information, check out the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil

What is the weather like in Brazil?

Overall, the weather is great! In the north of Brazil, the weather is very consistent and is generally about 75-85°F with no rain and mostly sunny, windy days. While it is the tropics, northern Brazil is breezy and not overly humid, and you are often on the water during the warmest parts of the day.

What about the language — do I need to speak Portuguese?

You may have heard that ‘Portuguese is hard’ — and it does tend to be trickier than Spanish, for example. That said, you do not need to speak Portuguese to travel in Brazil. In the north you will meet people from all over the world, and the standard language for all travelers is… English! Surfin Sem Fim also operates primarily in English, so our captains, guides, drivers and staff all speak English. Of course, please do take the opportunity to learn a little Portuguese; languages are fun!

How safe is it to travel in Brazil?

Kiters who visit Brazil with Surfin Sem Fim generally find Brazil to be a very safe country (more so than some other kite destinations such as Hawaii and Mexico, for example).

It is important to understand that Brazil is a very large country, and it is always important to know where you are and where you are going. There are some remote areas, in the Amazon for example, where it is better to travel with a guide or a local that can help you get around without any problems. You do not need such a guide in the areas where we travel for kitesurfing.

The larger cities of Brazil can be compared to cities of any other country in the world: it’s always a good idea to be careful. Pay attention to where you are going and your surroundings. Try to avoid bad neighborhoods at night, and respect the culture of the country that you’re visiting. With these tips you can safely and easily travel through Brazil without any problems.

How do Brazilian people feel about foreigners? How about Americans?

Brazilians are known to be a warm and welcoming people. If you are respectful of their culture they will likely embrace you like family and help you with anything you need. In most cases, Brazilians are very fond of Americans, as the two countries share several cultural similarities — including a love of music, shopping, the outdoors, food, political turmoil, and sports.

How crowded are the kite spots?

Some of the most popular spots like Cumbuco and Paracuru and the various freestyle lagoons can be quite busy, but the places that we go on our long distance trips are pretty empty. We often see other kiters when we pass a known spot like Jeri, Tatajuba, and Barra Grande, but we see very few people in between.

How popular is kitesurfing in Brazil?

Brazilians love kiting!! Kiting is probably much more popular in general in Brazil than in the U.S., and people have a very positive attitude about kiting. In the states, I often get a bit of a question mark when I talk about kitesurfing with strangers; in Brazil it is a known sport, and widely considered as a variety of sailing, and something that most people who live on or near the coast are familiar with.

Who will I meet on my trip?

Brazil is a popular place to travel to, especially for Europeans. In general, you are likely to meet other kiters from Europe: Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Poland — and also from South America, especially Argentina. You will also meet a lot of locals — Brazilians, that is, from local fishermen to buggy drivers, shop and restaurant owners, city people from Rio and São Paolo, and local kiters!

How do I get to Brazil?

The main gateway to NE Brazil is Pinto Martins International Airport in Fortaleza (FOR), although there are some alternate routes. There are only a few direct flights from the U.S. to Fortaleza, so travelers from the U.S. most often fly through Rio or São Paulo and then back to Fortaleza, which is not ideal but not as bad as it might sound.

As of 2018, there are some direct flights from Miami to Fortaleza; if you can use those in your routing you will save some time. Currently, there is a flight that goes MIA-FOR on Tuesdays at 10:40pm (Latam 8133) and FOR-MIA on Mondays at 9:45pm (Latam 8132). Latam is a Oneworld member, which also includes American Airlines. Otherwise, the most common way to get to a Surfin Sem Fim trip is via São Paulo or Rio → Fortaleza → ground transfer. You can also look for alternate routings through Panama, and also to JJD (for example: SFO-FLL-VCP-JJD).

If your kite destination is Prea or Jericoacoara, there is a new airport to consider: the recently-opened airport in Cruz/Jericoacoara (JJD). For example, if you are flying through São Paulo you might be able to connect directly to JJD instead of going to FOR and then 4 hours by road to Prea. There is a nonstop flight from São Paulo/Viracopos (VCP) to JJD on Saturdays on Azul.

At the western end of Surfin Sem Fim Wind Land is the city of Sao Luis, which has an international airport (SLZ). You can get direct flights from SLZ back to FOR or down to Rio or São Paulo. Since we generally travel from east to west on our kite trips, Surfin Sem Fim kiters often fly into FOR and out of SLZ. There is also a small airport in Parnaiba (PHB) that might be useful in certain cases.

Wherever you fly into, we will arrange ground transfers to the start of your Surfin Sem Fim trip.

FLIGHT SEARCH TOOLS: These days Google Flights works best and is the easiest to use.

WINTER TRAVEL: Since most travelers from the U.S. are going to Brazil during the northern winter, avoid routing through cities that can be easily affected by winter storms and snow and consider adding an extra day onto the front end of your trip just in case you have flight problems. No problems? Then you arrive in Brazil a day early: no problem! Avoid flying through Atlanta in particular.

Is Brazil a long way away / does it take a long time to get to Brazil?

It’s farther, but the way we look at it, travel is part of the fun! If often does take ~24 hours to get to Prea from, for example, San Francisco. Given the travel time, consider making your trip to Brazil a bit longer: spend two weeks exploring in the north, or stop in Rio for a long weekend.

What about jet lag?

Since Brazil is more south from the U.S. than east or west, the time difference is much less than if you go to Europe or the Pacific. There is a 2-3 hour difference from the east coast and a 4-6 hour difference from the west coast, but it’s usually not an issue. My philosophy on jet lag is: ignore it. Some people love to talk about jet lag, I like to get outside, have a run and then get in the water and go kiting!

Do I need a visa?

American citizens do need a visa (and passport, of course) to visit Brazil. The awesome news is that the visa is good for ten years! Check the State department website for information, or apply directly using the new e-Visa program.

Who are your guides and what sort of training do they have?

Our groups typically travel with two or three guides: a captain and one or two co-captains. Each guide is a highly experienced kitesurfer, capable of guiding and assisting our clients in any given situation along the route. We often also have pro rider with the group and/or a local, native kitesurfer that is very familiar with the area. Their job is to make you feel safe, secure, and ensure an incredible experience!

How should I select my equipment for a trip like this?

Choose equipment that is in very good condition, not more than three years old, and that you are very familiar with. If you have old gear, it’s time to upgrade, but not right before you leave for Brazil! Take the opportunity to get familiar with any new equipment well before your trip so that you’re not sorting out new gear in a new country. Similarly, take the time to do any maintenance or replacement well before your trip. Bring spare parts too — an extra bar, at least one spare kite valve, some line, that sort of thing. Since you are going to a new place and likely kiting farther and longer than you will have in the past, you want your gear to be 100% dependable!

What if I have a problem on the water (like an equipment failure), and need to be rescued?

Keep in mind that when traveling in a group, your safety is everyone else’s safety — essentially, your equipment is everyone else’s safety and vice versa. If you have an equipment failure, it affects everyone in the group, and may put not only you but others at risk. So: first of all, see above, and select your gear for your trip so that you have minimal chance of equipment failure.

Even though we do have guides on the water to assist you, on any adventure you should assume at all times that your safety is ultimately your own responsibility — and so you must be prepared to do a deep-water packdown and self-rescue if necessary. Some of our routes take you 1-2km offshore in places. Be prepared, choose a route appropriate to your skill level, and don’t get in over your head.

If you do have a problem on the water and need assistance, one of the guides will help you get to shore. They are equipped and trained to perform this kind of deep-water rescue, usually by swapping a kite or by towing you to shore. You should be prepared to abandon gear without hesitation in such an emergency.

I took up open-water swimming in a minor way a few years ago. Being able to swim 2km in open water certainly makes me much more confident doing open-water crossings by kite.

What sort of physical condition do I need to be in?

It always helps to be in good physical condition, and I have found that moderate strength and cardiovascular training has improved my kiting and my level of comfort on long distance kite trips considerably. I would consider the following rough equivalents

SSF trip difficulty Time on the water Equivalent jogging Equivalent cycling
Easy 1 hour ½ hour 1 hour
Beginner 2 hours 1 hour 2 hours
Intermediate 3 hours 1 ½ hours 3 hours
Difficult 4-5 hours 2+ hours (half marathon) 4+ hours
“Golden” 5+ hours 3+ hours (marathon) 5+ hours

Are there any risks from tropical diseases like malaria, Zika, etc?

It’s always a good idea to check the recent news and certain conditions before you arrive. Brazil is known to have had certain mosquito-related outbreaks. This typically occurs in remote areas, near the Amazon or Pantanal. The risk is there, but do your research and pack the necessary protection (bug spray and protective clothing), and you should have nothing to worry about!

What about sun exposure?

We get a lot of sun in the north of Brazil. On our long distance trips the best way to manage sun exposure and prevent over-exposure is to cover up! Most of us wear a long-sleeved SPF 50 rash guard and many people wear long tights as well, and of course a hat and perhaps a face/neck guard.

What is the coastline like? Sandy beaches? Rocks? Reef?

One of the most remarkable aspects of the northern coast of Brazil from Natal to Sāo Luís is that is almost entirely low-angle sandy beach and sand & mangrove river mouths with relatively few rocks and reefs. There are some rocks and one place in particular that I know of with a nasty bit of sharp reef (at the point in Barra Grande), but overall it’s a very friendly coast from a geographic point of view. What you will see on any given day depends a lot on the tide, since there is a 2-4m tidal range.

Will I get sick from “gringa” aka Montezuma’s revenge, bad food or water?

I have not experienced this, and have always had good digestive health in Brazil. I generally drink bottled there, and I eat whatever looks good.

How likely am I to get injured, and what if I do?

When I travel overseas doing stuff like kitesurfing & paragliding I carry trip-specific medical evacuation and repatriation insurance. It’s trip-specific and usually costs me $100-$200 per trip, which for me is certainly worth the expense. My experience visiting local clinics in Brazil for minor injuries has been that they were clean and very professional. The insurance comes into play for anything life-threatening. I usually get my travel insurance from Seven Corners.

What is the food in Brazil like?

In the north, the food is simple, clean and healthy; a normal dinner consists of fresh fish and perhaps some chicken, rice, beans, farofa, and a simple salad. Fresh fruit is excellent breakfast usually includes a lot of fruit, as well as eggs, toast, and “tapioca”, which are crepes made from manioc flour.

Any negatives? There does tend to be a lack of green fresh veg is the north, especially compared to California. That said, the food is fresh and delicious (just not that green 🙂

If you stop in Rio or São Paulo you will find a very highly evolved Brazilian cuisine with all sorts of world-class restaurants, as well as many international offerings.

What are the hotels like?

I have been blown away by the quality and charm of the small hotels in northern Brazil. Most of the places we stay have 6-10 rooms and a unique local vibe that is welcoming, comfortable, colorful, and unpretentious. Some of the places are more ‘deluxe’ than others. My bet is that you will be surprised and delighted with how nice the accommodations are.

How expensive is it to travel in Brazil?

Traveling within Brazil is relatively inexpensive. There are always options, and a range of prices depending on your style of traveling. A few examples below:

  • Transportation: You can take a private transfer from Fortaleza to Jericoacoara for about R$450.00 ($150) — or, you can take the bus for around R$40.00 ($13.00). Most of our guests choose a private transfer, usually shared with other guests.
  • Dining: You can eat at an upscale restaurant and pay R$100-150 ($30-50) — or, you can eat at a local restaurant and pay around R$20.00 ($7.00) — and everything in between!

As you can imagine, when you are in more touristic areas, you will see higher prices. Also, it is always a good idea to have hard cash with you, because sometimes it can be difficult to pay with credit/debit cards or find ATMs.

What are some of the things that I might be surprised to learn about Brazil?

  • It’s a huge country – almost as large as the United States!
  • Portuguêse is the language spoken in Brazil (not Spanish)
  • It is common to exchange kisses on the cheek when saying hello and goodbye
  • Rice and beans are served with many dishes
  • Brazilians refer to anyone from outside of Brazil as “gringo”
  • Singing, dancing, and drinking are a common sighting

I’ve been to Maui before, how does that compare to Brazil?

Maui pros: within the U.S., waves, compact geography, groovy yoga scene, good coffee, fresh veg

Maui cons: automobile break-ins/crime, few spots, crowded spots, sharks, reef, some may notice an exclusionary island vibe, can be expensive

Brazil pros: Brazil is bigger and offers more variety. The Brazilians aren’t as territorial and you can kitesurf anywhere without any problems. No “island vibe”. Cheaper.

Brazil cons: farther from the U.S., foreign language…

Is Brazil like Mexico?

Lots of American kiters are familiar with Mexico and may have not ever been to South America or to Brazil. Don’t assume that Brazil is anything like Mexico — because Brazil is not much like Mexico at all!

 

Mexico pros: closer to the U.S., more Americans know a little Spanish vs Portuguese

Mexico cons: not as friendly, much less interaction with locals, more likely to get cheated / have to deal with corruption first-hand, less territory accessible, infrastructure not as good

Brazil pros: much more friendly and much more interaction with Brazilians, much bigger country, better infrastructure for kiters, more international visitors, warmer, more reliable wind, better hotels, more cosmopolitan/diverse culture

Brazil cons: farther from the U.S.

What are some of the disadvantages of going to Brazil for kitesurfing?

In the north, it is hard to find really good long peeling waves. The best waves are at river mouths and sandy points. There are a few spots but in general you should not come to the north of Brazil with the expectation of riding tons of perfect waves. That said, if there is some swell in the water, certain spots at river mouths, sandbars and points can produce some fun stuff! And, there are incredible wave spots in other parts of Brazil like Natal, Rio, Floripa — so consider those too.