Asia to Africa- Crossing the Gulf of Suez

My alarm goes off and it is 5:55am. I reach for the snooze button and doze for another 10 minutes. Eventually I get up and open the curtains.

I look out the window to find that my wind gauge, the centre palm tree across the street, is dancing vigorously.  The predicted forecast on wind guru was accurate. Today would be a great day to make the crossing to the other side. Ras Sudr to Zafarana, Asia to Africa, 26kms across the Gulf of Suez, the busiest shipping lane in the world.

After a good wholesome breakfast I gathered my things and walked down to the Soul Kitesurfing Centre. I was greeted by the two big smiles from Hamada and Hassan. “Hawa mea mea qwais, Bro!” The wind is 200% good they say.

My phone goes and I answer it. Antoine from Paradise Fun Kite Centre is on the other end, “Morgs how windy is it?” he asks ” 20 knots” I reply                                    “ I am trying to make the decision between my 9m and 10m, what do you think?” he asked, “ Bro bring them both, make the call when you get down here, also don’t forget your passport for the return journey” I stated.   “No problem, see you in 20minutes” Antoine said.

Aldo arrives totally pumped and is high-fiving everyone, we check the kites and the boards all is good. Jacques turns up and is amping to get on the water.

Ossama and Saad arrive from Phoenix Kitesurfing. Ossama tells me the boat is ready and waiting but the boat driver has decided to double the cost because it will be a rough crossing. I told Ossama to tell him we will all put in to pay the extra cost as this has to be the best window of opportunity we have had so far this year. With the last month preparing for this we were not going to lose the chance again.

Greg from Moonbeach Windsurfing Centre arrives with his windsurfing kit and starts getting rigged up.

I gather the group of usual suspects that you will find on the beaches of Ras Sudr and start my briefing.

“ Thanks guys for taking the time out from your busy lives to make this first ever crossing of the Gulf of Suez on kitesurfing equipment. Today’s conditions look perfect for our challenge. I have a few points I would like to cover before we head off.”

First of all our group will be split into two teams, the boat team that will consist of Ossama, Hamada and Hassan. We have made a tool box, kite repair kit, provided 3 extra kites and an extra board in case of any gear failure on route which will also be on the boat.

Take this with you, and inshalla, we won’t need it. Our second team will consist of the surfers, from Soul Kitesurfing - Aldo, Jacques, Sherif, Mohammed and myself, from Paradise Fun Kite Centre - Antoine, from Phoneix Kitesurfing -Saad and from Moonbeach on his windsurfing equipment is Greg.

We will be running a buddy system so pair up with the guy that you hope will save you if you get into trouble out there!

There are two major elements we will be up against as we make the crossing:

1: Wind dropping in the middle and the closer we get to the other side.

2: The 50m high container ships that are cruising up from the south of the Red Sea.

In both cases stay close to the safety boat, check on your buddy, if anyone feels we are getting to close to the ships, turn around and tack away. Let the container ships pass, and once we think their wind shadows are far enough away, return to our original bearing for the other side. If the wind starts dropping and we are close enough to shore, stick together as a group and head to the landing point as quick as possible. Our aim is to land at La Vista 5 compound at the Fly Kitesurfing Centre, there we have Steve Walden and his team waiting for us with cold beers. 

Any questions? No? …. Sweet ass! Check your equipment boat team, then take off. We will see you off the reef in front of the Soul Kitesurfing Centre. Good luck”.

After an hourof waiting, double and triple checking our equipment, we see a small white boat on the horizon. Adam from Redbull has made it on the boat after complications with the Egyptian Coast guard, all members entering onto the boat in Ras Sudr have to exit in Ras Sudr. No one is allowed to get off on the other side as it is classed as smuggling. Our boat kit, consisting of extra kites, board, tool kit and first aid were not allowed to be carried on the boat.

Even though we were gutted, we did not let this stop us.

Catherine helped launch our kites while snapping away getting some good pictures of us all, and screamed good luck.

I was the second to last to leave the beach, and instantly I felt the incoming tide fighting to keep me on the beach. I had chosen a 12m Cabrinha Switchblade and 136cm Caliber board. I had to depower the kite as it was blowing 20 to 22knots which was fine, but the board was heavy and really sticking to the water, bulldozing through the chop. I would stick with it and hope once out of the lagoon and in the deep water it will feel better.

I looked up and saw the rest of the team heading up wind to meet the boat. It was great to see the boat getting closer and closer. I noticed Greg was finding it hard to get out of the lagoon, finally planning he told me that he wished he had bigger gear. He was concerned about there not being enough wind in the middle and that we should go on without him.  What a team player…Good on ya mate. I later learned Greg down winded back to Moonbeach Windsurfing centre (12km away) solo.

I left Greg to it and caught up with the rest of the team and the big ass safety boat that was tracking along at a full speed of 8knots. I could hear the engine of 176-horse power working to move the big beast.  I was greeted with shouts of joy from the boat team, and Bedouin Captain. The boys had pumped up a Red bull buoy and positioned it on the front of the boat.

Cameras were snapping away and a video camera was recording. Yalla! We were off.

As we headed away from the safety of the shore line I couldn’t help noticing a large yellow dust cloud covering the sky towards Ras Sudr, great there is a sandstorm on our backs surely that’s got to help us.

As we approached the middle, I noticed two large ships coming up on our downwind side extremely quick, looking back at the team and the sleepy safety boat I made the call for the team to turn back and let the ships pass before us. The group turned away and circled the safety boat, we had a bit of time up our sleeves so we started to show off in front of the boat for the cameras.

Once the ships had passed we continued on our way. Looking back in the direction the ships had come from, I could make out two more large ships making their way towards us. Looking back at the safety boat, I was hoping the captain could get across the infront of the ships before they were on top of him. Thankfully he did.

At this point I could make out the wind mills from the wind farm on the outskirts of Zafarana. I was not sure where the Fly Kitesurfing Centre was located, but before we had left, Greg and I had loaded the coordinates of the Fly Centre into his GPS from Google Earth. Ossama had the GPS on the boat and was instructing the captain to hold the course. I dropped back and had a talk with Ossama, he told me that Steve could see our kites from the beach and to go ahead on the same course as the boat was pointing in. I headed back to my position and instantly felt the wind drop by at least 5 knots. I powered up the 12m. The wind dropped a second time and I had to start really working the kite. Looking around I could see that the rest of the team were feeling it also. I spotted two kites in the sky about 3kilometres downwind of our current position. I started kite looping my kite and heading in the direction of the other riders.

As we got closer I could make some other kites on the beach. Yes!!! Fly Kitesurfing Centre. As I came into the beach and landed my kite, Steve was there taking photos and giving out congratulations. It wasn’t until I was out of the water and watching the rest of the team land that it sunk in that we had made it across, all safely.

High fives and cold beer followed by some pizza was the call while we waited for our taxi van to  pick us up.

All in all it was great to be part of a team that completed the crossing.

Congratulations to all of you involved, I couldn’t have done it without you!

1hour 48mins and 27.3kms.

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