Afonso Fernandes from Portugal started kiteboarding shortly after he started to walk. No wonder his riding skills in surf are quite breathtaking. We sat down with the ambitious champion from Portugal to talk about his story, most memorable sessions and future goals.
Hi Afonso, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you you learnt to kitesurf?
I was born and raised at Cascais, Portugal and live less than 1 minute from Guincho. I started kiting really young at 2-3 years old with tiny foil kites. During a summer in the south of Portugal I was 5 and got into the water and never stopped since then. So, I guess I have no memories before I was a kiter, it always has been there and it’s a big part of who I am. Coincidentally, the first kite I handled was a Black Tip Cabrinha in the harness of my Dad at 3 years old and I still have the pictures and an old film of it.
What do you love about kitesurfing?
Almost everything as long the kite is flying and the waves pumping. It’s the culture, the lifestyle, the pleasure of each session, the challenge, the achievements, the emotions, the experiences, the sensation of freedom and ecologic mobility the kites can give us in almost any terrain or waves we find. Kites allow us to surf, fly, roll, glide or even something that it’s not yet invented. I find it hard not to love this sport even for the ones that just watch us riders performing.
Tell us about your current setup, what do you like to ride and why?
I am riding the new Drifters and the 5'7" S:Quad, and a Cabrinha Custom for Freestyle and Big Air days. The new Drifters are changing my surfing timings in the wave; it’s a flying spinner allowing to surf the wave as if we were using a machine. When we need stability, the kites are predictable but keeping the fast steering. And even when depowered, the good drifting down the line which the Drifters have, was kept as before. I still didn't try the 5m and 12m but I am expecting the same accordingly to the sizes. In very light wind days riding the Cabrinha Hydrofoil makes it a “must have”.
What are your goals and motivations in the sport?
I think there is no point to train really hard in a sport if you don't try being the best. It is not possible to be the world top rider in a discipline if not by training and working hard to get there. Fun is also part of the process and if you like what you do, then you are not just working... it's pleasure. I had many training sessions that made me feel so good when I came out of the water. But this can only happen if you have passion for the sport. I train hard since the age of 10 to ride like I am today. If I was kiting just for the fun I would probably be riding similar in average sessions but when things get serious or high performance riding, you better have it well prepared or you should stay at the beach watching and enjoying the show. I train for years in every kind of winds and waves I can. Big surf early became a usual ride for me but I remember when I was younger staying at the beach watching a few others riding.
Can you talk us through one of your most memorable sessions?
I have many, some for the really extreme conditions and kind of performance and others for the amazing experiences and memories of perfect moments. Peniche, Ericeira, Cascais, Caparica are my usual kite spots. However, I recently had one with my dad that took me for a spin in our backyard to test the 50 knots kiting world. What a thrill it was. When we reached outside near the strongest zone my kite, lines, bar, me... everything was shaking. He said that this session was a soft entrance to these conditions because the air pressure and temperature at Guincho were not very high. During winter, low pressure 50 knots winds could be easier than that day so I was happy; and to be honest, there was a period of about 15 minutes when the wind increased a lot and mixed with some more heavy dense air and the 50 knots feeling really made me focused. I never checked so many times where my quick release was, you totally rely on the gear out there. I still surfed a couple of waves in the inside and nailed some strapless air. I guess only next year we will have these conditions again.
What does #livefreeridefree mean to you?
I believe it’s the only way we can really express who we are in the water and even in our life. Too much rules ruin your fun and might block who you really are and can achieve. However, no rules at all might sometimes take us nowhere, so perhaps we need to play the game but making sure we do it freely.
What's an interesting fact about you the world should know about?
I am starting to realize I love classics. I know everything is better nowadays but being able to feel the exclusivity and craftsmanship in riding old timeless universal stylish concepts is something I appreciate. My key holder is of a surf brand and has around 30 years and despite I have a great daily motorbike, I bought another one, a DT125R white/pink looking as new with about 26 years old just for the fun of the experience of each ride with it. I guess when I will have the money I will go for the stylish classic cars :), but it’s not easy because sometimes even if you have the money to buy that car you love, you still need to find somewhere someone who is willing to sell theirs.
What one wave would you like to kitesurf and why?
Well, that's a question of whether I'd pick the challenge and size of the wave, or the perfection for the quality of surf. I am used to surf big and the “Big Mama” at Nazaré is one of my goals, but that’s a different new level there and I need to be well prepared. Being there without any clue of what will happen if something goes wrong is madness. I guess the search of the perfect good size wave (3-4m) might be more rewarding sometimes. Being a goofy foot and trained since young to ride as regular helped me to easily adapt in any wave. I can surf front or backside to both direction waves. Maybe “One Eye”, “Teahupoo” could be spots I would like to kitesurf but there are many good waves around the world in so many secret and remote places like Africa, Pacific or South America I would visit too.
Where will Afonso be in 10 years time and what will he be doing?
I like to think about the future and make big plans and also make the most of the present. 10 years is a lot of time but I will try to focus on what I believe will be certain: 1) For sure will be kiting and keep pushing my ride despite the age, Kelly Slater is an example for me. 2) Finished my studies because no matter what, education is always important. 3) Being in some high position or having part of a kite company, I want to shape my life in a way I have good money and free time to travel, kite and surf. I don’t know yet if this last one is totally compatible with the first but I will insist on make it happen :).
Thank you for the insights, Afonso, and good luck for your future paths!