Fear, Flow and Freedom

Fear and flow are inseparable. Flow requires just the right amount of fear, and that fear guides us toward the door to flow. Flow in turn is the path to freedom — and so, to get more free, we must turn towards our fears.

FEAR →
FLOW →
INTUITION →
CREATIVITY →
FREEDOM

Fear is a message that we often misinterpret — and it’s nothing to be afraid of. Most often it’s fear of the unknown, of randomness, our fear of fear itself. We become afraid that our fear might be a signal of serious risk, and the very idea makes us turn away. Fear is a finely tuned signal that we can learn to interpret. So, first of all, know that fear is just a message, give up being afraid of fear, and listen to what it’s telling you.

We should hear fear whispering “be very afraid” as “look right here. Instead of turning away from fear we should peer directly at its source. Like any other emotion, fear wants to win, and when we turn away we give fear the upper hand. If most of all we fear the unknown, then turning away from that which we feel fear of does nothing to resolve the fear. Furthermore, anxiety is exacerbated by avoidance — we strengthen the neural pathway laid down by turning away from the subject of our fear (or fear itself), and so we reinforce the tendency to turn away.

Our fear of risk has become overdeveloped. In the modern world, fear is rarely a signal of a major threat. The more we can come to be at home with some fear in the house, with some risk, the more we can navigate the world the freedom of creative flow.

“We’re hard-wired to enjoy risk [because] there we can still be both confident in our experience and confronting the chaos that helps us develop.” — Jordan Peterson

How much risk should we become comfortable with? We can find the answer by looking further at flow.

83% OF MAYBE

When we are in flow we are our most creative, most satisfied, and most human. To find flow we need nothing more or less than an achievable challenge. We need a touch of fear and a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. We need to approach — but not dive far beyond — the edge of our possible. Flow is blocked just as much by the terror of the impossible as it is by the sure thing.

My own shorthand for the right balance of achievable vs challenge, and therefore of ideal risk, is 83%. 83% of what? 83% of what might be achievable. Why 83%? First of all, if we aim for 100% of what just might be achievable, it’s more likely than not that we will fail, and quite likely that we will suffer for the attempt. Not that we shouldn’t suffer, but if we are aiming for flow, we want to have a reasonably good chance of success, with some challenge along the way. This guides me to aim for something like 80% of what just might be achievable — but then 80% just seems a little low. We want enough challenge so that each time we do succeed, we push a bit farther into the unknown. So: I like to shoot for 83% of maybe.

To come to know flow better and to push towards fear, we need to consider our preparation. We are all the captain of our own ship. Our experience will be dictated by what we have prepared ourselves for. To have a good possibility of achieving any goal, we need to be just ready enough to enjoy a reasonably good possibility of achieving our goal. We need to be as prepared as we can be without being over-prepared. We need our tools at hand, but we don’t want to trip over the tool belt. Being over-prepared uses up valuable time (before we’ve even started) and blocks the possibility of finding spontaneous, creative solutions that we would not be ‘forced’ to find had we prepared for every eventuality that we could imagine. Therein lies this paradoxical truth: we can’t imagine every eventuality, and so it’s impossible to be 100% prepared, and being 100% prepared boxes us into the set of possibilities created by the eventualities that we’ve imagined.

Being prepared is just one part of being ready — we have to leave space for creativity. Preparation is the workshop where the magic of innovation is made. Each requires the other. Here again, 83% is a handy guideline. I aim to be 83% prepared, and ‘save’ the 17% for creative solutions in the moment.

“This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing — and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.” — Nassim Taleb

If we prepare ourselves to be led, we will follow. Part of our own individual preparation should be to create the opportunity for the challenge that we need — and we can do this even without knowing exactly what that challenge may be! All that is required to create the opportunity is to set a goal. If you don’t know what your goal should be, pay attention to what you don’t want to do. Look closely at recurring messages, especially those that you shy away from, the things that you say “maybe next time”, “if only”, “I wish” about. A goal can be – and always is – a stepping stone. Set the first goal and let it lead you to the next. You don’t need to know where the path is leading, only to set goals that you will be sure of having achieved (or not).

Find a small fear and turn it into a target. Approaching fear is always a challenge. More than anything else, we are afraid of the unfamiliar, and if we rarely meet fear, we will be afraid of fear itself. Turn fear into a familiar friend and we can see where fear is pointing us more clearly. Then, knowing that you are ready enough, you can let the circumstances of the moment lead you. How to “face your fears”? Listen to your fear, use it to set a goal, prepare, and then be in the moment.

Once we have prepared and set a goal, we are free to flow into and through our experience. Flow is the feeling of not trying, of not deciding — flow is using your preparation, your skills, your body as they naturally come together in the moment as you move towards your goal. Flow is moving, acting, being intuitively — and therefore being in flow trains our intuition. Like any other skill, intuition improves with use, and being in flow is the best way to build the intuitive muscle.

Intuition is the wellspring of creativity, and creativity is both the expression of freedom and what is required most of all to become free. Thus in turning towards our fears and preparing ourselves to be in flow, we train our intuition, opening the door to greater creativity and to freedom.

Conferences are not the kind of three-way you’ve been hoping for

Like a magazine, a conference is typically a three-way relationship between content, participants, and advertisers, with the producer/organizer in the middle of the triangle.

I’ll add a diagram here shortly — it will look like a triangle 🙂

As the producer, you might choose to have no sponsors (or, on the other hand, not charge your attendees anything), but most conferences derive revenue from both attendees and sponsors, and so if you’re like most, you serve two masters. With both attendees and sponsors, you have two sets of customers, with totally different, and in some ways conflicting goals.

Don’t have any sponsors or advertising

Having two types of customers at odds with — and yet dependent on one another — makes your life very complicated. My first piece of advice is therefore: don’t have any sponsors at all! How? Easy: just make your attendees pay the full, fair price, without any subsidy from sponsors.

Easier said than done, but not impossible. Some speciality magazines have little or no advertising, and while the issue price is high, there’s no advertising to distract the reader. Many podcasts are going with a no-sponsors model as well (although most have sponsors/advertising). There are plenty of conferences without sponsors as well. The advantage is that without advertisers, the business is far less complicated. And I mean WAY LESS COMPLICATED. Those sponsor dollars may seem like easy money; not at all. To earn and sell sponsorship, you need to

  1. define what your sponsorship products are, and how they are to be priced — and doing this takes time and energy away from your primary product, which is serving your audience.
  2. employ marketing and sales staff to find sponsors and sell sponsorships — which inherently detracts from serving your audience.
  3. do all the legal, accounting and other work to contact, keep track of, and collect on sponsorship deals — all of which inherently detracts from serving your audience.
  4. and of course, you have to actually fulfill your obligations to sponsors — which necessarily detracts from serving your audience, often quite directly, by devoting precious time and physical space to sponsors.

Most conference producers overestimate sponsorship revenue and underestimate the costs of selling sponsorships and servicing sponsors. For these reasons, most producers would be better off to simply not sell sponsorships at all. So — if you are considering selling sponsorship — be sure to consider the alternative to selling sponsorship: raise your prices. 

The full and fair price

You can have a very successful conference business without any sponsors or advertisers, if you can successfully get participants to pay the full and fair price (FFP). What is the FFP? Simply: the FFP is what you would need to charge each participant to make back your costs, plus enough margin so that you end up with a 20% net profit. (I won’t go into the details here, but 20% is an excellent general target for net profitability; if you’re making any less than this, you’re not likely to be in business — or want to be in business — for very long).

Keep in mind that you’re not going to end up with a 20% net profit by simply adding 20% to your own per-person cost (PPC). Using one of my own three-day conferences as an example, let’s say that our cost of hosting each participant is about $1800/person. This is the cost of producing the individual conference (COGS) + a proportional share of our ongoing overhead (SG&A), divided by the number of participants. The FFP would therefore have been in the range of $1800+20%+X, where X is enough to cover not just taxes but also the fact that of course some events were less successful, etc. Realistically our FFP would have to have been something like double our PPC, i.e. about $3500.

So, if we were able to get participants to pay $3500 per person, we could have offered the conference without sponsorship. And we tried, but in our case it just didn’t work. The audience that we were serving was relatively cost-sensitive mid-level staff, not senior management, and they just couldn’t stomach the FFP.

In this situation, you have two further choices: 1) don’t offer the product, or 2) find a way to subsidize the price for participants. For conferences, #2 usually leads directly to sponsorship — although there are other lines of business that can bring in revenue (membership, research, sponsored content, consulting, training, job boards/recruiting, etc). Leaving those aside for now, let’s talk about sponsorship.

How to keep everyone from hating you

Again using my own business as an example, we set our full price registration at about the PPC: $1800. After taking into account free passes, discounts and the like, our average registration revenue was about $1000/person. Given that we needed something like $3500/pp to make a real business, that leaves $2500/pp to make up. This is real money: for a 100-person conference, the revenue gap is $250,000. That also shows pretty clearly that our revenue was skewed heavily towards sponsors: in that example of a 100 person conference, we would have collected $100K from participants and $250K from sponsors.

Given that the reason that any conference exists is to serve the audience, the fact that most conferences end up making most of their money from sponsors is a real problem. It’s way too easy to play fast and loose with what you’re offering to sponsors, and end up with everyone up to their eyeballs in advertising, which will suck real bad. Everyone will hate you, go home and tell everyone how much your conference sucked, and (hopefully) not come back. Bad conferences don’t deserve to exist!

That said, it’s not impossible to do sponsorship well, just difficult. I’ll leave the details of how to do sponsorship well for another post; for now, just remember that advertising is a terrible way to fund anything good and real, and that how you earn the right to be in business is how you serve your audience, not your sponsors. Don’t fall into the trap of finding more ways to sell your customers’ time, burying sponsor pitches in the agenda as “content”, and plastering logos on everything. Sooner or later, you will pollute the well, and once the water is tainted, it’s very difficult to lose that taste. More likely, someone else will find a way to sell clean water to your audience.

Matchmaking is the killer app for conferences

Why is there no Tinder for conferences?

I’ve been in the conference business for more than 15 years, and in addition to all ways that conferences can be improved so that they don’t suck so much, there is a huge opportunity to improve on the conference experience that most conference producers aren’t fucking up — because they’re not doing at all.

In my experience, the biggest value in most conference experiences is meeting someone that I should meet that I didn’t already know that I should meet. As great as it is to exchange ideas with people that I already know, adding someone new to my network adds value for me not only in the present but into the infinite future.

Who am I going to meet, and how?

I can’t count the number of times that I began my experience at a conference thinking: who am I going to meet, and how? Sometimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised to meet someone interesting, sometimes not. It’s always hugely gratifying when it does happen, and disappointing when it doesn’t.

Some conference organizers make some effort to match people up, perhaps seating newcomers with veterans or small companies with larger ones, or assigning a ‘buddy’ or navigator. These are all fair techniques, but they require a lot of manual labor and don’t accomplish what could and should be done.

Imagine if there was a system that collected a few facts about each participant and made suggested matches, scored by experience, interests, geography, and activity (and/or whatever else). Imagine if this system was integrated into the conference registration process and, upon arrival, the conference app presented you with a list of people that you should consider meeting. Of course, you could also be alerted to the presence of people that you already know, but most interesting would be the people that you don’t already know you should know. The app could even suggest places and times to meet up, and show you what you have in common. If you’re both into craft beer, dev ops, adventure travel, @EO or #FI, you’d have a place to start a real conversation. I’m not discounting the fact that many great conversations happen by way of serendipity, but as facilitators, conveners, organizers, producers, we can do better than only these random meetings.

Why don’t more organizers and producers make the effort to do some sort of matchmaking? Most are overwhelmed and underpaid. Most conferences don’t make enough to pay for the time required to match people up. Or, the producers have lost track of their why — which is to serve the community. The opportunity they are missing out on in huge though. Good enough isn’t good enough. The conference organizer creates value and earns the right to make money by serving the network. The value in any network is in the number of connections in the network. If the organizer increases the number of connections in the network, the conference is worth more to everyone: participants, sponsors, and as a business.

Matchmaking is the killer app for conferences.

As it turns out, event matchmaking systems do exist, and I am an investor in what I believe is the leading platform. It’s called Grip. You should check it out — and whether or not you use a software solution, if you’re a conference organizer, take the time to match up your attendees — they will love you for it.

Most conferences suck

Let’s face it, most conferences suck.

Major suckage. Soul-sucking, bumming-out, identity-smashing, time-wasting, wandering, wondering why you spent the money, WTF-ing, straight up sucking.

Am I just super critical? I don’t think so. Conferences are a bit of a paradox: there’s one for everything (even conferences!), and people love the idea of connecting with like-minded people, but the actual experience rarely measures up.

Why?

Money is the short answer — but it leads back to why.

Conference organizers often lose sight of the real reason that they are producing the conference, and forget that addressing the real reason is the best way to make money, instead of just trying to make money. What’s the real reason? As with most other businesses, most conferences are started by someone who had a need themselves, who wanted to meet like-minded people, and who couldn’t find the right place to do it — and so they started a conference. (If the real reason is just to make money it’s guaranteed to suck).

What I mean is that the real reason is to serve people like you — people who want to connect with like-minded peers. The product of a conference is this service to a community. To repeat:

The product of a conference is to serve a community.

So why do so many conferences suck? There are a lot of moving parts to a conference. It’s not an easy business, and it’s not a business that most people are familiar with. It’s complicated, and the product isn’t a thing, it’s an experience. Still, it all comes back to the fact that in whatever ways the conference is not serving the community, the conference will suck. If the conference is serving the organizer or the sponsors first, the conference will suck. That may sound simple (it is!) but there are a lot of different ways this suckage can play out. Here are just a few examples:

Crappy venue

Why would anyone want to get on a plane to go sit in a dark basement? Nobody does! Why does this happen so often? Because the producer can’t afford a better venue. Why? Because the producer isn’t charging enough for the conference. Why? Because they think you won’t pay what it actually costs. Why? Because often they’re right! A great conference is not cheap. YGWYPF — if you want free, you’ll get what free gets you. If you complain about the cost and ask for discounts, don’t expect a pleasant setting. If you and your peers are not willing to pay a reasonable price to be part of the conference you think you want to be part of, then the conference probably shouldn’t exist.

Crappy content

I hate that word. What do you mean by “content”? You mean the words the people on stage are saying? If the people on stage aren’t your peers, that’s problem #1. If the people on stage are trying to sell you something, that’s problem #2. If the people on stage are uninformed, inexperienced, uninteresting, incoherent or worse, that’s problem #3. All of these come down to the role of the producer in creating a great agenda. Producers must be wise about speakers. People say they want great speakers, and name-brand speakers can seem to generate interest in a conference, but charismatic speakers do not make a great conference. Charismatic speakers make edutainment, and the value of edutainment usually goes to zero just about as the lights come up. Real value comes from real connections and real conversations.

Room full of zeroes and strangers

Who is in the room? Why are you there? First of all, you are there to meet your peers. Are you there to meet consultants, wanderers, pundits, lobbyists, junior staffers, and vendors? Do you find yourself spending 5-10 minutes making small talk with everyone you meet, only to find that what they do is only marginally relevant to your interests? What if everyone in the room was hand-picked to be certain that they all share a solid common ground? What if you were kindly introduced to several people that you should meet but that you didn’t know that you should meet? Your time is precious, and every conversation you have should be worthwhile.

Up to your eyeballs in advertising

Advertising is a terrible way to fund anything good and real. If the conference is about tomatoes, people who care about tomatoes are the customers, not people who want to sell stuff to people who care about tomatoes. The product is the conference, not the people who care about tomatoes. If the people who care about tomatoes don’t want to pay the actual, real cost of TomatoCon — and they almost certainly won’t want to — there are a few alternatives. 1) Be honest, charge them the real price, if they won’t pay, there’s no reason to have the conference. 2) Charge them what they say they will pay, and go out of business. 3) Introduce some sponsorship into the business model.

Most people don’t want to pay the full cost of a conference, probably because they fail to understand the complexity of the product, and the value that the producer is creating by doing the work that the producer does. This hidden value is the gap between what people think the price should be and what the cost actually is. Most conference producers find that they have to sell at least some, and often quite a lot of sponsorship to make a viable business. The key to not sucking is in the how. It’s easy to fall into selling your customers’ time, burying sponsor pitches in the agenda as “content”, and plastering advertising over everything, including even the name badges. It is possible to do sponsorship well, but the only way not to suck is to serve the community first.

Chicken dinners and cheap wine

How often do you eat chicken and mashed potatoes? Do you buy your wine from the bottom shelf? Do you have dessert with lunch? Every day? Are you insane? Feed people better than you would feed yourself. Food is not an afterthought.

Sitting on your ass all day

Nobody feels good sitting around all day, especially in the dark, especially with a bunch of strangers, especially after a ton of coffee and dessert for lunch. Physical activity is key to our well being. People! Get up and get outside! If you want your conference to not suck, you need to incorporate real physical activity into the agenda. Not a booze cruise. Not a zip-line ride. A walk, a run, a hike, a bicycle ride, some rock climbing, surfing — you name it, as long as it’s actual physical activity. The simpler the better. No team building is necessary. You don’t need guides or helmets. People will love you for it.

A conference is a unique combination of media and hospitality.

Like a magazine, a conference is a three-way relationship between content, participants, and sponsors, with the producer/publisher/organizer in the middle of the triangle. Like a hotel, restaurant, club and an event, a conference is an exercise in experience design. Sometimes I call conferences live media.

Conferences aren’t boring, they’re an amazing opportunity to connect with other people, to form and be part of communities, to interact, learn and grow. The problem is that most conferences suck. If you can get your head around some what I’ve mentioned above, your conference could suck less — it could even be totally awesome!

If you have the feeling that your conference could be better, read on for some further thoughts, and get in touch if you’d like to talk about how to make your conference awesome!

Interview with world champion kitefoil racer Daniela Moroz

Daniela Moroz is the phenomenon of the San Francisco kite scene — a passionate kitefoil racer and competitive swimmer, Daniela is a three-peat Hydrofoil Kiteboarding world champion, two-time Kiteboarding World Pro Tour champion and European champion and was named US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in 2017 — all before her 18th birthday and while a full-time high school student!

Bowen interviewed Daniela shortly after her second Hydrofoil Kiteboarding world title in 2017, which made for a dynamic conversation about the athletic mindset, training, discipline, how skills from one sport help with another, physicality, flow, working directly with the unpredictable, owning your own story as a female athlete, the powerful beauty of outdoor sports, and her personal motto, “I’ve got this”. 

 

Kitesurfing Adventure Skills in Brazil, Dec 1-8 2018

I first visited Brazil on a kitesurfing trip in 2008, and I’ve been doing kite trips there with with SurfinSemFim since 2015. Over these last few years I’ve traveled the entire northern coast of Brazil by kite, from Natal to Sāo Luís, and I’m now designing and leading custom trips in some of my most favorite places along the way.

For 2018 I’m introducing two very unique itineraries: a slower, friends & family-oriented trip and a kitesurfing adventure skills and leadership development trip (details below).

SurfinSemFim

These are both in addition to the full calendar of short-, medium- and long-distance kitesurfing trips that SurfinSemFim offers throughout the year, and all SurfinSemFim trips including my own will introduce you to the joy of travel by kite in Brazil, and to the global SurfinSemFim Tribe, a community of like-minded lovers of the life outside.

Your feedback is very important to me, so please don’t hesitate to indicate your interest!

AdventureSemFim: Dec 1-8

As good as it feels to be good at something, it feels even better to get good at something. On top of that is the joy and satisfaction that we get from sharing our experiences with others through skilled leadership.

Ready to level up?

This trip is designed for those of you who want to go beyond participating as a client and learn kitesurfing adventure travel and on-the-water leadership, in the context of a long distance kitesurfing trip. If you are ready to level up, AdventureSemFim will give you the skills you need to plan and guide your own adventure kiting trips, opening a window to a new world of kitesurfing adventure.

Bowen guiding on the water with SurfinSemFim

We’ll meet on Saturday December 1 in Barra Grande, which is several hours by car from the airport in Fortaleza (FOR), and much closer to the small airport in Parnaiba (PHB). I will be coming directly from the end of my slower, friends & family-oriented trip — combine the two to get the best of both worlds!

On Dec 2 we’ll leave Barra Grande and spend the next few days making our way towards and through the spectacular Parnaiba river delta. We’ll spend two nights there in the heart of the delta at Ilha dos Poldros, before continuing on to Tutoia and then finally to Atins. We’ll have time the final day for a side trip to the otherworldly Lençóis Maranhenses before ending our time together. Most people fly out of Sāo Luís when ending trips in Atins.

The itinerary is designed to include a combination of moderate and challenging days on the water, as well as plenty of time for leadership training, workshops and group discussion. This trip is not intended to be vacation — the schedule will be rigorous and days will start early and end late. That said, the satisfaction and accomplishment that you will enjoy upon completion will more than compensate for the hard work that you’ll be putting in along the way.

Some of the skills that we will focus on will include:

  • Long distance kitesurfing
  • Leadership, on and off the water 
  • Gear selection and packing — see my article on packing like a guide
  • Supported / unsupported travel by kite
  • Route finding / navigation 
  • Rescue and emergency skills
  • Harnessing Flow as a leader and as part of the life outside
SurfinSemFim group – photo Bruna Arcangelo Toledo

Along with leadership skills, this itinerary gives you exposure to a hugely varied landscape — from dunes and lagoons to the mangroves and rivers of the Parnaiba delta to the idyllic village of Atins and the incredible Lençois Maranhenses.

The AdventureSemFim trip will include include 8 days and 7 nights, traveling entirely on the water — a true kitesurfing journey, departing and arriving directly from beautiful small hotels along the way. The cost for the trip will be $2800 including accommodation, meals, guides, support vehicles, and training (but not including airfare or airport transfers).

Incredible Ilha dos Poldros in the Parnaiba delta

We’ll cover distances of up to 70+km on the water on some days of this trip. This multi-day, long distance journey is suitable for experienced kitesurfers with previous long distance experience and in good physical condition, with equipment in excellent condition.

Equipment: this trip is suitable for twin tip and surfboard riders. We realize that you may also love to ride a foil board, but this is not a foil trip. Feel free to bring your foil to Brazil to use before and after this trip though!

More info

Click the link below to hear Bowen’s interview on the Tantrum kitesurf podcast discussing Kitesurfing Adventure Skills:

Bowen on the Tantrum kitesurf podcast

Also have a look at the detailed spot guide to Brazil that Crystal Veness wrote up based on her recent trip with SurfinSemFim.

Ready to level up? Yes you are!

There’s a Facebook event here where I’ll be posting updates https://www.facebook.com/events/566357957098471/ – and/or use the form below to subscribe.

You can also go directly to the SurfinSemFim site to book this trip.

Here is the full-length documentary film that we shot in 2016 and released in 2017. Enjoy the vibe and I hope to see you in Brazil!

 

Discover Wind Land in Brazil: Nov 25-29, 2018

I first visited Brazil on a kitesurfing trip in 2008, and I’ve been doing kite trips there with with SurfinSemFim since 2015. Over these last few years I’ve traveled the entire northern coast of Brazil by kite, from Natal to Sāo Luís, and I’m now designing and leading custom trips in some of my most favorite places along the way.

In 2018 I’ll be leading two unique itineraries: a slower, friends & family-oriented trip (details below) and a kitesurfing adventure skills and leadership development trip.

SurfinSemFim

These are both in addition to the full calendar of short-, medium- and long-distance kitesurfing trips that SurfinSemFim offers throughout the year, and all SurfinSemFim trips including my own will introduce you to the joy of travel by kite in Brazil, and to the global SurfinSemFim Tribe, a community of like-minded lovers of the life outside.

This is the first announcement of these trips. Your feedback is very important to me, so please don’t hesitate to indicate your interest!

Preá to Camocim: Nov 25-29

Inspired by the uniquely beautiful environment of northern Brazil, the spirit of discovery at the natural pace of sailing, and a desire for experience above all, this will be a meditation on the joy of travel by kite and life by the sea.

SurfinSemFim group – photo Bruna Arcangelo Toledo

There are direct flights from Miami to Fortaleza on Friday the 23rd and a quick connection on Saturday the 24th. I recommend coming in a day or two early if possible to relax and warm up with some local kiting and a visit to the legendary town of Jericoacoara.

We’ll meet on Sunday November 25 at the beautiful and unique Rancho do Peixe in Preá. After dinner and a first night there, we’ll start our downwind journey the next day down the beach in Preá and then around the legendary Pedra Furada to land at the dune in Jericoacoara.

In Jeri we’ll stay at Vila Kalango, another beautiful locally-designed small hotel perfectly suited for a group of kiters traveling down the coast. On day 3 we’ll sail on from Jeri to Tatajuba, and then from Tatajuba to Camocim on day 4. Along the way we’ll have plenty of time to ride waves and practice downwind kite skills, as well as hit the flat water lagoons. From Camocim we can arrange for you to return back to Rancho do Peixe, move onwards to continue your trip, or transfer back to the airport for departure. Another option would be to join me as I continue onwards to Barra Grande for the Kitesurfing Adventure Skills  trip that I’ll be leading Dec 1-8.

This trip is designed to provide for plenty of kiting including some moderate downwinders as well as time to relax and enjoy the environment and each others’ company. We will begin each day with a warmup and briefing session and end the day with a delicious, healthy dinner prepared from local ingredients.

The itinerary includes include 5 days and 4 nights, traveling entirely on the water — a true kitesurfing journey, departing and arriving directly from beautiful small hotels along the way. The cost for the trip will be $1200 including accommodation, meals, guides, support vehicles, coaching (not including airfare or airport transfers).

The focus of this trip is unhurried experience rather than distance. The itinerary gives you exposure to a widely varied landscape — from dunes and lagoons to fishing villages, rivers and palm-ringed oases.

Extensions: If time permits, I recommend extending your trip for a few days at the end to continue down the coast to the west. You could go to Barra Grande and kite there for a few days, continue (as I will) from this trip to my kitesurfing adventure skills trip, or go a bit farther to the idyllic village of Atins and the Lençóis Maranhenses. These places are hard to get to, truly off the beaten path, and very worth spending some extra time in!

Equipment: the downwind portions of this trip are suitable for twin tip and surfboard riders. If you also ride a foil board, feel free to bring it to use on the in-between days.

What about Thanksgiving? I realize that some of you may be thinking of traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday. This year SurfinSemFim and Rancho do Peixe are hosting a global kitesurfing competition the week of Thanksgiving, and so we can’t do group trips that week. If you are interested in coming in early for the event, please indicate that in your inquiry — space will fill up fast!

I’ve written a special FAQ that should answer many of the questions that you might have about visiting Brazil.  Please check out the FAQ and then don’t hesitate to contact us  to indicate your interest and with any further questions.

Bowen guiding on the water with SurfinSemFim

Want to kite with us in Brazil this year?

There’s a Facebook event here where I’ll be posting updates https://www.facebook.com/events/185801288931762/ – and/or use the form below to subscribe.

You can also go directly to the SurfinSemFim site to book this trip.

You might want to listen to Bowen’s interview on the Tantrum kitesurf podcast discussing Kitesurfing Adventure Skills and have a look at the detailed spot guide to Brazil that Crystal Veness wrote up based on her recent trip with SurfinSemFim.

Here is the full-length documentary film that we shot in 2016 and released in 2017. Enjoy the vibe and I hope to see you in Brazil!

 

Preparing for Adventure: Packing for Adventure Kitesurfing

Preparing ourselves properly for adventure sets us up for safety, but not only that — preparation makes adventure possible.

“People don’t seek to minimize risk. They seek to optimize it… We’re hard-wired to enjoy risk [because] there we can still be both confident in our experience and confronting the chaos that helps us develop.” — Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

We need more adventure in our lives. Real adventure involves uncertainty and risk, which creates anxiety and fear. That fear has a message for us: prepare. If we prepare properly for adventure, we reduce both the uncertainty and the risk. At the same time, we want to be just ready enough — we don’t want to waste time and energy over-preparing or over-packing.

All my gear laid out all together

So, how do we prepare? One key aspect of preparing is knowing what and how to pack. It’s easy to be certain that you have everything you need, and nothing more. Make a packing list, use it , and refine it.

I first visited Brazil on a kitesurfing trip in 2008, and I’ve been doing kite trips there with with SurfinSemFim since 2015. Over these last few years I’ve traveled the entire northern coast of Brazil by kite, along with trips to the Philippines, South Africa, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Mexico, and many other places.

My packing strategy has been informed by all of these journeys, and most of all by an unsupported (no vehicles) trip that I did with my fellow guide Andre Penna from Natal to Fortaleza in November of 2016, and more recent trips where I worked as a guide with SurfinSemFim. Whether I’m traveling as part of a group or working as a guide, and whether or not I have vehicle/boat support, I always start my packing as if I am guiding and traveling unsupported.

Preparing your gear properly is also part of acting, traveling and adventuring responsibly. When you’re prepared you create the conditions for success, for yourself and your teammates. When you’re not prepared, you create the pre-conditions for trouble, and not just for yourself. Putting yourself in danger is your own choice; putting others in danger due to your choices is irresponsible and unacceptable.

In short, to maximize your readiness for adventure, think and pack like a guide. Let’s break it all down.

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Off to work with @andrepenna__ and @surfinsemfim at the start of our day today, guiding on the Delta route to #barragrande // the sun is very powerful here, you have to cover up! I wear two layers of hooded rash guard my #kurtissurfgoggles to keep my eyes cool. We’re both carrying @watershed_drybags — mine is new and his is more than a year old and still going strong after many many hard core #longdistance #kitesurfing expeditions. This sort of guiding is a challenge but very rewarding, and I love Brazil so it’s a real pleasure for several reasons. Thanks to my friends of the #surfinsemfimtribe for such an awesome opportunity. #surfinsemfim #kitesurf #downwindbrasil #strapless #levelup #startwithyes

A post shared by Bowen Dwelle (@bowendwelle) on

Kite Gear

If you start a trip with gear in poor condition, you’re not setting off on an adventure, you’re setting yourself up for an emergencyYour kite gear must be in excellent condition. You cannot responsibly consider undertaking an adventure, even as a client, with gear that you are not certain of. Using the packing list, check all your gear well before your trip to be sure you know what condition it’s in, and do any maintenance or replacement well in advance.

Only change one thing at a time. You’re already going to a new place, so don’t set off on a trip with equipment that is new to you. It’s fine to replace things, but it’s best to replace them with the same or similar model. You want all of your attention available for the experience. If you change something up, you’re adding variables that may distract you from being where you are.

Kites

Use kites that you are comfortable with. I fly Boardriding Maui Cloud kites because I love how versatile, compact, and nimble they are, but you can use whatever, as long as you are quite familiar with the kites. For an unsupported trip, you will want a kite with as much range as possible — that is, a kite that behaves well when overpowered and that also offers good low-end power.

Boards

Bring a board that you know and love, and that is comfortable to ride. Especially for long distance trips it’s good to have some flex in the board, a cushy deck pad, and the option of using footstraps or going strapless. The shape of the board may not be as critical as you think, because you will be more focused on covering ground and riding a wide variety of water features along the way than staying in one place and riding perfect waves. I have used various boards successfully, including a Firewire Vader and several F-One production boards. The Vader is great because it’s fast, goes well upwind (when necessary), and works as well in high wind as it does in light air. On the other hand the Vader is a bit stiff, and doesn’t have footstrap inserts. The F-One surfboards are cushier and have inserts, so that’s what I’m using this season.

Parts

Make sure your list includes all of the components, tools and spare parts that you might need. I once broke a fin on my way to Ilha dos Poldros — not a place with any spares available. I was very gratified to have a set of spare fins with me, and the tools required to swap them out. Don’t be the person whose trip is cut short by a missing screw.

Foil boards

I love foiling and foils are incredible tool for exploration. They also have their limitations — most of all, foils require some depth of water, which can make it quite challenging to explore new territory. Foils also don’t mix well with other types of boards — you move much faster and at different angles to the wind. If your team is bringing foils, great, if not, stick with what the team is riding.

On the water equipment

This category includes everything else that you will wear or carry on your body (outside of your pack) while you are in the water. What I present here is what I would carry for an unsupported or while guiding; you may need to carry less as a client or with support, but again, if you want to be ready, pack like a guide.

Waterproof backpack: There are more and more water packs becoming available. We’ve been using the Watershed Animas pack very successfully for the last couple of years — it’s big enough, totally waterproof, and has proven to be very durable. I’ve also used a Klymit Splash 25 or a Watershed Big Creek when I wanted something smaller than the Animas.

Small dry bags: I use a couple of smaller roll-top dry bags inside my pack to keep things organized and for a second layer of protection from water and sand.

Sunglasses: Especially late in the day, it’s important to wear some good polarized water sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and prevent eye strain, pterygiums, cataracts, other forms of eye damage — and just to be able to see when heading west into the setting sun. I wear Kurtis Surf Goggles — grab a pair of the Necker or Duke model and use coupon code BOWEN for a discount at checkout.

Sun protection: I’ve tried various solutions over the years and at this point I aim to cover as much as possible, especially if I’m in the water for most of the day, several days in a row. I come home with less of a tan, but I don’t have to fiddle as much with sunscreen. On top I wear a hooded rash guard like the Patagonia RØ Hoody or XCEL Drylock Hoodie. On the bottom I wear a sunga (aka “speedo” to most Americans; I get mine from Carioca, in the classic cut) to hold everything in place, a pair of thin tights for sun protection, and a pair of lightweight quick-drying surf trunks (like Patagonia Light & Variable) so I don’t look like a complete moron.

Shoes: For tropical trips I only need three pairs of shoes: Havaianas (sandals or “flip-flops”), trail running shoes, and reef boots. When I’m in the water somewhere where I don’t know the terrain 100%, I wear reef boots in case I run into something sharp. You never know when you’re going to get out of the water and walk somewhere, so I throw my Havaianas in my pack so I have them handy.

Tow line: I carry a tow line rigged to my harness. I use about 6 meters of 5m-6m Dyneema/Amsteel line tied to the back of my harness on one end and to a carabiner on the other end. The line is coiled so that it remains secure while I’m riding and can be easily unclipped and thrown to someone or something that needs a tow. Only carry rescue gear if you know how — and are willing — to use it. 

GPS/Radio/Satellite: Emergency communications gear can get complicated. Depending on situation I will have some combination of GPS tracking, marine radio and satellite communications device. In general the minimum for overseas trips is a GPS watch and a Garmin inReach device for emergency comms. If I’m working with a team on the water, we may use marine radios, but they are hard to make proper use of and so we rely for the most part on hand signals. Be sure that your inReach is actually in reach so that you can use it in case of emergency; if it’s buried in your bag you probably won’t be able to get to it when you need it. I keep mine in a small waterproof case stuffed inside my rash guard.

Spares and repairs

I carry extra fins, spare hardware, kite canopy repair tape, kite bladder  repair tape (Blenderm), board repair tape and/or quick epoxy, some bits of kite line, and whatever tools I might need (hopefully very few). Some zip ties, duct tape and threadlocker (aka Loctite) can also come in handy.

Camping

Hammock: One of my favorite things about traveling in Brazil has been learning about the hammock (rede in Portuguese, pronounced “hedge-E”). In Brazil you see hammocks everywhere! In the tropical climate they are cheap, versatile, compact, comfortable, and perfectly suited to the environment. I’ve learned to carry one whenever I’m in the tropics — I was very happy to have my hege handy last December when we arrived at a small fishing port at 0200; I set it up and grabbed a few hours of peaceful sleep before dawn broke and we continued our journey to Ilha de Lençóis. Get a lightweight hammock with a built in net and 20m of strong lightweight cord to string it up with.

In addition to a hammock, I pack a small lightweight backpack for hiking and running, a water filter, a water bladder, and a multi-tool.

Clothing

One of the great things about traveling in the tropics is that you don’t need much clothing! My basic list is 2 pairs of surf trunks, 2 lightweight wool or capilene t-shirts, a puffy jacket (Patagonia Micro Puff), a sun hat, a head/neck scarf (like a Buff) and a couple of pairs of quick-drying underwear (my favorite is Saxx). Pants? It’s usually too hot to wear pants, but for sleeping out and airplane rides I love my Lady Pants

Lady pants!

Small stuff

Ear plugs! I do have a pair of fancy noise-cancelling headphones but I only use them to listen to music or watch movies from my iPad. For sleep and noise protection I use cheap hardware-store earplugs. Crying baby? Pre-dawn roosters? Jet engine exhaust? Best 50¢ I’ve ever spent.

Sunscreen: my favorite is Sunbum face stick for my face and hands. If you cover up as I describe above you won’t need anything else, aside from your favorite lip balm.

Headlamp: I always travel with a headlamp (these days, a USB-rechargeable  model with red light mode for night vision, like the Black Diamond ReVolt). Pack like a guide, and have a headlamp when you need one. You will.

Insurance: Gavin McClurg has a great article about insurance for adventure sports, so I won’t duplicate all of that here. The bottom line is that most travel and medical evacuation insurance does not cover kitesurfing. I currently use Dogtag, which does cover kiting and other adventure sports, and has excellent customer service.

Laminated emergency contact card: Make up a document with your identification (DOB, passport number) and insurance and emergency contact information, print it out and then go to Kinko’s or whatever and have it laminated so that it’s durable and waterproof. Carry this on your person at all times.

Fiber pills: You want to poop, right? Travel disrupts my digestion, and I often end up constipated. I pack a jar of all natural fiber capsules (like RenewLife Fiber Smart) and down four of them every morning with a large glass of water. Problem solved.

First Aid

I pack a small prefab first aid kit with a few additions including a pair of gloves, safety scissors, a few tablets of Pepto-Bismol, Immodium, Alka-Selzter, ibuprofen and a tube of Surfer’s Salve. Ask your doctor for a prescription for some oral antibiotics (like Keflex) to take with you in case you get an infection and can’t get to a pharmacy right away. 

Training: I recently completed a two-day Wilderness First Aid course hosted by NOLS and although it took some time it was very worthwhile.

Electronics

This is all up to you, but I often have a bunch of cameras and gadgets with me. One thing that’s come in very handy is a multi-port USB charger. I recently found one this gadget from LOOP that combines a universal AC plug adapter with a four-port USB outlet – very handy and quite light too!

Packing on the water – unsupported

When I’m traveling by kite on the water without any support from land I use a dedicated packing list. I want everything I need but nothing more, and I want to be as light as possible. If you know anything about light weight backpacking you can leverage these skills here as well. Backpackinglight.com is a great resource.

Pump: You will need a kite pump, and if you are carrying your own gear, you will want a small one. We use this Intex hand pump – note that you may have to graft on a fitting to match your kite valves. I was able to scavenge the proper fitting for my Cloud kites from an old full-size kite pump.

Packing on the water – guiding

When I’m guiding a group on the water I carry many of the same things that I would have for unsupported travel, without some of the clothing and electronics and with the addition of some extra food and water. Snacks for quick energy and some pain meds are key for getting people out of trouble, along with the first aid, rescue, and emergency gear mentioned above.

And… you are ready!

Ready for the water — in my backyard

2018 Kite trips in Brazil

For 2018 I’m introducing two very unique itineraries with SurfinSemFim: a slower, friends & family-oriented trip (SurfinSemSLOW) and an kitesurfing adventure skills training trip (AdventureSemFim).

SurfinSemFim

These are both in addition to the full calendar of short-, medium- and long-distance kitesurfing trips that SurfinSemFim offers throughout the year, and all SurfinSemFim trips including my own will introduce you to the joy of travel by kite in Brazil, and to the global SurfinSemFim Tribe, a community of like-minded lovers of the life outside. We also provide help with packing and a full packing list to everyone who joins us in Brazil.

Your feedback will be very important as we finalize both of these trips, so please don’t hesitate to indicate your interest using the form below:

Which trip are you interested in (required)?

We will add you to the list and be in touch with further details and to answer any of your questions. Thank you for your interest in SurfinSemFim 2018 with Bowen Dwelle!

Thank You!

SurfinSemFim, Andre Penna, Boardriding MauiKurtis Eyewear, my dad, and everyone else who has helped me figure out what to pack for various trips over the years!

2018 Kitesurfing trips in Brazil

I first visited Brazil on a kitesurfing trip in 2008, and I’ve been doing kite trips there with with SurfinSemFim since 2015. Over these last few years I’ve traveled the entire northern coast of Brazil by kite, from Natal to Sāo Luís, and I’m now designing and leading custom trips in some of my most favorite places along the way.

For 2018 I’m introducing two very unique itineraries: a slower, friends & family-oriented trip Nov 25-29 ($1200) and a unique new kitesurfing adventure skills and leadership program Dec 1-8 ($2800).

SurfinSemFim

These are both in addition to the full calendar of short-, medium- and long-distance kitesurfing trips that SurfinSemFim offers throughout the year, and all SurfinSemFim trips including my own will introduce you to the joy of travel by kite in Brazil, and to the global SurfinSemFim Tribe, a community of like-minded lovers of the life outside.

This is the first announcement of these trips, and the details are still in flux. Your feedback will be very important as we finalize both of these, so please don’t hesitate to indicate your interest!

 

SurfinSemFim group – photo Bruna Arcangelo Toledo

 

Want to join us in Brazil this year?

Which trip are you interested in (required)?

We will add you to the list and be in touch with further details and to answer any of your questions. Thank you for your interest in SurfinSemFim 2018 with Bowen Dwelle!

Here is the full-length documentary film that we shot in 2016 and released in 2017.

Also check out Bowen’s interview on the Tantrum kitesurf podcast discussing Kitesurfing Adventure Skills and have a look at the detailed spot guide to Brazil that Crystal Veness wrote up based on her recent trip with SurfinSemFim.

Enjoy the vibe and I hope to see you in Brazil!

 

December 2017 in Brazil with SurfinSemFim

Some of my favorite memories are from long distance kitesurfing trips on the northern coast of Brazil. I’ve done several trips there with SurfinSemFim and I’ll be returning December 10-16, 2017 to lead my favorite trip of all: from kite mecca in Preá through the amazing Parnaiba Delta to Atins, a magical village with great kiting on the edge of the incredible Lençois Maranhenses national park.

The Delta trip covers 350km over 7 days and 6 nights, traveling entirely on the water — truly a long distance kitesurfing journey, departing and arriving each day directly from beautiful small hotels and posadas along the way.

Delta Path

We’ll meet on December 10 at the beautiful and unique Rancho do Peixe in Preá, just a few hours by car from the airport in Fortaleza. I recommend coming in a day or two early if possible to relax at Rancho and warm up with a few short downwinders around the point to the legendary town of Jericoacoara.

As we make our way down the coast we’ll have top-notch land support from SurfinSemFim and coaching on the water from myself and Evan Netsch, top rider and rep for Cabrinha kites.

On Dec 11 we’ll leave Preá and spend the next several days making our way down the coast of three different Brazilian states: Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão, stopping for nights in Camocim, Barra Grande, Ilha dos Poldros, Tutóia, and then finally in Atins. This itinerary gives you exposure to a hugely varied landscape — from dunes and lagoons to the mangroves and rivers of the Parnaiba delta all the way to the beginning of the incredible Lençois Maranhenses. If time permits, I recommend extending your trip for a few days at the end to explore Atins and the Lençois. These places are hard to get to, truly off the beaten path, and very very worth spending some extra time in!

Incredible Ilha dos Poldros in the Parnaiba delta

We’ll cover distances of up to 70km on some days of this trip. This multi-day, long distance journey is suitable for experienced kitesurfers with some downwind experience and in good physical condition. Travelers on this itinerary usually fly into Fortaleza (FOR) and out of Sāo Luís (SLZ) airport. It is possible to get back to Fortaleza by land from Atins, but it takes a long time. We can help with airports transfers and any other travel details.

Downwind with SurfinSemFim

For more information and to reserve your spot please contact us here:

See you in Brazil!!

SurfinSemFim group – photo Bruna Arcangelo Toledo