Kite Team Van Oord team member Jan Willem Markvoort participated in the TV TAS 2022 downwinder. In this blog he will share his memories of the great experience:
I have been kitesurfing for almost 20 years now and have done many downwinders along the coastline of Brazil and the Netherlands. And besides that, I have kited in Oman, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Madagascar, Indonesia, Dubai and Greece. Still, I always had this dream of doing a downwinder along all the Dutch Wadden islands, being Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, a.k.a. TV-TAS.
Luckily the team of KiteActive had the same longstanding dream and they managed to make it happen and actually organised the trip. First, I was on the waiting list, but two days before the event I received the exiting news that I could participate in the TV-TAS downwinder, the first in its kind.
After I receiving the message I could participate, I was very happy but I also started to realize more and more that I signed up for something big. Doing a downwinder along the coastline is one thing, but crossing between islands is really another level. I knew I was ready for it, with having done more than 30 downwinders in 2022, but still it made me quite nervous. And the nerves were not in vain, what an adventure it was!
The day before the event, I took the afternoon off from work to prepare myself. As I was not sure if the organization had a safeTRX watch available for all participants, I was very happy I could borrow one for myself and that with that a call for rescue of the KNRM was only one click away. I double checked all my kites and collected all the items on the packing list provided by KiteActive. Friday afternoon, the day before the event, we received the final information for the event. Last minute it was decided to change the starting point of the event to Den Helder instead of Texel, as delays with the ferry to Texel were expected. This added a whopping extra 30 kilometers upwind to the downwinder, but it also provided the opportunity to kite along the Razende bol, a big sand bar in between Den Helder and Texel. As I had never kited north of Den Helder, this was new to me and very exciting.
After a restless night with quite some nerves for the adventure ahead, at 6:45 I drove from The Hague to Den Helder. I was one of the first kiters to arrive at the parking lot near the start of the event. In the next half hour, all the other participants arrived as well and around 9:00 the KiteActive team arrived with their bus. From that point onwards the energy was buzzing in the air. A safety briefing was held on the parking lot and every kiter was matched with a buddy and each two pairs of buddies were coupled with a pro-kiter from the KiteActive team, to ride together in smaller groups.
After the briefing it was time to head to the beach and to prepare all the kites and of course to make a group picture.
The KiteActive team did a check on all the kites, as older/worn kites were not allowed for this adventure. After all kites were approved, it was time to head to the Razende bol to do some seal spotting. After reaching the Razende bol, I set in a slightly downwind direction towards Texel instead of following the line of the guide. Not a great idea in hindsight as I had to go back upwind and tackle big waves in the process. So that was a good lesson learned for the rest of the weekend; closely follow the line of the guide. Some of the other participants learned this lesson during the next crossing.
After a short break at Paal 17, we continued our downwinder passing the Slufter, which is a nice lagoon with flat water where some locals were kiting. A bit later we arrived at the northern tip of Texel and from there you can clearly see Vlieland. The gap between Texel and Vlieland was not too big, so soon we arrived at the southern tip of Vlieland, de Vliehors, which is a huge military training area where no people are live. Kiting along this remote area was amazing, with many seals in the water around us. Next, we arrived at the Badhuys, be it 2,5 hours later than planned, where we had a well-deserved very tasty lunch.
After lunch we enjoyed a very nice stretch downwind along the beach of Vlieland. After Vlieland, the next island crossing to Terschelling was waiting for us. During this crossing we encountered a swell of approximately 4 meters high, and it was really a great feeling to surf on this swell towards Terschelling. Just before we arrived at Terschelling, we arrived at a sand bar which was above water and where many seals were enjoying the sun. I arrived a couple of minutes after the first kiter arrived on the sand bar and witnessed the last group of seals sliding into the water. When I came closer, there were seals all over the place with their little heads sticking out of the water, curious to see all these strange creatures with their kites. I had to carefully manoeuvre between the seals, in order not to hit them There must have been a few hundred of them in the water, such a unique experience. And to make it all even more stunning, in the direction we were heading at that moment, a full rainbow was clearly visible, like an arch we had to pass through. Truly amazing.
After this unique experience we continued the downwinder along the coastline of Terschelling. For me that was one of the most beautiful stretches, with perfect wind conditions, very nice waves to play with and beautiful evening light and rainbows. I have kited in many places all around the world, but this encounter with the seals, the perfect wind and the whole atmosphere was really mind blowing for me, a truly an unforgettable experience. After some time, we arrived at West aan Zee, the finish of day one of this adventure. I did not want to stop yet, as all was so perfect. However, with 99 kilometres on the GPS, it was time to take some rest. The KiteActive team had arranged a bus to bring us to the StayOK hostel, where the KiteActive bus was waiting for us with our bags with dry clothing. All perfectly organised. After handing everyone the keys to the rooms, we all took a well-deserved warm shower, followed by some nice burgers in the local restaurant.
The next morning at 8:00 AM, we had good breakfast and another safety briefing. Less wind was predicted for day two, so everyone was advised to take a larger kite. As everyone could bring one additional kite on the trip, which was brought to Terschelling by the logistic team, on Sunday we all started with larger kites. With a relative calm sea and light winds, around 10:00 we continued the downwinder along Terschelling. Although the wind conditions were light, during the crossing from Terschelling to Ameland the sea was insane. Waves coming from all directions, smashing into me and into each other, resulting in pyramids of water which would pick you up and drop you back down. So, the focus was fully on not losing your board and not to drop the kite into the water. As the current is very strong between the islands, losing your board is not an option as the current will take it within seconds and you are done.
Arriving at Ameland we had a quick stop, and we were quite the attraction for all the locals and tourists on the beach. Must have been an interesting sight for them to see more than 30 kiters in yellow shirts approaching the island out of nowhere. After the stop we continued with a nice stretch along the beach of Ameland and at the tip of Ameland we had lunch break. Standing at this tip, you could the lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog at the horizon, our final destination. One final island crossing left to venture. This crossing was the longest of all being 14 kilometres. Although there was relatively light wind, unexpectedly this crossing treated us with the most severe conditions of the trip. Waves coming in from all directions, demanding full focus. We all followed the route that the guide was kiting, resulting in a long line of more than 30 kiters towards Schiermonnikoog. Upon arrival at the beach of Schiermonnikoog everyone felt stoked, proud and also relieved. WE DID IT, we kited the TV-TAS.
In Schiermonnikoog, another bus was waiting for us to bring us to the ferry to the mainland. After a smooth trip with the ferry to the main land, a nice luxury bus was waiting for us to bring us back to Den Helder. It marked the end of the adventure, which none of the participants will ever forget, a memory for a life time. I want to thank all members of the KiteActive team, for making it possible and for the great organization, thumbs up! As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I felt quite some nerves before heading on this great adventure, but I felt safe all the way. On to more adventures!