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Crossing the Atlantic: An Interview with Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

by Chantelle April - last edited April

 

Last November, Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar and five other kite-surfers embarked on the trip of a lifetime, crossing the Atlantic Ocean by kite in a 24-hour non-stop relay session. Over the course of the challenge, every rider surfed up to four hours a day across a southern route, which began in Fuerteventura, Spain and ended in the sunny climes of the Caribbean, at Turks and Caicos.

We caught up with the professional adventurer to find out about his passion for kite surfing, his bold decision to cross the Atlantic Ocean by kite, and the epic journey that made ‘The Atlantic Kite Challenge’ come to life.

What made you decide to kitesurf across the Atlantic?

A hot shower – and a raging desire for adventure.

How long did it take you to do?

The crossing took us 27 days in total. We had to make a layover in Cabo Verde to fix our engine, which caused some delay.

 Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | Interview

On the lookout for my buddy © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

Who did your riding team consist of?

Camilla Ringvold – queen of the snowy mountains - from Norway, Max Blom – founder and owner of Mystic kite gear - from Holland, Eric Pequeno – obnoxious American and winner of the 6th rider contest, male model Dennis Gijsbers - from Holland, Ike Frans – dutch national Stand Up Paddle champion, and myself.

Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | The riding team

Team picture (left to right): Ike, Dennis, me, Camilla, Max - Eric is surfing in the background © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

What kind of support did you have?

All sorts. We had mental support from friends and family, financial support from a number of sponsors (HTC being the main one) and navigation support from a skilled meteorologist. Moreover, a big catamaran and a skilled sailing crew physically accompanied us. This yacht was our ‘safe harbour’: we ate on it, slept on it, kept watch over the rider and watched the stars from it!

Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | Flying in the sunset

Flying through the sunset © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

How long have you been kitesurfing? What kind of training was involved in preparing for this crossing?

I started to kite in 2008. Ever since I picked up the sport I tried to go as often as possible, which increased my skill level. As the departure date came in sight I did three things besides kitesurfing: watch my diet habits (no more beer, no more ‘quick carbs’, plenty of vegetables, etc.), set up a rigorous training program (with a German personal-trainer-lady who bossed me around the gym to the point of nearly passing out) and a hard-core yoga schedule (for a balanced body and mind).

What type of kites were you using?

We used Slingshot Rally’s. These are very smooth for wave riding – but can still give you plenty of airtime when you yank it hard.

Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | Interview

Getting ready for my session © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

What was the most difficult moment? Did you ever feel in danger?

Yes. A very tough moment was when, in the middle of a pitch-black night, my kite dropped out of the sky. I was surrounded by stormy clouds. When there is zero wind your kite will not fly. As a result I was laying in a pitch-black ocean with a pitch-black sky above and even darker clouds surrounding me. That does not feel comfortable. At all.

How did your body deal with the stresses and strains of kitesurfing for so long? Did you have specialist equipment made to help?

Some parts of my body had a tough time - I was injured around my waist due to the continuous strain of my harness. This can really set you off as it felt like a crown of thorns around my waist. Apart from that I was actually really surprised to see how the body can adapt. When we arrived in the Turks & Caicos Islands I was as fit as I had ever been. Not a gram of fat and strong as a horse. I can really recommend the ocean treatment!

Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | Cruising

Cruising behind the yacht © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

What does it feel like to do something nobody has ever done before?

It makes me smile. Experiencing things no one has ever done before makes me feel like a pioneer, and therefore adds something to what we as humans have experienced in this world.

What’s your next challenge going to be?

To set up a commercially sustainable enterprise. I believe adventure can be found in every aspect of life. I am now finding one in the Dutch healthcare system. Almost completely unrelated to the Atlantic Kite Challenge and almost equally as exciting nonetheless!

Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar | Celebration with the crew

Team celebrating the total kiting distance of 6000km © Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar

 

More information on Enable Passion and the Atlantic Kite Challenge can be found at: www.enablepassion.com

Virgin Atlantic operates flights to the Caribbean from London Gatwick. Book your flight today.

How do you feel about crossing the Atlantic Ocean by kite? Is this a challenge you'd ever consider taking up? Let us know in the comments section below.


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About the author: Chantelle

Chantelle Symester

Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester