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Kai Katchadourian and Thomas Traversa finished off 2022 in style with a strike mission to Cabo Verde, they tell the tale of their XL score.

WORDS – Kai Katchadourian and Thomas Traversa // PHOTOS – Gabriele Rumbolo and Tozart Photography (Thomas Traversa).

Kai Katchadourian

Waves Within

As far as peak moments in wave sailing go over the years, Cabo Verde has certainly been a consistent highlight. Since my first trip in 1996, before any mass development, hype, and history, there was always the allure of scoring uncrowded sessions in epic conditions. As a yearly visitor, my fondest memories are typically when conditions come together, along with a chance to find any moments when one can avoid the crowds. This La Nina influenced season has had my attention for the potential for Cabo Verde to really fire and I was not wrong.

Promptly just after the Aloha Classic on Maui concluded, it began. A cycle of low pressures began to move off the North Atlantic and my attention was on alert when a chance might unfold to conduct a strike mission. A few swells hit and I was in touch with Josh Angulo ,as we always trade notes on such things.

Josh wrote: “Been scoring it, sounds like Traversa is coming, let me know if you are coming. I might not be around, but I can set you up at Angulo House.”


I do store most of my gear on Sal, makes it easy to drop in at a moment’s notice.

This time all I needed was two sails, two masts and a boom to complete my kit, everything else was waiting for me there, and after some fun Maui sessions it was time to go for it. Flying to Sal from Maui, my gear made it all the way with no charge. Having earned Million Miler status with United has started to pay off.  Before I knew it, I was collecting bags and Thomas saw me and we were like small kids just giddy with anticipation of what was to come. The forecasts had jumped. We were starting with a moderate NW swell, then a very strong shot of more W swell and a long 19-second period swell to follow. We both had some backup gear and on the cameras were Gabriele Rumbolo, Tozat from San Nicalau and Jamie Hancock from the UK. The game was on!!

Early session

We were greeted with an early session at Ponta Preta, and immediately noticed a distinctly mellow feel. Not a whole lot of people around, Thomas straight away into it, light winds no problem. I watched him as I surfed the point, he was barely catching these beautiful waves at first, then conditions improved a lot and it was time to rig and cash in on what was a very fun, very uncrowded session. Hours passed and the tides changed, causing the point to turn off and we set our focus on the arrival of the main event.

Dawn patrol

Upon dawn the following morning, it hit with full force. This swell was way ‘undercalled’ and Ponta Preta was washed out and churning, totally unrideable.  Heading North I catch Traversa already out at Fontana. He is catching some crazy ones in very light airs.

I join him and we proceed to watch the ocean rise and deliver some scary, ledgy, critical offerings. Was just fine with me to chip in and cherry pick the bombs, of which I caught many. One in particular was especially tall and as I caught it I thought to myself it was a lot like Jaws in how the waves grew, and also the very loud detonations behind me as I bottom turned.

Two sessions went down and we decided to check Ali Baba, which had been too light to sail earlier. When I got to the lookout, there was Thomas already on one, clearly showing it had gotten windy enough to get a few.


This was a sketchy situation overall, Ali Baba on a west swell is kind of like a trap, wide bombs were crashing into the bay and some would shut down instead of running through. Wave selection was make or break. It needed a carefully executed plan to catch a bomb, which was exactly what happened, a double mast high widowmaker with no room for error. It took me halfway across the bay and I yelped loudly when I kicked out.

It felt like I had gambled and won. However, the temptation to roll the dice again proved strong, and I headed out to behind the ‘Tree Section’ to place myself in the right spot, hopefully to get another. Moments later it arrived. Spotting the shifting horizon, crawling in the light air, I chose the first wave. It went vertical quickly and gave me a look as though I was too deep to make it, so I kicked out, only to see the horizon rise up as two more very large waves broke in front of me and beat the crap out of me.


My swim was long, my rig had mostly survived, but that was it for the day. It was a mixed feeling of relief as I watched Thomas catch a few beautiful waves before he ambitiously launched an air and cleared an entire section.

It was jaw dropping. We had already seen him at Fontana taking major risks and come out clean. This was a stellar session for him and we rejoiced at the end on how much bigger the swell ended up being, and how nice it was to be alone out there. Just exactly what we had signed up for. With replays of the amazing rides dancing in our heads, we rested up for the last day of the swell, which ended up being the best day.


Ponta Preta likes a west swell, it hits the point a certain way, a lot like what we saw during the infamous 2007 Cabo Verde PWA event. We were out there in very similar waves, with quite light wind, but simply flawless, jaw dropping beauty. Ponta Preta was firing on all cylinders and I will not hesitate to say Thomas and I knew in our hearts this was one of the best sessions of our lives.

As it was early season, both the local and visiting riders were not there. For much of our sessions that day, we were alone. Big enough to scare most of the surfers, light enough to give the kiters issues, but for Thomas and I that day, it was pure bliss.

We traded waves by ourselves for hours in some of the best Ponta Preta I have ever seen. It was emotional. Since my first sessions there in 1996 this had been a dream. Thomas was first here in 1998, not far behind me at all. It seemed to us that this moment made perfect sense. We were not overstating it, we just simply indulged.


Watching Traversa, my jaw was on the floor several times. Deep and critical positioning along with being perfectly in tune with his gear, left me thoroughly impressed. We both got rides that we will never forget. Thomas finally broke his last mast, leaving me out there alone for a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life because I had Ponta Preta all to myself. For over two hours I was alone out there. Nobody else. The waves ridden and the moments experienced left me in awe. It was a session I will relive in my dreams forever. Let the pictures tell the story.

Thomas Traversa


The more I go to Sal, the less I know what to expect. The best spots on the island work like big wave spots: either it’s working and it’s totally epic, or it’s not working at all. I think that is one of the reasons why I appreciate so much sailing these waves, they are so perfect and yet so elusive.

Over the last few years I chased some solid swells on the island, and every time the trip started with a similar feeling, some sort of stupefaction. I drive to Alibaba, the anticipation is high, and the road is slow and long. And then I arrive on top of this bay, no one is there, and I see a big set of 4 or 5 waves rolling in perfectly along the point. It just seems unreal.


There are different things that make a windsurf session memorable. When it’s bigger than you expected for example. When you share it with a friend. When you keep watching the waves, long after coming out of the water. Meeting Kai at the airport was a big surprise when we arrived, and the next 4 days we were in heaven.

We forgot about the wars, we almost forgot about the FIFA world cup, we forgot that we were 2 old dudes, we forgot that the next day was supposed to be even better. We rode waves until we got too tired, until it got too risky, until we broke our gear. We rode waves until it got completely dark, we rode waves before the sun rose.


The session in Fontona was very special for me. It was big and the water was brown. The swell was very powerful, the waves were coming in sets of 6,7,8 and 9 waves, all perfect waves, all beautiful waves. Dangerous waves also. The wave starts to break right in front of a very sharp and uneven volcanic reef. A fall on the first section could get you seriously hurt. On that day I was alone in the water for almost an hour. It was mesmerizing, intense. I had to focus on my breathing to slow down my heartbeat, my energy level was just too high! I picked each wave very carefully, trying to put myself on the best part of the wave, and I had some incredible rides. The amount of speed, the size of this long and perfect wall of water, the obvious presence of the rocks, it was a real experience.


When Kai joined me in the lineup, I was unable to let my emotions out, and I remember telling him, “I am just trying to say calm”. From the last day I keep the memory of a perfect and empty Ponta Preta, some big airs, a freshly grilled tuna steak, Kai sharing his stoke and my nose burnt by the sun.


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