Last weekend, I drove to the Baltic sea resort of Damp in Germany to support the first leg of the German Kiteboarding Trophy tour. Ocean Rodeo are a tour sponsor this year, meaning we get to turn up and put our flags out, pitch a big tent and show our stuff on the beach.
Craig Smith from Cornwall came along, and we stuffed my car with kites, boards, flags, and also a large 6×3 meter tent which we had to pick up from somewhere in West Sussex. Once the tent and its poles were in, Craig and I could no longer see each other since we had to pile stuff up between the front seats from the centre console to the car ceiling. It was so compact and cramped, it reminded me of old pictures of astronauts in space shuttles. Like this, we would cover around 1,500 miles through Europe.
On the way we stopped over in a town called Duisburg in Germany. The town itself is normal enough but the way we came in took us past some grim looking concrete structures covered in graffiti tags, and then the road ran alongside the biggest steel works I have ever seen. Honestly it was like Port Talbot on steroids; flames roaring into the night sky, belching smoke, huge pipes and towers dominating the skyline. After being rattled senseless in the car for 12 hours and fighting sleep, it was hardly the welcoming sight we might have hoped for.
I had to laugh, because neither Craig or I never said specifically what it was that we didn’t like about this picture of hell, but we both agreed it was quite harrowing and we did kind of hope that the hotel would be shut so we could get back on the autobahn and find a Premiere Inn or somewhere else a little more normal.
Our hotel door was shut but our knocking was swiftly answered by a German fellow who spoke no English. We had a comfortable room each and when we asked for a couple of beers, he explained we could pay in the morning. The next day we checked out and the guy on the reception told us not to worry about the beers, just give them a thumbs up review on Booking.com. Consider it done, Hotel Al Kamim! This hotel was something of an oasis of warmth and humanity in the shadow of the dystopian-nightmare looking steelworks.
Back on the road, we shuddered to a halt in heavy traffic around Hamburg, the outskirts of which made even Duisburg seem like a quaint backwater. We were literally staggered by the monstrous concrete constructions vaulting into the sky, the ugly cement walls running between traffic lanes and ugly looking industry everywhere. Probably it wasn’t that bad but I think the effects of being cramped in the car were taking their toll.
Eventually the road cleared, the industry faded away and trees and green fields started fill our view. The resort of Damp was pleasingly clean and the beach had soft white sand, and the Baltic Sea was clear and blue. We were doing all this driving for just a day and a half as work commitments meant we couldn’t linger for the full three days of the competition, and inevitably the forecast said it would be windless and raining whilst we were there, turning sunny and windy once we left.
A higher force must have felt that we deserved better than that after all our efforts, and on Saturday, the wind built and the sun shone and Craig and I got to shake the dust off with a fun 9m session. The Baltic lived up to its reputation and was refreshingly cold, I didn’t mind at all since I was snug in the Soul drysuit. Back on the beach, our tent was up, the flags were flying and a solid quiver of Cypher and Razor kites were pumped up and ready for demo.
That evening, we shook a bit more dust off at the evening bash, mingling with the German kiters and getting stuck into the discounted Cuba Libre cocktails. This didn’t stop us from seizing another chance to ride the next morning in blazing sunshine under the 12m kites. With the tent packed away the night before, Craig and I folded ourselves back into the wagon and prepared for the seventeen hour drive home.
Coming along the south of England at 2am, a storm had not long hit. Huge branches lay in the road and the rain was sheeting down. Apart from that, England seemed like a garden compared with the flat, empty plains of the continent, and I’m surprised to find myself remark that our roads are actually a lot better too; we don’t always have it as rough as we think. Flopping into my own bed at 4am felt as good as I hoped it would, even if the next morning when I woke I could swear I was still vibrating from being in the car that long.
In August, we return to Germany for the finals of the Kitesurf Trophy. The event is on an island in the Baltic Sea, but we plan to share driving, take a few more days and stretch our legs a bit more. The Germans are a really hospitable bunch and you are soon made to feel very welcome, if not a little bit special, such as when we checked in to our hotel in Damp. The blonde receptionist told us we had ‘really cool names’. Personally I think Dom Moore and Craig Smith are fairly ordinary but neither of us were about to shatter her illusions. Auf wiedersehn!