Los Roques Recharge
Words Ricardo Campello // Photos Fukajaz
Los Roques is an archipelago in Venezuela around 160 kms north of the capital Caracas in the Caribbean Sea. With more than 300 islands, white sand beaches and numerous reefs, its windsurfing is world class. For Venezuelan sailor Ricardo Campello, Los Roques is the place he comes to recharge during the PWA tour’s off-season. He gives us a guide to his ‘happy place’ and recounts his most recent trip there
Los Roques is my dream place and dream wave! I’ve been coming here since I was 13 years old. There are only 2 ways for you to come to Los Roques, either on a private boat or on a small plane, but I mean real small and almost impossible to bring your windsurfing equipment on. My journey on this trip began during carnival holidays here, I originally had planned to leave 2 days earlier but on my way from Cape Town to London I lost my passport and was delayed in getting home as I had to get an emergency one in London. Normally some good friends and really cool people come with me to Los Roques and this trip was no exception. I rang some friends to come with me on my boat and of course Fuka, my friend and photographer / videographer. Also onboard was pro surfer, Francisco ‘Lolo’ Bellorin, multiple times Venezuelan and Latin American surfing champion. In 2016 he was 4th in the ISA world surfing games and every time I go to Los Roques I try to invite him.
CAST OFF My boat was at Puerto La Cruz, a city 150 miles from Los Roques. I live in Isla de Margarita, 200 miles from Los Roques, but the boat was there for some maintenance work. Normally the ride is rough, it could be up to 9 hours at sea. My boat is a powerboat, a 34-foot Wellcraft with triple Yamaha 300 hp engines and it’s a pretty comfortable boat, we can sleep up to 6 people inside and it’s basically a “floating home”. Before you ask yourself 900 hp? How much money is that on fuel?? Well, lucky enough for me, the fuel in Venezuela is cheaper then water. Seriously! I filled my tanks with 1455 litres of gasoline for less than ….. wait? It’s less then one cent, so to make it easier, with 1 US $ I can fill my tank about 80 times. Yes you got it right, it’s ridiculously cheap, that is why I have the opportunity to have so much power on my boat, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible. We were lucky on this trip the ocean was on our side. It wasn’t fully
ISLAND LIFE There wasn’t a good forecast for wind or waves, but just to be on the island is reward enough. The water colour in Los Roques is all kinds of blues. With over 300 islands or keys and sandbars, there are numerous places to explore. The main island is called Gran Roque and is where most of the 1300 people live. There you can find the airstrip and all the ‘Posadas’ (lodges). It is a super small town, where pretty much everybody knows each other and where all the locals are really cool. There are no motor vehicles on the main islands, you might see a truck or two for services like trash, water etc. All the streets are sandy, so when I’m here I just walk barefoot all the time.
There are lots of kids and my local friend and windsurfer, Oscar Cisneros, has been doing an amazing job teaching the local kids to windsurf on the little lagoon behind the shop where he works.
SWELL TIME Originally we planned to stay a week, but we checked the forecast and saw there were waves coming and to have waves here is magical! There aren’t many swells that hit Los Roques, but when they do it is amazing, probably my best videos and pictures are from here. So after looking at the forecast, even though it didn’t look amazing, we decided to stay for a few more days, score some waves and do some fishing and go to the far islands, which are not often visited. One of the reasons I come with my boat is that I can go anywhere and whenever I want. Normally you have to take a little ‘penero’ (local name for a boat) but they won’t go very far.
When we finally got some waves, we sailed in a place called Cayo de Agua, the furthest island of the whole archipelago and also one of the most impressive as there is a sandbar right in the middle
A few days later there was another swell coming, again nothing amazing on the forecast but looked like we could have some fun. Italian sailor Federico Morisio emailed me saying a travel agency had invited him and that he was coming with his film crew and asked if I could take him sailing. I said of course, I would be more then happy to show you my paradise, so we went again. The wind was lighter than the previous days and the waves were a bit smaller. I tried to sail but it was a mission, super light and again, super offshore so I wasn’t having fun. Federico was out for over 2 hours and caught only 2 waves but couldn’t do much. I gave up after half an hour and got my surfboard again while Federico and my friend “Oscarcito” were floating and pumping to get a wave. Actually when I tried to sail I got one that broke on me and washed me up on the rocks!
FISHING Next day there was no wind and no waves so we went fishing to get dinner! The fishing over here can be really good, but pretty much every time I go it’s super windy and rough so we stayed inside the lagoon. You need a lot of patience for trolling and you can be there for hours and hours and get nothing. A few days before we got a few barracudas, which are very tasty, but I really wanted to catch a wahoo. We were trolling for hours and right at the end of the session we caught one, it was around 20 kgs so we had dinner for a few days. On that same day one of the 3 engines of the boat just turned off by itself and it wouldn’t start. It was already getting dark and we needed sunlight to see the reefs and shallow waters as we were quite far from Gran Roque; we proceeded carefully! We still had two engines left but we could barely get the boat planing! We were glad to get to land and feasted on the wahoo in celebration.
FINAL PERIOD Looking again at the forecast we saw something I’d never seen in a long time, two ground swells with over 16 seconds period! I couldn’t believe it, it was still a long time away and it could change. I was looking at it every day and it was getting more solid than ever. As I said before, to have these kind of conditions over here is very very rare! Federico was lucky to even get one day of wind and waves, even though he couldn’t catch many.
My friends had to go back home and I tried to convince them to stay, one even had to take a plane back to make it to work on time! Lolo my surfer friend decided to stay with me though and check out what was coming!
The engine problem turned out to be the fuel pump, I had troubleshooted it with a friend and lucky enough my Yamaha mechanics managed to get a new one and made sure I had the boat ready for.
The waves finally came and it was exceptional conditions; I’d never seen Los Roques like that before. Unfortunately the wind was really light except for one day and the only place where I could sail was weird because of the direction. I managed to get two ok waves (with no pictures) but I did get some amazing surfing sessions!
Los Roques impresses me more every day, it is for me the most beautiful place in the world. Many people are afraid of coming to Venezuela but honestly Los Roques is probably one of the safest places on earth. I’m planning on doing another windsurfing / kitesurfing camp at the end of the year because I really enjoy showing people my paradise. So keep connected to my social media for the dates and I really hope you can join me!!!