Oh, Let’s Go…Fly a Kite!
Having a Jacques Cousteau-like father meant his heart belonged to the water. Celebrated photographer Thierry Dehove tells how kitesurfing brought him here, but a love of Anguilla made him stay.
France to Anguilla. Tell all.
I came because of kitesurfing, but stayed because I love the people, and I love the island. I’d just started kitesurfing after 10 years of windsurfing — spending all my money on windsurfing. I was going all over Europe windsurfing.
I was looking for a place where I could kite, where no one else was doing it. This was back in the early days of the internet, with dial-up modems, so searching took really long. I first thought about Australia, but the seas there have sharks and jellyfish, and it was too far from France. I had friends in Guadeloupe and Martinique who suggested I move there, but I didn’t want to move to a French island. I wanted to learn a new language. I had connections in St. Martin and, from there found out about Anguilla.
I bought my ticket in 2001 and spent two weeks over Christmas and New Years in Cove Bay, kiting. That was it. I returned home, sold my graphic design company and came back in September 2002. But I couldn’t just kite every day, and I needed to pay the bills. So, I showed a friend my portfolio of design and magazine work, and he introduced me to people on the Anguilla Tourist Board. From there, I started Dream Anguilla magazine with Mitsou Gumbs, the publisher. It was successful, so I stayed.
How did photography start?
In Paris, when you work on big budget projects such as Tag Heuer, Mcdonalds, etc., you get to work with top photographers. When I moved here, I tried to find some photographers in St. Martin, but just couldn’t get what I wanted, so I decided to buy a camera. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t have any technique, so I just learned online. I still do.
I shot a cover for Condé Nast in 2009, for a villa rental company in St Martin, and it put me everywhere. It was at the end of the shoot, about 4pm, and the sun was going down. I took my camera and took a snap. Everyone was wowed. A lot of people in the US started to call.
Most memorable shoot?
The one that ended up on the cover of Condé Nast, because it changed my professional life. Recently, I shot a tattoo model for the cover of Ink Slingers magazine in New York. I decided I wanted to do something edgy, not fashion or glamour. And the feedback was great. Now, it’s part of my upcoming exhibition in New York. I also just won the 2013 Charlie Award: Best Single Color Photography – All Consumer Magazines in Florida for my work in Experience Sint Maarten/St. Martin magazine.
You left a few years ago?
I got married in 2008, on Meads Bay, to a beautiful lady from the US. We met after she came here for vacation from New York – it was like a fairy tale, man. She didn’t want to live in Anguilla anymore, so we moved to St. Martin in 2009, but I didn’t like it. We then moved to Delray Beach in Florida, but I had no papers, so I spent a lot of time flying back and forth. We broke up in 2010.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to go back to France for treatment. I came back, finally, in May 2012.
How is your health now?
My scans are okay. I’ll continue treatments until 2014. It makes me tired, but every chance I get, I go kiting.
Glad you’re doing better. Has being in Anguilla helped?
When I finished my treatment, I was on the plane to Anguilla the next day! It’s the best place to heal. The water, the sun, the food, and the people…it’s the best place to be! I was gone for two years, but my heart was always here.
Windsurfing to kitesurfing?
It just made sense. I was living in Bordeaux when the sport started to get popular in 1999. It was dangerous, though. The systems back then weren’t that good. Over time, the equipment got better, and it was generally safer, so I bought a small kite. Within one year, I got rid of all my windsurfing gear.
What do you love about it?
When you travel with windsurfing gear…forget about the airfare! With kitesurfing, all I need is a small bag and my board. I’ve been able to go to Indonesia, Hawaii and Brazil. You need good balance, but the sport is easy. You can ride for hours. Just the other day, my friend and I went from Long Bay to Sandy Island, to catch the sunset. In perfect wind, it takes about 45 minutes to get from Long Bay to Prickly Pear. When you’re on the water, it’s quiet. Sometimes fish follow you, or birds join you.
Savannah Bay in the East. There’s always wind there; and it’s good, strong wind. Next, I’d have to say Meads Bay.
Internationally, I love Brazil. There’s wind every day. If I’m going to Brazil, I’ll take a smaller kite. There’s 30-40 knots of wind. With a large kite, if you jump, you’d fly and fly.
Photography or kitesurfing?
I love, and need, both. That’s why I can’t leave. I love the balance I have between the two.
What inspired the book Home?
After we stopped publishing Dream Anguilla, I missed seeing my pictures in print. It’s a collection of 5 or 6 years of pictures. There are some nice older houses that no longer exist, but they live on in the book.
Obvious, but why the name?
I grew up in Paris, but after eleven years on this island, I feel at home here. When I travel for business, I can’t wait to get back.
My exhibition in New York, Miami and Delray Beach. I’m also going to be spending more time working with Google+, providing photography training. I am now a Google + Author.
How would you describe your work?
I’m not an artist. I’m just a guy who creates some images. I think I have an eye. One lady called me an image-maker, and I like that.
Any more kiting in your future?
I love being on the water, but I’m getting old. There are some things I can’t do anymore. Today, I have no energy, but yesterday I did 3 hours non-stop. I just love being on the water.
What would you do if you couldn’t kite?
Oh, that’s easy… I’d surf!