The Story of DPC Kenya

Interview with Anna & Shawn

We are stoked to announce a new destination in our duotone pro center portfolio: DPC KENYA. This center is truly special and should definitely take one of the first places on your travel bucket list. See for yourself and read the enchanting and inspiring story of DPC Kenya told by its owners Anna Campbell & Shawn Richman.

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to share some insights about your kite paradise with us! We’re very excited that you’ve come onboard, and we can now offer our community one of the most exciting and remote kite destinations on the planet. Can you tell our readers where you’re located and why you chose Lamu Island as your base?

We are also super excited to join the Duotone Team. We are on a tiny beautiful island called Lamu, off the coast of Kenya it’s one of many islands that make up the Lamu archipelago. We are both ocean souls and Shawn has traveled the world extensively competing at kitesurfing, also with a home like Maui, I really had to come up trumps to lure him over for an African chapter. Lamu was perfect, the kitesurfing is unbelievable and we often have the ocean to ourselves.  We live off-grid on the more peaceful, less developed side of the island which suits our souls. The lifestyle at the Cabanas keeps us grounded, grateful and growing in positive ways.

What does your setup look like?

Our guests often comment that it's the definition of ‘barefoot luxury’. We are careful to use locally available natural materials for our buildings wherever possible which gives it a romantic Robinson Crusoe feel yet, we have all the rooms fitted with eco wooden fans, fast wifi and high pressure showers. So all the creature comforts but in a “no shoes, no news” environment. We have separate island “pods” called Cabanas, some for couples and others for families. Each Cabanas  has their own privacy with a bedroom, bathroom, lounge area and verandahs overlooking the ocean. Then we have three key communal areas. One is topdeck, where meals are served, up on a sand dune in the ocean breeze and looks over a rooftop infinity pool onto the ocean.


We have our popular beach bar on the oceanfront and next to this are swimming beds and the Duotone Pro Center and shop, so one can literally roll off the water and into the bar or snooze on a shaded swing bed. Then we have our Zen Den where all the healing magic happens. Here we have two massage therapy rooms and a large Yoga Shala overlooking the ocean. These are connected by paths that weave through the palms and shaded by our solar panels that snake along the roof. Next door, linked by a private forest path is our beloved swahili villa - Pepo House which larger groups can take over, it comes with its own set of staff, private pool and chef.

Anna, having grown up in the wilds of Kenya and having helped your mother create this wonderful place that you call “The Cabanas”, what’s it like living in such a remote place? How did your Mum influence your decision to continue her legacy?

We love living off-grid and remote, I don’t think Shawn and I will ever live “on-grid” again, this lifestyle is so independent and suits us to the T. The reason we have not only survived but thrived in the last few years is down to my gorgeous, talented husband! Over the last 6 years Shawn has studied “all things” remote living - and fast become the local expert in Solar power, internet, plumbing, mechanics, electrics… you name it he can fix it - he is our secret ingredient and lucky charm.

My mother was an incredible, inspiring woman, I wish everyone could have known her. She shaped who I am today and has been the biggest influence in my life, I know she had a huge impact on Shawn too, she loved him fiercely, and I loved their relationship, often found them talking deep into the night on a moonlit cabana rooftop plotting the next project, they were very close. When mum passed away I revisited all our notes made together and plans yet to unfold, Shawn and I decided to commit to the plan and continue to realize these dreams on our own, we were also financially and emotionally invested already. We were lucky enough to work alongside my mum for 5 years, with Shawn now in the mix - we were the perfect team, “the three musketeers” reads the title above all my notes from that time - sky was the limit. Mum had great comfort at the end knowing we would take the reins on her vision and honour her memory and beautiful spaces whole heartedly. We currently cradle The Cabanas in Lamu, our nature sanctuary - Mukima on Mt Kenya and our shop - Blue Rhino Africa.

Shawn, you were born on Maui and started kiteboarding in 2001. You traveled the world for many years and competed in several competitions. What made you choose Lamu over Maui? What are the spot characteristics that made you favor Lamu?

After many years of kiteboarding all over the world I was so surprised when Anna brought me to Lamu and I started exploring the Kiting conditions. The Cabanas has one of the most unique and beautiful kite locations that I have ever experienced. It has this edge of the world feeling, no crowds just sea birds and crabs. There is this huge sandbar that feels like it goes out into the ocean forever. You can kite onshore conditions, off shore and everything in between. There is butter flat water, fun small waves or open ocean for foiling. It just depends what mood you are in that day. The wind is a friendly, inviting type that leads to very enjoyable session after session. After years of riding this spot, I am still exploring, finding new areas to play in. Maui is an amazing ocean playground, though I am completely enchanted by Lamu. The remoteness, the exploration, the no crowds and being surrounded by such interesting history and culture. It really is a joy to live and kite here.

When is the best time to visit you and why?

That’s a tough one - we are on the equator so weather is always great for ocean adventures so I would say anytime! The most beautiful time for kitesurfing, swimming with dolphins, wakeboarding, skiing, SUP etc. is during the Kaskazi trade wind which blows from around December to April. However the Kuzi trade wind that blows mid-year we personally love, it brings a more wild element to the game, temperatures are cooler and usually no one else is on the beach as it’s the islands “low season”. Due to the powerful wind and more wavy conditions, I would say June - September is more suited for intermediate - advanced kitesurfers, December - April is great for everyone.

Shawn, you’re teaching private lessons. Who can sign up for your classes in terms of kiteboarding level? What does a lesson with you look like?

Anyone can sign up for some one on one lessons with me! Though I do specialize in intermediate to advanced lessons. I prefer to guide my students to have the most fun session possible. From choosing the best size kite, type of board and harness. Taking them to the best area to kite for their skill level and what they want to work on. Once riding, I will ride close and observe my student. Trying to pick up on the little things that usually get overlooked but matter so much. Posture, weight distribution, kite location. Same process with jumping or maneuvers. Through observation and communication you can really help someone progress quite quickly. 

I also specialize in advanced real world Kite safety and rescue classes. Through over 20 years of kiting I pretty much have broken every piece of gear possible and had to rescue myself countless times. Even though the gear has achieved such a high level of quality and safety, situations do arise where there is a need to know what to do and how to rescue yourself. Through my school of hard knocks experience, I enjoy preparing other kiters, in a much more enjoyable way than I learned, for situations that most do not prepare for. With this training you can potentially turn a very negative situation into something that is controlled.

Either way, my focus is to make sure each student has the best time possible and leaves being a more well rounded and safe kiter who can then go on to have more and more fun.

Which other activities do you offer besides kiteboarding and stand-up paddling? What would you recommend your guests to do on windless days?

We have fantastic flat water creeks for wakeboarding, water skiing, and donutting. That said, there hasn't been a day in Lamu where I couldn’t foil, so there is usually a gust enough for that. Lamu town is a world heritage site, walking through the streets feels like you're going back in time. We have a beautiful fishing village nearby called Kipungani where some of our staff come from and we buy our seafood from the handline fishermen. Our beach is renowned as a fantastic running/walking beach. You can follow the oceans edge for 12 kilometer of uninterrupted beach and get to the bohemian village called Shela where there are shops, cafes and restaurants on the seafront. Makes for a great day out, this is also where we do our kitesurfing downwinders from.

Is it true that people on Lamu Island rely on donkeys for transport or traditional sailing boats instead of cars and motorboats? How do international tourists get to “The Cabanas” and your center?

This is true, there are no roads. We use speed boats and also traditional sailing boats called Dhows. We have our own gorgeous large dhow that was proudly built by our local village people. In fact it's the last Dhow of this size they built as a community so it’s very special and much treasured. Her name is Kilindini and we love to sail her around neighbouring islands on 3 days kitesurf adventures. A real chance to disconnect and get lost in the elements and explore the Lamu archipelago.

Mindful living is an integral part of your lives and business case. Can you explain to us how you incorporate mindful living in the “The Cabanas” and the center?

Everything we do at the Cabanas is rooted in leaving as small a footprint as possible but also nurturing the beautiful island rather than taking away any of its natural beauty. We are 100% powered by the sun. We use little to no plastic, we recycle and create cooking gas from our compost. Being mindful about our environment creates a wonderful energy and feel at The Cabanas that we hope seeps into our clients. Every guest that visits our island nest has our full attention so we can cater to what they need from their stay, and provide a safe space for them to truly unwind and adopt a slower pace. We offer yoga and meditation, delicious fresh seafood, Shawn and I are vegan, so we love to cater delicious options for all dietary requirements.

When my mother took over this beach, for the first 5 years she planted trees, a huge endevour somewhere so remote, which we all now reap the reward from. As you fly over the island you will see that Kizingoni Beach (where The Cabanas and our villa Pepo are) looks very different with its rich canopy of vibrant  greens, very special, its brought shade, birdlife and healthy undergrowth which most of the island lacks.

Anna and Shawn, you have poured your hearts into this project and built something very special. Besides providing your guests with an unforgettable experience you also try your best to have a positive impact on the local community. Can you give us a few examples of how you include the local community and how you’re giving back to them?

Thank you! It brings us deep joy when people love what we have nurtured here. It’s been a labor of love. We support sustainable fishing and support our local village in buying their seafood. We use organic locally available material to build our houses from the  makuti roofs, kanja walls and makeka floors, these are all hand sewn from dried palm tree leaves by the local village women. We also support the school and health clinic there, Shawn is installing the first ever internet connection, powered by the sun of course, for the school this month, which will be huge not only for the children but also for adult classes so the those in the village with an interest for external subjects and skills can learn and grow.

What’s your idea on how to develop the center over the next couple of years?

That’s a great question! Interestingly, so many of our guests have said “don’t change a thing”. Which has been flattering but surprising feedback for us, as we always assumed people would want us to keep evolving, getting smarter and more wow factor, but their fear is that The Cabanas will lose its rustic charm, of which it oozes, and it’s what most people love about our home from home. For example, our bar for example we built 4 years ago, only a few weeks before Christmas, we suddenly decided it was needed when we looked at how many people were due to arrive for our first official opening. It was just Shawn and I with zero budget. So we found a shipwrecked dhow and used the wood to build “a bar” (same one stands today) off one of the beach front cabanas, tied some swings up as seats with sailing rope and put a fridge in, glasses, and Voila! The paint was literally still drying as our first guests rolled in! Of course we had no ice, straws or any fancy cocktail knowledge, so it’s been a steep learning curve to say the least and a VERY organic evolution.

We do have some exciting new ideas brewing. My motivation to keep growing and improving was fueled by the joy on my mum's face when she would come to the island and check on things. There was nothing more rewarding for me than triggering one of my mum's gorgeous smiles. I was worried this motivation would suffer after we lost her, but the beautiful thing is, whether they know it or not, our repeat clients do this for me now, the oh’s and ah’s when they come off the boat and see the addition to the Cabanas means the world to us and keeps our momentum, but…. you will have to watch this space for those creations or better yet come visit! :)