Last week was my fourth trip to Puerto Rico (third this year) and I must say it was the best surfing trip of them all! I went to visit my friends John and Julie and see their new digs (they moved down there 6-weeks ago). A decent swell was already in the water as I arrived and we wasted no time seeking out and ripping up the best breaks on the Northwest coastline around Rincon, Aguadilla and Isabella. Here's the recap by day!
Tuesday, Nov. 10th
Arrived at Aguadilla airport at 2:55 a.m. on the $59 Jet Blue flight. Grab three hours of sleep and get up with the sunrise to surf Maria's in Rincon off HWY 413. The wind is offshore. The waves are 6-7 feet and slightly sectiony (yes, I did just create the word sectiony), but packing some punch to make the sections. It's a little crowded, mostly at the point, but nothing I can't manage. Just think New Smyrna Inlet on a perfect day in the summer. John and I surf for 3-and-a-half hours straight without coming out of the water once! I meet a family from New Smyrna Beach in the line up. They look familiar, but I don't know their names. The father is a little arrogant and likes to name drop like the fact that he lives next to the house that Johnny Damon bought a few years back and is now trying to sell (yes dude, I know the house and I remember when he bought the over priced home). My injured Achilles tendon seems to be fine. Around noon we admit exhaustion and head in to crab some lunch at Calypso's. This is when I meet Crazy Dave, who also just moved to PR from D.C. We hang out the rest of the day at Crazy Dave's pad directly on Corsica Beach only a few blocks from John and Julie's place. There's nothing better than drinking frozen rum drinks, eating fresh avocado dip and floating around in the clear turquoise ocean water until sunset, that is until I decide it's a good idea to surf the dumping shore break in an inflatable lounge chair!
Wednesday, Nov. 11th
As the sun rises I'm waking up. My body is now in tune with the time of nature! We pick up Crazy Dave and head out to Aguadilla. I'm excited because I have not surfed Wilderness yet. All previous times it's either been too big or flat. Today it's perfect. Epic with offshore winds and overhead sets. It's also got to be one of the strangest surf breaks to get to in the world. You drive into Aguadilla like you're heading toward the airport. After you pass the giant radar domes the airport runway is on one side of the road and a golf course is on the other side. You literally drive through the middle of the golf course, down a hill, through some woods and onto a muddy dirty road almost worthy of Costa Rica or Nicaragua before passing some old ruins (that break is named ruins) and then an old bathroom (the break there is named shithouse) and finally arriving at Wilderness. I decide to try out my Go Pro HERO 5 camera for the first time in Puerto Rico. John said I got more stares from other surfers with that camera on my board than he's ever seen. I didn't notice. One nice surfer named Danny King asked me about it, but that was all I noticed. I was too busy riding amazing powerful waves. My 9' Walden performance longboard was struggling to keep speed with the fast moving waves. Several times I found myself working the board extra hard just to keep up my speed on the wave face. I think for these conditions a pintail longboard with a pulled in nose would work much better... maybe a semi-gun shaped board. Let me just say after this session I was more stoked than I've been in the last year! Everyone in the water was friendly. Hell, even a body boarder struck up a friendly conversation with me. I counted six sea turtles (hawksbill I think) during the session and even ran into Bernie Crouch (owner of Maddog Surfboards) in the line up. He told me about the tasty pinchos they sell on the beach.
Thursday, Nov 12th
After scouting the other side of Rincon (Pools and Sandy Beach) and realizing the swell is fading we drive to Isabella on the north coast and surf a break called Jobos. This is probably one of the more scenic beaches. There's a beautiful cove protected by a rocky point that creates a right point break and a wedgy left in the right conditions. The bottom is mostly sand with a few scattered rocks and the current pushes one way on the inside and the other on the outside with a distinct channel to suck you out at the rocky point. It's a lazy surfer's dream as you don't have to fight the waves if you ride to far into the inside break. John and I paddle out and there are only three other guys in the water, all shortboarders trying to surfer the wedgy wave coming off the rocks. John and I hang just down from them and systematically pick off and rip up the long rights coming off the point. The waves are head high and perfect for fearless screwing around. The water is super clear and you can see everything on the bottom as you surf down the line. I'm in Heaven! After two hours and countless rides we break for food and head toward Aguadilla as the afternoon wind is chopping it up at Jobos. We eat lunch at a place called Jimmy's Pizza. It's the best pizza I've ever had in Puerto Rico (yes, better than Brother's in downtown Rincon) and I eat and entire pie all myself! In Aguadilla we check out Surfer's Beach, which is right in the middle of the old housing area for Ramey Air Force Base. This is where a ton of North Americans turned Puerto Ricans live now. In other words, the beach is full of gringos. Everyone is super laid back and extremely friendly. There's a right breaking wave just south of Table Top that we surf for a few more hours. John points out a girl in the line up about 20 feet away and I realize who it is... Shannon McIntyre from the surf travel show called "On Surfari." I'm stoked because this is one of my favorite travel shows. If you've never seen it check it out sometime even if you're not a surfer. Unlike so many surfing shows, they capture more than just the surf. The always make a point to portray the culture of the destination and usually volunteer with some charity group in the area too! After the session we introduce ourselves to Shannon and have a conversation. She's the nicest down to earth celebrity I've ever met. Very humble. Her and her husband, Shane, and two kids live in Aguadilla. It's nice to see someone you see on TV and see how real they are, unlike so many other famous personalities.
Friday, Nov. 13th
As I'm writing this I realize it was Friday the 13th and I didn't even realize it on the day! Good thing I didn't surf. We scouted Maria's and Domes at sunrise and decided to make it a road trip day. Crazy Dave did score some fun smaller waves at Sandy Beach. John, Julie and I headed south through Mayaguez to Cabo Rojo on the extreme southwest corner of the island. There's a beautiful beach near the light house (El Faro de los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo). The landscape of the island changes from lush jungle (near Rincon) to a more arid and dry setting with less trees and even cactus. There's a south wind chopping up the sea and it has created a silky looking water. John is upset because normally the water is crystal clear making the coral reef visible from the cliffs along the coastline, but I still think it's one of the more beautiful beaches I've seen. We hike around and my Achilles tendon protests for the first time during the trip. Flip flops and hiking on rocky slopes is No Bueno. The rest of the day we spend driving along the west coast stopping at random beaches and enjoying the day. That evening we cook out at the house and sample "blood sausage" a Puerto Rican favorite. It kind of reminds me of black pudding in Scotland, but way better. I hit the hay early, grab four hours sleep before getting up at 2 a.m. and heading back to Florida for another adventure that I'll post later in the week.
Now in list format... a few of the experiences of the trip!
- Enduring an hour long story about "Pistol Pete" and the adventures of Crazy Dave while slightly buzzed from rum all in the name of getting two old Puerto Rican ladies, who have overstayed their welcome, to leave.
- The cabin lights went out on the Jet Blue flight down and the individual seat TVs reset all at different times, which caused them to flash rapidly while alternating between black, blue and white screens. This illuminated the ceiling of the aircraft like a disco dance party. A Puerto Rican passenger in the seat behind me turned up a speaker with dance music and everyone on the plane started clapping and singing as we taxied and took off. Never seen anything like it in all my days of aviation as a passenger and pilot!
- Racking my balls upon my surfboard while exiting a wave at Jobos and having to rest for 15 minutes on the outside to regain my composure!
- Making it rain starfruit by shaking the tree in John and Julie's backyard.
- Attempting to order my meal at the Taco Maker using only Spanish and getting something entirely different than what I thought we had agreed on in Spanish.
- Drinking my first Mojito in a bag purchased from a gas station in Rincon.
- Discovering the best way to grill pork cutlets and it's so simple! Just marinate them overnight with tons of garlic, some salt, pepper, oregano and a lot of olive oil.
- Smoked a locally hand rolled cigar that Crazy Dave brought over to the point that I couldn't feel my face.
- Drank the best Port wine I've ever tasted... with the port cutlets of course!
- John and I taught Crazy Dave how to use the spear gun he recently purchased while drunk and out of the water.
- Met the owner of the Playa Oeste surf shop and art gallery. Purchased a "Rincon, Low Life" trucker hat and ran into him again on the flight back to Orlando.
- Represented my friend Christina and her clothing company Bellasol by plastering a Bellasol sticker on a street sign overlooking Tres Palmas.
- Ate pretty much any food I came across including Blood Sausage and Spicy Octopus!
- Jammed out to Two Live Crew while in a traffic jam in Aguadilla.
- Ate a ripe starfruit as opposed to the unripe starfruit I sampled the prior trip. Much better.
- Applauded a local mechanic to do what Pep Boys couldn't do in two weeks as he fixed the Trooper in 15 minutes and then declined any form of payment.
- Took the dogs (Cooper and Macy) for a walk or run on the beach. They went "ballistic."
That's it for now. I'll try and post some more pictures later in the week! Adios Amingos!