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Caution! Falling Coconuts: Kiteboarding in Puerto Rico

Jan 9, 2009

Author: Antoine Jaubert

Puerto Rico is famous for its rum, pirates, history, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Tito Trinidad, Benicio del Toro and Zuleyka Rivera (a.k.a. Miss Universe 2006), but it should also be known for its amazing kiteboarding. Fabienne d’Ortoli and Julie Simsar are on a mission to show you the different spots for waveriding, freestyle, drinking, eating and just hanging out. Photographer Frank Socha could not pass on an opportunity to spend two weeks in P.R. to document the action.

Puerto Rico
Getting there: Daily flights to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
Conditions: 8 to 12 metres
Best wind: December to August (trades)
Best surf: December to March
Cost factor: $ to $$$


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    San Juan is one of the largest cities in the Caribbean with world-class amenities. You can stay in five-star hotels and eat like a king, or find a smaller guest house, eat local cuisine (chicken, rice and beans) and send the boys shopping at Plaza las Américas, because on this trip the girls are kiting.
    When in San Juan you will kite at one of three beaches: Ocean Park, Puntas las Marías or Isla Verde. All three are nice, but Puntas las Marías is where Simsar likes to ride. Here’s why: It gets the cleanest wind in the bay (except the launch, which has a narrow beach with a slight wind shadow). Once 20 metres offshore, you’ll feel a steady 15- to 25-knot breeze, not butter flat but perfect for freestyling and learning. The atmosphere on the beach is relaxed, and someone will probably bring beers at the end of the day. Hint: If there is no beer, go buy some at the nearby Shell and share—a surefire way to make new friends and meet the locals.
    The real magic with Puntas las Marías is that once you get to the reef you will find a great right. Don’t go too far upwind because it gets shallow. Make sure to get your bearings, watch the locals and respect the right of way. Follow these three tips and you’ll have one of the best sessions of your life, guaranteed.
    Once your session is over, hit the shower, put on a skirt or pants and shoes for your man (no shorts or flip-flops), and it’s time to hit old San Juan. Be a tourist: walk around, take pictures, go up to the fort. It’s a great Puerto Rico history lesson. Ricky Martin is not the only thing that happened here, after all. Then go find one of the many great restaurants in old San Juan. I recommend Dragonfly, Marmalade and Baru for a true San Juan experience. After dinner stick around because the Puerto Ricans don’t come out until later, and they know where the party is. Be sure to follow them and partake. Stay out late because it doesn’t start blowing until 10 a.m.
    You have kited in San Juan. Now it’s time to explore this 50-by-100-kilometre Caribbean rectangle. Rent a car. They are cheap, but get some insurance because red lights tend to be optional. Just below the airport you’ll find a natural reserve called Piñones. This kite spot is more for advanced riders. The waves break fast and close to the coast—blast guaranteed. Just watch for the coral heads sticking out every once in a while. You’re best to park at Social Club, a bar across the street, give a few bucks to the guard and kite out front. Be aware of the surfers and bodyboarders who like to ride there, too. When you’re finished give your man the car keys and do a downwinder back to your hotel. Make sure your gear is tuned and you are up for this eight-mile trek across deep water, beautiful breaks and amazing scenery.
    Simsar and d’Ortoli headed south toward the town of Ponce to meet up with Heather and Jim Baus to hit up flat water on the keys of the south coast. They took the boat out from Peñuelas and headed a few miles out to a secluded sand key with just a few mangroves and coconut trees for shade. Simsar took her 8 m2 Havoc and d’Ortoli her 6 m2 Switchblade and waveboard. After a fun session there, they cruised downwind to another key nicknamed the Sandspit, a little sandbar that’s a blast to kite around. Each time they go there the sandbar looks different, and it’s always a fun surprise to see how it has changed. After four hours of kiting they were ready to keep cruising around the island. D’Ortoli needed to find more waves, so Shacks would be the next stop.
    Cruising west on the south coast, they passed La Parguera, the lighthouse of Cabo Rojo, Mayagüez and Rincon, the surf capital of the Caribbean. Rincon is a little surf town that hosts famous breaks like Tres Palmas, Maria’s and Domes. Keep cruising up the west coast and you’ll find yourself on the northwest corner, a.k.a. Shacks Beach, where big waves, strong wind and a beautiful reef break await. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll have a lot of fun. Many small hotels line the beach and will make your stay a comfortable one. Definitely check out Happy Belly’s restaurant in front of the surf break Jobos. It has the best burgers in the area.
    Puerto Rico is full of activities. If you happen to get some no-wind days, go sightseeing and pick up a copy of Que Pasa. The local tourist magazine will point the way to many activities: discovering the rainforest, exploring caves, visiting the Bacardi factory, diving, landing a tarpon, or just relaxing on the beach.

Essential words you need to know before you go
buen provecho: bon appétit (ay it to whomever you see eating)
mami: woman
mamacita: a cute mami
papi: man
pssst: when you want someone’s attention

“Big city, warm weather, good wind, easy-accessed airport and affordable. We found Puerto Rico and stayed there.” —Julie Simsar

“I loved the atmosphere on the water. Everyone was smiling and having fun. I love the South American influence.”—Fabienne d’Ortoli


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