Hooray for easy access to COVID vaccinations! Now that we and the larger majority of the people we know have gotten their shot, we’re starting to feel comfortable hanging out and going places again.
Last weekend we sojourned out into the wilds of civilization again for dinner at La Casona, a Spanish restaurant in Santurce. Our local friends Eddie’s and Emma’s nephew was in town with his girlfriend, so we joined some of our neighbors for a celebratory meal.
Highlights included delicious charcuterie, a roving guitarist, and my personal favorite, parrots!
The grounds are absolutely sprawling; we barely skimmed the surface, but we did get to check out the wine cellar.
Here’s hoping we collectively kick COVID to the curb for good and can go on more adventures!
Just wanted to share with everyone a pic of our friends Alex, Jason, Julie, and Margie. This was before paddling out to Tres one more time during the last big swell of the season. Let’s just say it didn’t go as smoothly as the first time; I had water coming out of my sinuses for 2 weeks after this session.
So the last few months have been terrible in a pretty wide variety of ways. Even though it wasn’t the year we had hoped for, Jenny and I did occasionally find some time for fun and enjoying what we could of life and… cats. Here’s some highlights of the last few months.
Occasionally Jenny and I would hang with some of our favorite neighbors, Eddie and Emma. Usually they keep us up far too late…. seriously.
Jenny and I made a few strolls down the beach to enjoy some beers at the outdoor brewery and restaurant… also visit their parrots.
Obviously one of the few things keeping me sane through all of this is being able to surf and recently I just had one of the highlights of my surfing life; surfing Tres Palmas. Unfortunately our documentation of this trip was kind of poor, I blame it on all the excitement.
Tres is a break on the west side of the island in Rincón. We actually have already mentioned it in one of our earlier posts, I think right around this time last year in the before times. Anyways, this spot can handle a lot of swell and if the direction is right, it can produce quite a wave.
As any diligent surfer does, I keep a close eye on the meteorological forecasts to pretend I know what’s going to happen with the waves. About two weeks ago everything was pointing towards a big incoming northwest swell which made me and all other surfers on the island excited. Jenny and I booked a nice little spot just in front of Tres Palmas.
Upon arriving we found that the waves were pumping but kind of messy. I called up one of my surf buddies from Maryland, Alex, who has taken up temporary residence with his wife, Margie, on the west side of the island and worked up a plan. Alex was keen to surf Tres because he had just bought a new gun (a big surfboard for big waves). However, we decided that the wise move was to wait until the next day to go out when Jason would be around. Jason’s another gringo who spends his winters here surfing. He’s a pilot who has to work about every 8 days or so and spends his time in between surfing… pretty sweet life. So in consideration of Jenn’s number one rule for me when I go surfing, “Don’t die”, we waited and surfed some other small stuff in the area.
The next day I got up at dawn and checked the waves; everything was still working nicely, maybe even bigger. Alex had a few chores to take care of so we decided to meet up later and I walked down the road and surfed one of other breaks. After a short session I got out so I could have some shoulders left for the rest of the day and Jenny and I had some lunch at El Ancla (the anchor) at the marina, watched the surf, and had a few Don Q’s.
Alex and Margie joined up with us and we did a check of Tres and decided it was time. Jason was back and ready to go. Us three caballeros met down on the beach and set off for the long paddle out, roughly about 30 minutes. Thankfully, when we got out the lineup it was in that sweet spot of enough people around to make you feel comfortable for safety (and cheering) but not too many too make it feel overcrowded.
At this point I was feeling pretty undergunned, in that the biggest board I own is 7′. I didn’t really have any plans on catching a wave though, just to observe and get a feel. Since I was generally just trying to avoid the big sets coming in, I was sitting pretty wide towards the channel in the reef and hooting Jason and Alex into waves. This was also Alex’s first time in waves of that size out there and he was enjoying how his newly acquired gun was working.
Suddenly I hear Jason say a set’s swinging wide, so I picked my head, looked over my shoulder and low and behold I was just about in the perfect spot. A little repositioning, I put my head back down, gave a few deep paddles, and I was into the biggest wave of my life. The next few moments are a bit of a blur, I mostly remember the crazy speed you get going down the face of a 20′ wave… it’s a lot. I had a nice little line then hopped off over the back of the wave and right back onto the board without getting my hair, or scalp I suppose, wet. I paddled back to Jason and Alex with a grin from ear to ear. I knew from then through the rest of the season, any other waves I get would just be icing on the cake.
I paddle over and sat chatting with Alex, we were both pretty content and the sun was starting to set. Jason, on the other hand, was not content and didn’t want to go in until he caught a bomb. So Alex and I bobbed around waiting on the inside for Jason. It was starting to move past dusk and into the evening proper, so Alex and I were debating paddling in but it didn’t feel right to leave him out there. Just as we were discussing this, Alex saw a group of flashlights on the beach waving around. Alex immediately knew he was in much bigger trouble… the wives were signaling us back in. Thankfully, in what was now almost complete darkness, Jason paddled up next to us having given up on his efforts, we made our way back to the beach. We had a surprisingly easy exit onto the slippery rocks and joined up with the wives. I think our overall giddiness made them quickly forgive the late return.
We all went out for a nice outdoor dinner and recounted the events of the day, while Jenn and Jason’s girlfriend bonded over their mutual love of airplane disaster shows. Apparently she enjoys quizzing Jason on various emergency piloting situations. After finishing up we departed and got ready for the next day of surf.
The next morning Jim (another philopatric gringo surf visitor to Rincón) paddled out with Alex and I to Tres. Once again the waves were pumping but this time there were far, far more people. I again took to the shoulder and sat back and watched. I was hoping to catch one but wasn’t pushing it given I had already seen two collisions. Jim eventually caught a nice one and we went back to the beach. A few hours later the onshore winds picked up and made everything a mess. Alex and I took a drive around to spot check but eventually called it quits and we settled on a nice dinner in town with the ladies.
Thankfully, I got one more session in with Alex prior to leaving at a lesser known but fun spot. The waves were slightly overhead, clean, and fun. I bid adieu to Alex and started back to our place to pack up, but promptly got lost in the hills. Eventually, I made it back with enough time to pack before check out and we got on the road back to San Juan. Successful trip.
So overall, the year hasn’t been all bad, in fact, if you ask Ruffian it’s probably been the best year ever .
As I and every other surfer knows, Endless Summer is a misnomer. The best waves are always in the winter, and given that we’re now in the full swing of summer… well, I’ve been a bit bored. Thankfully Puerto Rico has an abundance of aquatic activities to keep me busy. One of these days there will be a hilarious post of my misadventures in kite surfing, wind surfing, or sailing, but for now I’ve been keeping myself entertained with snorkeling along our reef. There are hundreds of reefs around here; however, one of the unique things about ours is that it almost touches the beach, meaning I can swim to it fairly easily.
Now for a quick soapbox: remember if you’re around reefs to use reef safe sunscreen (those without oxybenzone and octinoxate).
Anyway here’s some video of me playing around on the reef. Disfruta!
I’ve found a new running trail! It (mostly) hugs the beach all through Piñones, and features some pretty sweet views of the ocean and sometimes even the mountains.
I tried to take a video during my last long run during my favorite portion of the trail. I can’t say it turned out great, per se, in that it a bit herky-jerky and I didn’t always control the camera as well as I would’ve liked. In my defense I was also partially concentrating on not tripping and falling on my face.
All the same, this video will give you the gist, and Pat doctored it nicely and added some music (Nellie McKay’s “Caribbean Time,” since you asked). It doesn’t do the trail justice but it’ll have to tide you over until you can come visit.
First and foremost, we hope everyone is healthy and staying safe. Jenn and I have more or less been hunkered down at home for the last two months, only really venturing out for groceries or occasional takeout food. We’ve been pretty bored but otherwise doing well.
As Memorial Day weekend came around we were finally able to get back onto the beaches and into the water. Thankfully for me and all the other surfers, the relaxation of the governor’s orders came right in time for an off-season swell. Being out of the water for about 2 months I was pretty desperate. I woke up around 5 AM to do a surf check to find some pretty mediocre waves at my spot. Thankfully I texted my neighbor Carlos to see what his plans were. He cryptically responded to hang tight we’re going “somewhere”.
Carlos has taken me to a few other surf spots around the area and more or less knows the ins and outs of the best breaks on the island. After waiting for quite some time for his friend Mario to arrive at our condo, we finally got underway. We went to an area of the island to the east about 40 minutes from San Juan and then down a pretty ragged dirt road.
After about 10 minutes down the bumpy road we came to the secret / not so secret surf spot. According to Carlos it was packed, but really it wasn’t bad, it was a huge beach and plenty of space to spread out.
After about 4 to 5 hours of surfing we were all wiped. We drank some water then some beers and started back home. My shoulders are still recovering and my sunburn is still healing, but it was well worth it.
What a difference a year makes. Around this time last year we were just getting settled into our new lives in Puerto Rico and a year later… I guess we’re still settling in but now we can also speak broken Spanish!
So like everyone else at the moment, we’re in COVID-19 lock-down. I know it’s for the best but sitting here and watching waves go unridden feels akin to the episode of “The Twilight Zone” where the book lover breaks his glasses.
Since we’re stuck indoors, I figured it’d be a good time to reflect.. and drink; reflect and drink. For obvious reasons we haven’t had many new adventures but this gives us an opportunity to put up some of the more “interesting” things we’ve found in Puerto Rico. Well at least interesting to us gringos. Let’s get to it.
We snuck one more trip in under the wire before COVID-19 shut everything down. Follow us on a visit to Culebra!
Culebra is an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico; you take a ferry from Ceiba to get there. Pat’s surfing buddy Raymar is a native, and we spent a lovely weekend with him and his family.
A lot of it our trip was surfing-based, of course, with various members of the party engaging in surfing shenanigans whereas various others preferred, say, drinking prosecco on the beach. Also there were some abandoned tanks from the army (parts of Flamenco used to be a bombing range).
We also met Raymar’s extended family’s 4 dogs, which I obviously loved, plus some wild – or possibly escaped – horses, one of which tried to break into our bungalow.
Also also, we went off-roading in Jeeps to Playa Brava, which was so much like an amusement park ride that my dopamine levels soared accordingly, and as usual Pat and friends went surfing.
Add to that an incredible meal at the Dinghy Dock (grilled tuna FTW!) and a late-night dip in a hot tub (cue that dopamine), and it was a very satisfying trip indeed. We’ll definitely be back!
Last week we were graced with the presence of one of my buddies, Julian. As per our usual M.O. we started off the week in our typical disastrous, adventurous style by getting stranded out at La Placita. As a side note for any future visitors, El Coco de Luis in La Placita makes unbelievable mojitos (also with an unbelievable amount of rum).
Eventually Julian and I made it home and the next day we showed him around town. We checked out some of our favorite spots as well as trying out a few new places, such as La Factoría, a hipsterish little bar that makes fancy cocktails with plush seating occupied by children of inattentive parents (the children part may vary by time).
After our outing in Viejo San Juan we packed up our car and headed west. I wanted to check out a new area called Cabo Rojo, which apparently has some of the prettiest beaches in Puerto Rico. I say apparently because we didn’t quite make it to any of the beaches. Our plans changed about 2/3rds of the way there when we lost power steering… driving here is exciting enough without adding extra challenges. Since we were already about 2 hours from home we continued onwards to our Airbnb in Puerto Real. After Julian and I tag-teamed the steering wheel as I parallel parked we got out and found that we were staying in a quaint little marina.
Since I had no intention of moving the car, we decided to take a walk around and get some food and drinks. Eventually we came across 19 Barrios, a brick oven pizza restaurant on the water. Overall it was pretty good for a tiny little marina town. We did find however find that selecting from the menu seemed to be more of a formality and what food came out was really up to to the chef’s discretion.
After finishing up with dinner, Julian and I went out for a few more drinks while Jenn retired to the Airbnb. The neighbors were having some sort of party and Jenn was blessed with hours of prepubescent karaoke which slowly drove her mad. Finally they quieted down and we got some rest. The next day we fought the car up to Ríncon so I could get some surfing in before our trip back east.
The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. I gave Julian a few unsuccessful surfing lessons and spent the rest of my time at work. On Thursday Julian and Jenn attended a party thrown by our Spanish teacher. Then early Friday morning I took Julian to the airport so he could continue his life of leisure in Bonaire. ¡Qué cabrón!
Last weekend Pat and I took an initial trip to El Yunque, just to get an idea of what trails and such are available. Now when all you intrepid explorers extraordinaire visit, we can offer a little guidance.
We’ve found views:
And the tops of trails (we haven’t done the trails yet; we’re waiting for you, so hurry up and get here):