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wave pics on this trip)
Tuesday morning has us up early and off to the funeral in SE PA for one of Beth's aunts, then back to Balto to pick up Alex after work before heading up to Newark, NJ. Traffic and all goes well but it was a long day.
Another early start on Wed. to catch our 7:15am flight. Smooth sailing on our Airbus jumbo jet. We sleep most of the way. Luggage goes smoothly. Catching the Hertz shuttle was quick, but the Kia something as our "large" car was a joke. The trunk would hardly open and then was tougher than an old coconut to close. Forget this. After some haggling they give me a Taurus, a big improvement but they gave me a big line about why I couldn't have a Camry per usual. The Taurus drives like riding a log. No traffic through the greater San Juan area. We made our usual Island drive rest stop in Hatillo at the El Buen Café for a late lunch, media noches all around plus some tostones. No rush to make Rincón before nightfall since the swell is very small
Vamos! Dawn patrol with Cafés con leche y pan de agua (no es caliente at the colmado on the rincon of Rincón). Rincón was breaking very small so we headed to the north coast stopping to check the usual places along the way. Brian's Place seemed to be the best of the lot (Surfer's Beach, Jobos and Middles were all very crowded as we expected). Fair number of people out at Wilderness with decent form, but Brian's was a little bigger with no one else out. Love riding these reef waves! In a repeat of last year Alex is heaving -- he stayed out about one-half hour before paddling in sick and exhausted leaving me to solo rest of the session. Caught a couple of good ones with some punch with the lefts being the best. The kid is way out of shape -- what a waste!
Post-session grinds: jamon, queso y huevo sandwich criollo at the Panaderia Borinquen. Went to the evening show in Mayagüez.
Dia de Barrilito. Day to kick back and refuel. Picked up supplies at the Econo, Ron del Barrilito 3 Star at the multipurpose store going in to town. Mixed up some rum punches.
Nada Mucho. Avalancha looked good but Alex was not up for the paddle out so we skip on up to the northern shores. Ride Wilderness for a couple of hours with a rather mellow crowd of about 8 or so, mixed company of bodyboarders to longboarders. Alex does well and is all smiles today. Family lunch at The Paradise: arroz con habichuelas y maduros for me, fresh tuna sandwich por Alex, y fillete de chillo criollo por Beth. Jugo de china fresca.
Back Home. Spent about three hours in the water this morning catching lot's of waves. This spot is known for its shallow reef lefts but today it was all about the rights. Usually you pay with a wicked paddle back out after a long right but today this was not a factor as they consistently broke hard, fast and glassy. Everyone had lot's of good rides sharing the stoke. Re-acquainted some old surfing relationships in the line-up.
Post session grinds: Villa Cofresí.
Winter Solstice Day 2003. The Rincón breaks weren't showing that much except early morning growing crowds so we headed off with a few places in mind. Wilderness was showing nicely from the the mountain tops. PdP was disorganized but it was looking better in the distance. We pull up to where these new condos were built this last year and wow, some fat-ass tubes are barreling down the line with two guys out. We wax up, paddle out and start catching some Little Teahupoo waves. These little suckers were heaving up and looking like smaller versions of Teahupoo breaking right. One local bodyboarder is taking off way deep and just juicing the waves like crazy. After about an 1-1/2 hours, Alex and one of the other waveriders both catch a wave and paddle in since some guys in a pickup were hanging rather suspiciously closely to our cars... they hop in their pick-up driving off rather quickly. In another half-hour I join them on shore after fin knocking a couple of small branch stubs. There's all sorts of wood floating through the line-up today, from good sized limbs to small branches and assorted finished lumber.
Drive south checking a few spots, but TdR has been looking decent. Paddle out by myself for a one hour solo session. Plenty of nice waves but hard to get a good fix on the launching pad and this ain't a place you want to find yourself caught on the inside. Catch a couple of real good ones making the paddle out worth it. The water is very glassy with virtually no floating debris. Duck-diving the clean-up sets is a beautiful experience in and of itself.
Post session grinds: Panaderia Eileen's calzones for Beth y Alex, arroz con pollo for me. Went to see "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," this evening along with the traditional one-half hour of pre-show commercials. Epic!
Blasters. Headhigh swell still moving through the local waters. After picking up Café and a newspaper we starting exploring for today's spot. Maria's was a big zoo so very early as it has been under all conditions this trip, so we headed north. After checking a favorite stretch of beach we settled on Agüeybaná... or, I did as Alex decided to pass since his arms weren't up to the expected paddle out. After climbing down a combo riff-raff, rock, wiring and tangle of vines I was set to hit the water. The paddle out ended up being rather easy as I split the peaks using a zigzag path out. Interesting waves today... not always the easiest to catch as they'd line-up and pause before blasting off upon hitting the main reef, setting up some very steep and tubular walls. My best ride today was a jacking left that featured a roller coaster drop, turn under the pitching lip, slide along high on the face down the wall before turning hard down the face for another roller coasting blasting bottom turn with more pitching lip. What a stoker to hear my fellow wave riders hooting along the shoreline cliffs! Fun crowd out there today, lot's of very good bodyboarders pulling off all kinds of maneuvers and toob time. It's always great to be welcomed into the line-up first thing, shaking hands or shakas... one reason I love this area compared to the much too often overly ambitious riders in Rincón, the gringos with attitudes, or increasing numbers of rank beginners. Funny thing this trip: have not ridden the same break twice as of yet... this is about to change as the swell is becoming more north.
Post session grinds: Iced heinies from a favorito colmado, calzones criollos and some Villa Cofresí treats. Tonight: Lazy Parrot?
Rip and Tear. Yeah! In the water <g> and with the gear :( Didn't lose any flippers but the left strap ripped loose during my last wave of the morning, for the second time... time to retire this good old trusty pair. Earlier in the day my board leash was nicely sliced by my board's fin as it wrapped all around as we tumbled at the end of an ill-timed re-entry on a hot barreling Wilderness left. Finally, my old left ML Churchill flipper split right below the foot pocket so there's not much life in it unless I can get hold of some of Terry Hendrick's super goo. I love this old pair because it was last of a breed when Churchill still made a nice real rubber flexible blade flipper. Tried on a pair of Churchill Slashers but wasn't completely pleased with the fit - the ML size was much too tight and cut into my ankle arch. The L size was a better overall fit but the ankle straps ride very low towards my heal and as a result just don't feel like they will stay on securely. Alex also slashed his hand and scraped a knee on the reef going out.
Back to the waves... PdP looked nicely, nobody out when we arrived and as we left. Exchanged greetings with a couple of the local boys, one of which probably was going to hit it (pick up truck man) and one that was gonna look around (rasta man). The lefts were breaking clean in the head-high plus range but Alex asked to check some other spots opting not to fight the probable southern current. Our tour ended in Wilderness proper where we found *nobody* in the water but a couple checking it out. In a bout ten minutes there were five of us paddling out and one or two joined us later but we spread out widely across the far east, main and rivermouth peaks. Alex snared several cranking waves and a couple of lefts came my way, one a long semi-shacker playful wall plus the one spitball machine; I also had one very memorable right from just to the east side of the parking lot to well into the cove. Now it's time to find a replacement pair of fins as I did not bring a back-up pair on this trip (doh! my excuse is the post 9/11 weight limits on luggage).
Post session grinds: Alex/I ate heaping plates of arroz amarillo con gandules y habichuelas rojas along with criollo roasted pollo. Panaderia/Cafeteria Borinquen. Christmas Eve dinner at El Galleon: fillete de chillo con tostones y "home fries" y langosta; pan de ajo; sorrullitos y bolas quesitos; y mas.
Santa Surf Patrol. We cruised the coasts checking for waves venturing at far as Camuy. My old secret spot wasn't working but there were a dozen people out at nearby Los Alemendros (4-6') -- didn't paddle out there but talked for awhile with Auntie Chara who was shooting some pics of her nephew. I detoured via the old road to Jobos to treat Alex to some of the empanadillas from a special roadside stand just west of Playa Jobos. Buzzed by PdP and decided to take the plunge after exchanging "felicidades" greetings with some the local waveriders. Good session to test drive the new flippers, a pair of Vipers 5" Flexers (orange dot) (thanks Santa!). Quick evaluation: cut lower on the bottom of the foot than my Churchill's and most other flippers, digging in slightly half way up my foot -- need to get used to that. Once wet they slipped off and on easier. The vipers feature a soft pad along the top foot pocket lip and throughout the top half of the foot pocket. This model were not as nice as my flexi Churchill's for cruising through the water but did provide a bit more thrust during wave catching. They have a nice two way paddle kick through the water, don't completely torque the ankles, but do stress the calves more than my Churchill's. My right knee also became a little tweaked from the additional stress. Overall, very good but I still plan to check out the Tech2's. Tonight we dine on traditional holiday dinner at Cofresi!
We paddled out with a few others early on, joined by up to a dozen persons throughout the morning as we spread out over several hundred yards. Alex, myself and a funboarder eventually ended up riding the clean-up sets that rolled through just south of the Shithouse peak that set us up for rides of a couple hundred of yards. I basically fell into a 20-minute cycle, a little less consistent than might be desired but not bad all things considered. The swell was a heavy NE making for lining up with a take-off feature ashore kinda misaligning... but a tortuga friend helped out ;) Alex scored several great rides from the very beginning and had his best overall day. Water was clear and beautiful. The German couple was at Wilderness again and we met up with them later at Cafeteria Borinquen for post-session grinds.
Dropped Alex off at the airport this afternoon. AA Eagle ended up vanning him to SJU in near record time. Spoke with Ruth Lea today - she's all excited about our mutli-class reunion fiesta tomorrow - Keith Martin and family check into the Villa sometime today. Looks like a lively, sold out Villa for this evening
Reunion Day. DP'd again for a few hours in sunny conditions w/beautiful water. Moved down the coast a bit from yesterday since Wilderness wasn't catching today's northeast very well. Rides were generally shorter and not as good as Brian's Place can get although I did catch some long rights mid- to late session any only a few lefts today, none like can work here (needs more north). The crowd consisted of about four Cubans from Miami, a couple of gringos and late in the session a couple of Island bodyboarders. The German couple had been at Wilderness but he said nothing much was happening. We talked story for awhile along with a gringo from New Hampshire. Not even close to epic but still another nice day in warm waters. Kirk and many of the Annapolis Surf Club guys would have enjoyed being here today ;)
Post-session grinds: sandwich de jamon, queso y huevos from Borinquen along with a cafe ex(s)presso con leche.
Now's time to prepare for 30+ yr. school reunion. Expected between 15- 20 of us from the old Escuelita IAU, many of us whom have not seen each other since then... will I be in shape for surfing tomorrow??? Three of my classmates, all mamacitas, from our senior class of 12 will be here!
Recovery and rest day. Strong NW winds (generally on-shore throught the region) today and small swell. Time to give the bones a rest, maybe do some touristing, and recover from yesterday's multi-class reunion. Many former classmates were in attendance, in addition to schoolmates, including a couple that were accidental visitors just stopping by to Villa Cofresi, were recognized by one of the other attendees, and improtu joined our festivities. Ricardo Cruz, Ruth Lee Oran and I did our best to polish off several cans of fruit juice, bottles of some rum drink and a bottle of Barralito into the wee hours. Expect surf to improve in size and quality tomorrow and Tuesday, but winds will likely be unfavorable through Monday.
The Wildo Experience. Yep, the wind is still blowing hard from yesterday's front that passed through with scattered pineapple showers here and there. Since I somehow crawled out of bed after watching the Ravens defeat the Steelers in OT last night the car was put into automatic drive with my eventual destination being Wilderness, just in case. Was it worth the "Wildo Experience?" Who knows??? Just above Ruins the experience commenced as a Rehomo transplant eyed me longingly as I bumped down the potted, gutted and rolling mix of sand and tar road. El Numero Dos was making its needs known with each and every bounce along the beach road so somewhere near El Shithouse I pulled over for business. The winds must have been blowing 25 kts onshore and sideways - la caca was flying everywhere... and just as my joyful experience was reaching its climax there is El Pato Bravo gazing my way longingly for several seconds. Time for decisive action... hanging there I take a long deep swipe, raise my arm in full presentation as El Pato finally gets the message and meanders away.
Next stop is Wilderness proper... as I pull up the regular parking spot an old man, reminiscent of El Mono in Tamarindo, the 45 yo version, approaches me frantically with wild gestures, his 24 inch machete waving all about. He wants to talk to me... I am not so sure... he continues to wave the machete like a crazy man... my car is positioned for a quick escape... turns out he is looking for his horse! I'm outta there! Stopped by Steps and Maria's on my return drive to Rincón - very small at the former and very poor conditions at the latter. Time for a siesta. Great last dinner at El Galleon
Getaway Day. Up early, cooked up some coffee and out the door well before sunrise hoping that the winds had subsided sufficiently and turned offshore to catch some decent waves. Quick stop at Rincón as dawn cracked didn't show what I was looking for in terms of form - the swell was still very disorganized with short period waves and the point not working at all. Time to check out plan #2, preferred anyways given the recent crowds in Rincón. Plan #2 was not in play - way too much wind in this area and the same disorganization. Back to plan #1.
The crowd back at Maria's wasn't total killer, yet. Easy enough to see why with a steady churn of whitewater running to the beach and south. At least knowing the vagaries of the spot would help some in the paddle out. The new Vipers Flex 5's did a decent job but do extract more work from the entire leg. Before too long I am out in the line-up -- end up easing my way gradually over to the punta which is working more consistently. Fair number of women out in the water... one caught a beautiful backside clean-up set wave. I caught a couple of waves during my last session, nothing spectacular, as was the general case today.
Toweling off I ran into Fito Gonzalez. We talked story for awhile -- he commented on the number of Montaukers and NJites in Rincón this year making it crowded as hell. Yup. I have talked to people from Germany, Quebec City, Maine, NH, NYC, NJ, several from the Outer Banks, FL and CA. Yikes!
Trip home was uneventful... at least the plane was flying between SJU and MAZ (unlike for Alex and our friends).
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