Monday, June 22, 2015

Surf's Up: Learning to Surf in Rincon, Puerto Rico

By Darden Reinowski

Learning any new sport can be a challenge, but surfing came naturally to me. On a recent trip to Rincon, I learned the fine art of the "pop up" and cruised down the waves my first day out. Maybe I can't take all the credit. Years of yoga has yielded warrior-pose balance, and two days of surf lessons with Surf 787 proved to be the right investment. 

The experts in Rincon, Puerto Rico

The surf school is run by veteran-surfer Roger who’s been surfing since the age of 12. My instructor Jimmy took me out by Antonio’s beach on the north shore. Jimmy showed me some moves to practice on the beach first. Pop up? No problemo. With a surfboards under our arms, we headed into the ocean. Jimmy led me through the water in a specific way to avoid the rocks and wayward currents. "When you come off your board, be sure to stay on the surface of the water and don't put your feet down," he told me. Spiny sea urchins covered the ocean floor here, and I had no intention of getting skewered. We paddled out, Jimmy waited for the perfect wave, and all I remember is hearing, "Paddle, paddle, paddle, NOW!" I popped up and rode the wave, turning my board to the right to follow the line. One try and I was hooked, and wishing I lived by the ocean to do this every day. 

Surf787 surfing lesson Rincon Puerto Rico
This is my first lesson with Surf 787

Twenty-some-odd rides later, we headed in for some cerveza fria at Casa Islena Inn where there's a good little bar outside to have a drink and food after a few hours of sun, salt and surf.

If you want to see the locals surf some truly “gnarly-looking” waves, go over between the Spanish Wall and Domes Beach (so called because of the nuclear reactor dome built on shore, which is no longer in use). There are hand-scrawled signs to warn you whose turf it is and not to think you’re going to roll up and surf with the locals. I'd say if you’re crazy and brave enough to try to surf those huge, crashing waves, go for it. 

After feeling put in my place as a beginner surfer, I decided to try Jack’s Shack food truck down the sandy beach road toward Maria’s Beach. The little food truck has a couple of table and chairs and serves up a handful of meals, including some of the best fresh fish tacos. 

Tacos at Jack's Shack 

Rincon has several food trucks worth trying. My favorite in the mornings was the impossible-to-miss bright orange Carta Buena. The Lively Up Yourself Bowl layers homemade granola with yogurt that is so cold and creamy it tastes like ice cream, and papaya and banana on top. To drink, my friend and I tried the iced coffee and the popular Kermit the Smoothie with pineapple, banana, papaya and greens from the garden. They make their own coconut milk for their yogurt and smoothies. Sitting on the bench, smoothie in hand, looking out over the field at the mango and avocado trees with the ocean on the horizon, was better than any massage or mediation.

Carta Buena food truck 

Then it was off to snorkel at Steps Beach, named for the random concrete steps on the shore. We rented some quality snorkel gear from Desecheo Surf/Dive Shop, and picked up some fun t shirts, and headed over to see some fish and elkhorn coral. It really does look like elk horns. For lunch we walked over to the food truck, Steps Quick Lunch for kebobs and empanadas. We could have eaten at food trucks all day every day. The beach vibe goes great with food trucks. 

Elkhorn coral, Photo Credit: SEFSC

We also recommend some nicer meals at Red Flamboyan restaurant (which was within walking distance from our rental), Mi Familias Pizzeria Poolside at The Lazy Parrot Inn for brick oven pizza, and La Copa Llena at The Black Eagle for a more gourmet dining experience on the beach. That last place is by the Marina where people can rent gear and try SUP and scuba, or charter a boat from Taino Divers to take a trip to Desecheo Island. 

Pintos "R" Us beach ride

We opted for a horseback ride from Pintos “R" Us before drinks and dinner at Copa Llena. Our sunset ride took us a few miles down the beach past Domes and the lighthouse, looking down over the Spanish Wall. A beautiful end to our adventure in Rincon. 

Where to stay: Surf 787 also offers accommodations in their guest villas, as well as all-inclusive retreats. See the video tour and check out the Surf 787 website for more information.

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