Surf’s up in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Surfing in San Juan, Puerto RicoAs a child of the early 90’s, I grew up wanting to be a surfer dude. During my formative years, surfing and surf culture in particular seemed to enjoy a resurgence in mainstream popularity not seen since the halcyon days of the 60’s. As a lad, I strived to emulate the Cowabunga, party-dude mentality of Michelangelo – by far the coolest of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Heck, even the Beach Boys made a late 80’s revival thanks in part to a shameless guest appearance on Full House jamming with Uncle Jesse.

Growing up a thousand kilometres from the ocean I was never able to hang ten as a teen, which is why I was so stoked to live an adolescent dream and take a crash course (literally) in surfing on a recent trip to Puerto Rico.  I immediately signed the indemnity waiver and made for the waves.

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Catching some Tasty Waves in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Wow! Surfing School in San Juan, Puerto RicoSan Juan-based Wow! Surfing School offers surfing lessons in a safe, supervised environment. Founded by former ASP Tour pro William “Chino” Sue-A-Quan, Wow! Surfing School offers all levels of instruction and caters to high-risk drowners like myself, through to advanced-level courses.

My tutorial took place early in the morning on the sandy, still deserted beaches of Pine Grove in San Juan’s Isla Verde district. The North Shore of Oahu this is not, but the sandy bottom hidden beneath the waves provides the perfect place for a novice to get their footing. For those less green, step away from San Juan’s trendy beaches and visit the epicentre of Puerto Rico’s surf scene. Rincón, on the island’s west coast is home to world-class waves and has played host to several World Championships.

Popping up on a surf board - surfing in San Juan, Puerto RicoMy instructors, Mo and Cotto, patiently took us through the basics: how to paddle on your stomach, how to break through oncoming waves by positioning your body correctly and the all-important “pop up.”

As I dragged my heavy, 10 foot fibreglass longboard out into the shallows the wind caught the board like a sail and I lost my footing. I struggled to get out deeper; I struggled to heave myself onto my board and paddle on my tummy and of course I struggled with the pop up that appeared so easy on land. “Stand up! Stand up!” yelled Mo as the waves came racing in behind me. I quickly jumped to my feet but before I could let out a “surfs up dude” I was face down drinking salty water.

Surfing in San Juan, Puerto RicoPopping up slowly and ensuring that I set a stable platform worked well on these small but constant waves. Finally it happened, I was surfing. I savoured every second of unadulterated joy as I rode atop the waves for mere seconds at a time. Like a child learning to ride a bike I wanted to yell out, “I’m doing it, I’m doing it!” to all those who could hear.

Getting up on that board, made getting up before sunrise so very worth it.  Although I’m still recovering from a gnarly case of ‘board rash’ – which is why you should always wear a rash guard- my scratches will fade, but the fulfillment of a totally tubular childhood dream certainly will not.

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