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THROWBACK: Dominican Surf Journal

This is a THROWBACK surf journal that I posted exactly ten years ago on It was a trip I did during the winter break from school. I had just injured my back and surfed only a few painfully excruciating times. I actually can't believe I paddled out to La Preciosa on an overhead day, all injured like that. I would chalk it up to being young and stupid, but I was 34 at the time! ha. Enjoy...

January 7, 2007

My quest to find surf in the Dominican Republic was not off to a good start... having endured a 24-hour delay on my flight out of Miami, I arrived to the town of Cabarete to find small, blown out and crowded surf. It was almost dark and I was tired, hungry, and stressed out. My traveling buddy, John had his bag lost by American Airlines, so he was missing several vital items. We were not happy travelers... But somehow, despite an eventful night hanging with el Presidente, we found ourselves in a taxi the following morning on our way to Playa Grande to seek our fortune. There is no hotel on or near Playa Grande, just a few huts on the beach where the locals cook food and serve drinks to tourists. When you walk up, they all begin to compete for your business. Basically, the beach is the restaurant. You tell a host how many and they set you up with a table and chairs in a spot you choose... pretty cool. The waves break in turquoise water over coral reef, and you eat like a king on the beach. We had heard a lot about this hidden treasure. Still, there was no civilization there, so we had to seek accommodation elsewhere. As far as nearby towns, we had two choices: Rio San Juan to the west or Cabrera to the east, both towns equal distance from Playa Grande. We chose Rio San Juan because it was closer to the airport and when we arrived we found only one hotel, named cleverly, El Hotel Rio San Juan. It looked pretty sweet, right on the water, but as our luck to that point would have it, there was no vacancy. We asked the taxi driver if he knew of another hotel and after he made a few phone calls he said he had found a place. As the cab driver pulled up to the curb, I noticed the the building had no hotel name and no sign out front. The place closely resembled that cabin lodge in the movie Vacation but without Aunt Edna and a mountain view. It had a mosquito larvae experiment going on in the back area in what I can only guess use to be a pool.

My Spanish was bad but I was pretty sure the hotel attendant was telling me that the water pipes were broken but we needn't worry because he would come with a bucket of water whenever we needed. Yeah. He made a swishing water sound and he was motioning his hands like he had a bucket, dumping it on me. I looked at Johnny and I'm not sure he understood what the guy was saying. When we got into the room, my fears were confirmed. There was in fact, no water. BUT, Johnny and I really wanted to surf and even though the place was bad, it did look relatively safe and the doors did have a real lock. So we reluctantly put our stuff in this room and took the taxi to Playa Grande to find a reef break named La Preciosa.

From this point the trip really started to progress into a positive. While we were out surfing La Preciosa, we ended up meeting this dude from Nantucket who completely hooked us up. Tucker, who works only 7 months of the year lucky bastard, was staying in the next town over in Cabrera. He bragged he had AC and Satellite TV. So we went there and negotiated with Tucker's friend Francisco who ended up offering us sanctuary from Camp Mosquito. We did not hesitate to accept. Francisco's place was EPIC. On the side of a cliff with waves crashing, ocean spray, tame horses wandering around. Here's a gallery of pictures from the trip.

Tucker, John and I were pretty much the only white dudes in the entire town of Cabrera. The locals were super friendly and happy to have us there. I really enjoyed eating dinner with a local family on Three Kings Day. We were invited to eat with Tucker and a family he knew in town. We graciously accepted. For Latin American countries, the Dia de Los Tres Reyes is more of a cultural than religious date, and a second Christmas for children. That night Santa Claus comes and puts presents under the kids beds. Pretty cool. We gorged ourselves on seafood and rice and a few other things I didn't know. It was really awesome to be accepted into a stranger's home like that. I was truly grateful for the experience. From the town of Cabrera it was a short bus ride to Playa Grande where we found a few good reef breaks to play on. On the main road, you simply wait for a white bus. It's not really a bus, its more like a van with bench seats. It costs 20 pesos (70 cents about) to get from each town to the next. So every morning, we would just catch this little white van in Cabrera and take it to Playa Grande. You don't share this bus with other tourists either, its the regular people that rely on these buses to get around. It was always interesting and sometimes uncomfortable to see how the people reacted to the two gringos and their surfboards. It is a nice ride to Playa Grande and as you approach you get a clear view of all the breaks for the last 1/2 mile stretch. Right in front on the main beach is a shifty, but fun, reef break that unfolds right on the beach. The waves were better on a lower to mid tide and the crowd factor was high, but still very manageable. Also, the locals were very friendly. One local pro who goes by the name "Junior", completely rips this place. He is definitely Mr. Playa Grande. He is very down to earth and happy to share his gear with the local groms... and there is a crew of them. Really cool kids who are living a beach life surfing uncrowded reef break in their backyard. All these kids ride his boards and wear his rash guards taking turns and trading off. Some of the other breaks include El Barco, an insane rope climb off a cliff holding your board, and La Preciosa a really fun reef break on the outside reef. It was a pretty far paddle out to La Preciosa, about equal to the Monster Hole paddle at Sebastian Inlet, Florida. But, once you are out there, it is well worth it. No one is ever out, and the wave quality is very high. You literally surf until you can't paddle anymore! By the time 5 days had passed, I was so submerged in this place that it was difficult to pull myself out. Aside from the surfing, the friendly vibe cultural experience made it such an enticing location. Another place worth mentioning is El Dudu. We heard it was a rock quarry rope swing type place, so we thought we'd check it out. After an hour-long walk, we finally made it and to our surprise, we found this neat little spring with a rope swing and a few platform jumps. It was a great way to spend the last few hours in Dominican Republic. I just want to say thanks to John, el Presidente, for being a cool travel mate and for putting up with my back-aching ass. Also, it goes without saying, that our man Tucker made this trip what it was by hooking us up with all the local knowledge, so I just wanted to say thanks bro for being so cool...

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