Long heralded as the surf capital of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is now a destination for stand up paddlers from all over the world who are drawn to its crystal waters, tropical climate and Latin character. The annual Paddle Royal SUP Race has been bringing together a progressively larger group of global SUP pros, enthusiastic novices and even children. Now in its sixth year, it boasts an impressive $26,000 in prize money.
Those of you who know me can guess that my itchy feet have been itching to rub themselves into some warm Puerto Rican fine white sugar sand for quite some time. This July, I was finally able to justify the expense for the happy occasion of a great friend’s wedding. Oh, happy feet!
Here are a few highlights for paddlers who are considering making the trip.
Colorful and eclectic, old San Juan is rich in all you need to feed your soul….its street art, fantastic food and lively conversation was everything I’d hoped for and more.
The quirkily charming, independent Gallery Inn provides a peaceful rest in the thick of it all.
Paddlers should make a special trip to Isabela on the west side of the island, home to the MHL factory, which is building sweet, crazy fast, custom SUP boards for top athletes around the world. If you have a dream board, Nick Leason can make it a reality. Just don’t forget to tell him Cody sent you.
But remember you’re on island time. There’s no need to rush or get anywhere too early. Instead, start the day off slow watching the surf roll in with a cup of joe in your hand at El Corey café. Browse their vintage collection of Surf Vibe and Surfer’s Journal while breakfasting on a tropical smoothie with a side of fresh coconut.
If you have the time, head a little further west to Aguadilla’s Crash Boat Beach, a port formerly used to rescue downed aircrews from Ramey Air Force Base and now populated by surfers and paddlers who can’t resist its crystalline waves.
I wholeheartedly recommend Puerto Rico for a paddlecation. But don’t go in July. While exhilarated by my two up-close encounters with lightening and a flash flood that left me kicking myself for not breaking out my inflatable to paddle the streets (now rivers) of old San Juan, I’ll make sure to schedule my next trip for December for a shot at the Paddle Royal pot and days of paddling under the tropical sun.