Sunday, November 21, 2010

The picture says it all!

But in case you missed it, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAM!

We had a little birthday party last night for our favorite caballera. Even Chocolate got into the spirit of the party.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kelly is still here

Ten-time world champion Kelly Slater has been surfing some of our other surf breaks since winning his tenth title and the Rip Curl Pro Search last Saturday. Yesterday I had to honor of photographing Kelly and local surfers Brian Toth and his brother Wesley as they ripped it up, catching barrel after barrel at Survival Beach. You can see more pictures from this session on our website and on our Flickr page.

If you've been on the beach horseback ride near us, then you've been to Survival Beach. The rocks at the end of Survival, where the trailride ends, mark the boundary between Survival Beach and the east end of Surfers Beach, called Table Tops. Not many people surf the wave around the rocks. It's not easy to get to and the waves pounding around the rocks are dangerous. This section doesn't "go off" all that often. But when it does - and it has been going off for the last two days - a few in-the-know surfers head there. That's where Kelly Slater and friends were yesterday.

I went along with the entourage of friends, photographers, videographers, and spectators and had a great time photographing one of the all-time greats in the sport. I only wish my photos could do his surfing justice.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Rip Curl Pro Search

It's been quite a week here in Isabela. Rip Curl (a surfing marketing company) brought a major international surf competition to Middles Beach for the first time ever. Middles and Puerto Rico delivered, big time. Great waves, great atmosphere, great support, great crowds - especially the final two days. (The KAP photo above is from the first day of competition. Ther crowds were much bigger the final two days. I wanted to KAP the beach during the finals, but alas, no wind.)

Rip Curl for their part brought the best men and women surfers in the world to Isabela. They put on a surfing exhibition like nothing most of us have have seen. Australia's Stephanie Gilmore not only won the women's event she also claimed her fourth consecutive world title here. Kelly Slater put his name in the record books (again!) when he did the double: He took the men's event title and wrapped up his unprecedented tenth world championship. Along the way we got watch the likes of Stephanie and Carrissa Moore and Coco Ho and Dane Reynolds and Taj Burrow and and Mick Fanning so many more. And we got to meet Carrissa Moore, Rosanne Hodge, Roy Powers, Damian Hobgood and Kelly Slater.

One of our local surfers, Dylan Graves, earned a spot in the main event by besting 15 other Puerto Rican surfers (including his brother Josie) in the Local Trial event. Dylan made it through to the third round where he was paired with none other than Kelly Slater. Dylan surfed very well and in fact led for much of the round. Kelly, the ultimate professional, did what he needed to do to advance. This produced what was for me "the moment" of the event when Kelly Slater paddled over to congratulate Dylan Graves:

You can see more pictures of the event on our website, and of course all over the Internet.

I've been involved with special events for more than 25 years. I have to say, this was one of the best organized, best put together events I've ever seen. Few controversies (there are those who believe Dylan should have won his heat against Kelly), heats ran like clockwork, the announcing and information was very good. I've kind of disparaged some of the other surf competitions I've seen but this was first-class all the way. I still don't understand the judging but oh well. I knew what I liked when I saw it.

I think in the long-run this will be good for surfing and tourism in Puerto Rico, especially here in the West. As for short-term business, several businesses seemed to get a lot of traffic from the event. Many of us did not. We got a small but welcome trickle. Since some of the surfers aren't leaving until Tuesday or Wednesday maybe we'll get a bit more.

All in all an impressive fun week. We're going to miss the excitement this event has generated. The surfers all seem really stoked about what Puerto Rico has to offer. Maybe they'll create an event and make this a regular stop. We can only hope.

We now return your surf breaks to the regular surfers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

RIP Andy Irons

I've been trying to find time to write about the Rip Curl Pro Search surf tournament this week at Middles Beach (about two miles from Ola Lola's). The best men and women surfers in the world are right here in Isabela. Stephanie Gilmore, 22, from Australia, won not only the women's competition but her fourth consecutive world title (in four tries). Kelly Slater is on track to win an unprecedented 10th world title.

Yesterday, the joy of having the competition in our back yard was eclipsed by the news that three-time world champion Andy Irons died in a hotel room in Texas. Andy was scheduled to compete here but he withdrew before the competition started due to illness. He apparently contracted dengue fever at a competition last week in Portugal. Right now, pending information from the autopsy, dengue may have killed him (although there are questions surrounding his death).

Today more than a hundred surfers paddled out at Middles Beach - the last break, the last wave Andy Irons surfed - to honor and pay respects to one of their own.

It was an amazing, emotional moment. I'm glad I got to share it, even from the shore. You can see more photos on our website,