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Last Friday, I decided to spend the night in Isabela to be at Jobos Beach early for a surfing competition sponsored by Rip Curl.  We were meeting a group of photographer friends we have met through Meetup.com.  It seemed like a good excuse to get out of San Juan and enjoy a little more of Puerto Rico.

We (the intrepid sidekick /spousal unit) and I left the office, packed up our gear and exited San Juan just before 3.  We were hoping to get out before the traffic – but that didn’t happen;  maybe, because it was a rainy day and there are always a disproportionate number of traffic tie-ups here when it’s raining, or maybe just because it was Friday afternoon and we weren’t the only ones who thought it would be a good idea to get up and get going early.

Spooky weather on the way

Spooky weather on the way

The drive was slow until we got past Dorado.  Even so, it never fails to amaze me at how green Puerto Rico is once I get out of San Juan (which is truly the color of cement – that being the thing you see most in the city!)  The weather was quite interesting the farther west we drove.  At one point, we could see a very localized downpour;  It had obliterated the view of anything else – while right next to it, the view was clear.  As I tried to get a decent picture of it with my phone, I kept imagining that I was going to see a funnel cloud.  It was that kind of spooky.

By the time we found our hotel in Aguadilla, the sky was completely clouded over and it was raining intermittently.  That put a damper on the evening plans to go out and photograph the sunset.  We checked in (I am not going to talk about the hotel because I just wrote a really negative review for it on TripAdvisor, and I don’t want to give it any publicity!) and spent a half hour or so looking for a restaurant.

The most interesting was one called Eclipse, in the Villa Montaña Resort grounds.  Despite reviews that went from terrible to fantastic, we decided to risk it because of the view.  We were so glad we did!  We did not experience any of the negative things other reviewers talked about:  Our service was really friendly, and our view was wonderful, even with the rain.

Eclipse Restaurant

Eclipse Restaurant

The restaurant is open air and right on the beach.  We did not find it over-priced and we thought our food was delicious.  I say it was delicious – and I had eaten at Augusto’s in San Juan the night before at  a benefit for ProArte Musical – and that is tough competition!  The food was divine actually.  Gerry had tuna tartar for a first course and filet mignon with lobster confit as his second.  I helped him eat the tuna, and then had two small plates:  scallops and an Eclipse salad for my main course.  We finished by sharing a crème brulée.  I had a really good chardonnay with my meal, but beforehand for cocktails we tried one of the signature cocktails (usually a bad financial decision).  This was called a cucumber gimlet – but the recipe looked like a mojito:  Substitute cucumber-infused vodka for the rum and cilantro for the mint.  It was very tasty (and went down very quickly, so I had two!)

Our waiter was really nice and we found out during the course of our evening together that he is a surfer and a lifeguard for the tournament we have come to see!  How fun is that?  He gave us some inside info – i.e. that the waves on Saturday and Sunday were not going to be very good.  But by Monday, (today as I write this) they were expecting some good action.

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We lingered over our dinner to enjoy the sound of the waves and the cool breeze.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel before leaving (a mistake!) and decided to explore a new route to get to Jobos (another mistake).  I was using the map on my phone to direct us – but what my phone said was a road may have been one once (there were still some pieces of asphalt clinging to the ground) but it was a two lane track that eventually petered out into a single walking trail and then stopped.  (Actually, that was when the spousal unit insisted he knew how to read the map better than I did…)  We ended up turning around and driving all the way back out to the highway, and going via the same route we had taken to the restaurant the night before.  It was really pretty in there though – definitely worth a walk through next time we visit.

So, our plans to get to Jobos ( pronounced hoe-BOS, the name of the beach)  early were a bit later than we planned, but we were still way ahead of the crowds.

We found our friends and set up camp to watch and photograph the surfing.

Some of the BIGGER sponsors

Some of the BIGGER sponsors

Have you ever been to a surfing tournament?  This was my first.  I learned a lot and now you will too because I am going to tell you all about how it works.

The crowd - still early before the beach was wall-to-wall people

The crowd – still early before the beach was wall-to-wall people

This particular tournament is a big deal.  There was to be $95k in prize money.  I couldn’t quite catch how many competitors in all but there were to be well over 100.  The competitors surf in heats, four at a time.  Each one has on a colored jersey (Red, Yellow, White or Blue) and they get 30 minutes to rack up points for doing tricks on the waves.  Between waiting for a wave, riding a wave and then swimming the board back to the wave-waiting place – they probably get between 5-7 rides in on a day like Saturday that didn’t have very good waves.  Somewhere there were judges rating the rides, and the announcers would broadcast the points and the standings out so that the shore-watchers and presumably the surfers could hear what was going on (yes, it was that loud!).  Scores were achieved by adding together the two (I think) highest scores of all one’s rides.  The better scoring surfers progressed on to the next round.

Waiting his turn - trying to dispel the nerves?

Waiting his turn – trying to dispel the nerves?

It was fun to watch.  Even from the beach you could see the differences in the ridership, and practically feel the different quality of the waves – just by watching the body positions of the surfers.  It became really evident to me when I got back and started editing my pictures – whenever the rider was standing up straight – the ride was over.

I enjoyed watching the crowd.  The people there were so diverse – you would see a little of everything.  Fun especially was watching dads helping little toddlers to learn to surf.  Naturally there were plenty of females in bikinis so Gerry had plenty to keep him occupied.

Time to get to work!

Time to get to work!

I also enjoyed hanging out at the end of the beach where the surfers would congregate before they would go out to participate in their heats.  I didn’t see a lot of laid-back-surfer-looking behavior:  These young men were focused and nervous! (Oh, and I didn’t see any female competitors at all.)

Cropped in action

Cropped in action

By noonish, the waves were starting to pick up a little character, but they were also a bit more erratic.  We had seen enough by then, so we headed back to the car.  We got sidetracked by the prospect of lunch – and so stopped in a restaurant right on the water (though up on a rise) and from our table we could see the surfers head on as they rode the waves toward the shore.

Action

Action

Eventually, we broke the spell and drove back to San Juan!

There were plenty of places to sample the sponsors!

There were plenty of places to sample the sponsors!

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