Saturday, June 22, 2024
TravelCaribbeanDorado, Puerto Rico Kitesurfing

Dorado, Puerto Rico Kitesurfing

Words by Colleen Carroll/ Photos by Vincent Bergeron

My inbox buzzed with the news that myself and boyfriend/teammate, Craig Cunningham had been invited to join the exclusive “Dorado Kite Experience” down in Dorado, Puerto Rico: a destination we had both put high on our lists yet never visited. So when the invite dates fit serendipitously between a North Kiteboarding photoshoot and a women’s clinic in Mexico, I couldn’t help but ‘reply all’ with an excited, yes. It was set, Craig and I would bring along talented photographer and friend, Vincent Bergeron for a week in the Caribbean exploring the beautiful island of Puerto Rico guided by Karla and Phil at Goodwinds Dorado.

Arriving by myself at San Juan Airport, it was only a short drive to the resort town of Dorado and before I knew it, long time friend and new psuedo-local, Austin Walco was giving me a tour of the grounds. Driving through I quickly realized how next level this resort is compared to anything I had seen before; when he told me some of the rates for accommodation I thought he had added some extra zeros by mistake. Maybe too many Modelos? Accessed through the Ritz Carlton Reserve, the Goodwinds kite launch is exclusive to guests and students yet maintains a very welcoming and warm beach vibe at the watersports center.

Craig arrived shorlty after me and we giddily explored our epic beach pad we’d call home for the weekend. We loaded our board bags onto golf carts and made the very short drive to the kite center. Backing up directly to the golf course, no cars are allowed in the immediate area, so the preferred method of transport is golf cart or Onewheel. 

As we approached the kite center, a steady side-onshore breeze, an uncrowded launch and the allure of that quintessential turquoise blue Caribbean water warmly welcomed us. We couldn’t wait another minute; we unloaded our gear and headed out. Protected by an outer reef, the immediate riding conditions inside the bay of Punta Fraile are relatively flat and easy for beginners or intermediate riders. Depending on the tide, there can be anything from flatwater, to small kickers to overhead waves on the outer reef. Already a clue that there would be something for anyone here but we had really only seen the tip of the iceberg. 

As we packed up from my mid-day session, a few other kiters headed out. One in particular caught my eye. He had a very unique style of riding; it was none other than Andy Hurdman. He was a favorite of Craig’s when he was getting into the sport. He was known for his early YouTube videos showing him doing trick after trick in rapid succession with creative combinations and execution. Little did we know that Andy had been living in Dorado and working for Goodwinds for years and through the school had even started mentoring a group of up-and-coming young kiters from the area. Each afternoon, as soon as class got out, the beach would suddenly fill with enthusiastic groms, bringing energy to the beach we hadn’t experienced many other places. 

Karla and Phil had nurtured an atmosphere that welcomed families of all sorts. Largely led by example, Karla and Phil had two of the most adventurous and athletic daughters I had ever met. Constantly on the move, these kids ruled the beach at Dorado making everyone their friend and playmate. Cruising the beach either by Onewheel or by hopping on with their dad, Phil to ride his kiteboard with him, they always encouraged him to jump higher or go faster.

Shortly, the rest of the guests arrived that would participate in the weekend’s event, the Dorado Kite Experience. The following days were filled with kiting and beginner to advanced instruction followed by evening dinners that would satiate even the most sophisticated pallets. 

The weekend was already nearing its end and as a finale, Karla and Phil organized a downwinder for the entire group starting from San Juan and kiting back to Dorado, about 15 miles as the crow flies. Sounded simple enough, although in actuality, the orchestration was quite impressive; 35 people plus kite gear as well as four rescue vessels all launching at roughly the same time. But it went off beautifully. With only a handful of pickups, the majority of the group boosted and slashed their way along the coastline, working their way back towards Dorado. As we made our way out of San Juan, I realized what a treat this was to see the city from this vantage point. 

Shortly after launching, there were no longer sandy shores strewn with beachgoers and inviting visitors or the possible kiteboarder in need of a land. The shoreline turned rugged with a powerful shorebreak pounding the cliff sides. However, cruising gleefully by with the company of a rescue boat if need be, I was in awe of the colorful villages built atop these daunting coasts, a juxtaposition of beauty and peace with potential danger lurking right in the front yard. The sights from the water just kept getting more interesting. As we carried on, just after passing Old San Juan, we neared Punta del Morro, home to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro Fortress. Yes, a castle; designed in the 16th century to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay and the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborn enemies. While I cruised along taking in the sights, Craig got up close and personal with the fortress, coming in as close as he could to throw a trick as Andy egged him on from the jet ski.  

As we sailed past the historical monument, nearing our final destination, I began to understand why surfers and kitesurfers come from all over the world to spend their vacations here. We cruised by several breaks over the course of the next ten or so miles, each relatively uninhabited with plenty of space to stop by and play on our way through.

With the big downwinder as our successful conclusion to the Dorado Kite Experience weekend, our gracious hosts wanted to take us outside of the ‘Dorado bubble’ as they coined it. So while we were growing quite comfortable living the high roller life in the Ritz Carlton, we were excited to see what more this already impressive island had to offer. 

We headed off to see if we could find the ‘secret spot;’ so secret even our local hosts hadn’t been there. We had only just started to venture outside of the Dorado area and were learning there was so much to discover here. We found our spot and despite the storm moving through, we had an epic flatwater freestyle and kiteloop session with the Goodwinds crew. After a busy weekend of entertaining guests it was great to see them let loose and have some fun on the water as well.

Finding the secret flatwater spot was only the start of our next adventure on the island. We wanted to find sunnier skies so we loaded up the vehicles and headed off to La Parguera on the southwest corner of the island. Yet again, we were not disappointed. The amount of good kiting spots around Puerto Rico was really starting to impress us. In only a couple hours’ drive, we wound our way through what seemed to be back streets meandering through farms, small neighborhoods and even jungle landscapes. 

We arrived in Parguera finding the town quaint and quiet despite its party town reputation. We were happy to be here mid-week when the crowds aren’t around and we’d have the entire kite spot to ourselves. After organizing our group of 15 or so people onto two boats, we motored out to check out the spot, which is located just offshore. It was stunning. Crystal shallow waters with a sandy bottom, protected by small mangrove patches that have arranged themselves perfectly for kiteboarding. We anchored and waited for the wind to pick up. In the mean time, we relaxed, swam and explored the mangrove channels that are home to a plethora of aquatic life and also known for their visible night time bioluminescence.

By the afternoon, the wind had filled in and we were ready for a session. We cruised the area, enjoying the beautiful waters and hair dryer steady breeze. The young guns were right away showing off their latest progression. Phil grabbed both of his daughters and took them along for rides either on his board or sitting atop his harness to let them hold the kite. Karla and Andy got right in line to shoot photos with Vincent and Austin grabbing the foil to explore out past the protected waters of the mangroves. 

Craig and I were continually in awe of what we were experiencing on this trip, not only of the beautiful landscapes and pristine kite spots but the variety of conditions and lifestyles as well. From the swankiest hotel we ever stayed at featuring what we liked to call ‘valet kiting,’ to a cute little town with world class flatwater, PR offered everything. If it’s not on your list of places to visit, I would suggest adding it. It is definitely made on my list of places to return as soon as possible.

Hurricane Recovery Update

So the good news; nothing happened to the Goodwinds shop! (we even took all merchandise before to a safe place) and the boathouse had two doors come off, but everything was intact inside. All our boats, jet skis are all good! We have already put everything back together and we are ready to go! 

   As for the resort: the landscape was severely affected, but hundreds of employees are working many hours to clear the debris and replanting the decorative landscaping. As for the rooms and structures, we are happy to say there wasn’t any structural damage. So we have some cleaning to do. But we will be back stronger and better than ever.

The Hotel portion of the resort, expects to reopen by the end of November-to-mid-December 2017. 

Good Winds

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